Featured Runner “Karen Holmes” March 2019

Karen Holmes (in her own words): I was not athletic at all in my younger years.  I did ride my bike and climb trees, but I was the person last picked for sports.  I hated team sports and I do to this day.  I cringe when I hear people shouting at someone on a team who they think did something wrong.  So, that brings me to running.  I started running to keep awake to study when I was going to school and working full time.  Someone told me it would revive me after I got home from work. I ended up entering a 5K and the RD was doing awards.  He stops and tells us to cheer the last runner, some 70 year old guy, I remember, who was just finishing.  What?  We don’t boo the loser?  We cheer him on?  Ok – this is the sport for me!  I couldn’t think of anything better!!!  I was hooked right then and there.


Date of Birth:  02/15/1953

Place of Birth:  Chicago, IL

Currently Residing:  Wichita Falls, TX

Marital Status: Single

Job(s):  Vocational Adjustment Trainer (this means I work at a non-profit and we have ‘client’ classes for those transitioning from not working, to wanting to get back to work).  Maybe ‘Instructor’ is a better choice of words.

Children:  Zero

Height: 5’5”

Weight: 120

Shoe Size: Wow – 9.5 mens in running shoes.

Best Physical Feature: People say my eyes.

Worst Physical Feature: Of course my feet!  Ugly runner’s feet!  My knees are pretty unattractive also.

Religion: Christian

Political Affiliation: Whatever makes sense at the time.

Educational Background: BS in Metallurgical Engineering, MS in Education.

Personal Strength(s): I try hard and don’t give up.  I really do have a positive attitude, but because I speak my mind, some people don’t know how to take me.

Personal Weakness(es):  Chocolate

Make Of Car You Drive: Honda Fit

Make Of Car You Would Like To Drive:  Honda Fit works right now for me.  I kinda like the looks of the Toyota FJ Cruiser, but it probably gets low gas mileage.

Pets:  I have a rescue Catahoula that is deaf and sight impaired.


Favorite Author:  Charles Martin

Favorite Book: Running Book – The Purple Runner by Paul Christian.  Non-running –The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

Favorite Non-running Magazine: Eating Well, Nutrition Action, Cooking Light, Clean Eating, Backpacking – I can’t have just one!

Favorite Movie: Whale Rider, Running on the Sun.

Favorite TV Show: Cooking shows!

Favorite Actor/Actress: Robert Duvall

Favorite Music: Backwoods music, like if you went back into the hills of Kentucky, West Virginia and people are on their front porch playing music passed down generation to generation.

Favorite Musical Performer: David Byrne, Talking Heads, though after seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, I wish I would have paid more attention to Freddy (and the others) when Freddy was alive.

Favorite Artist: Music Artist?  Art Artist?  Art Artist – There is someone who make 3-dimensional art from old books – I can’t even find the name of the artist.  I love the 3-dimensional sidewalk art.

Favorite Spectator Sport: I don’t like to watch sports, unless I’m at a run crewing or helping.

Favorite Subject in School: Math!

Favorite Game: Game, like board game?   I like the question-type games that you play when you have a group of people – any kind where everyone contributes.

Favorite Vacation Destination: So many places I haven’t been to yet.  I want to see Africa, but my go-to is Barcelona. Or just hiking somewhere.

Favorite Time Of Day: Morning

Favorite Item Of Clothing: Black worn out sweats.

Favorite Non-Running Leisure Activity: Reading, cooking, hiking, photography, and I just started yoga – so many.

Favorite Running Shoe: Altra or Hoka, depending on the race and the surface.

Favorite Food/Drink Before An Ultra: Water.  Something easy on the stomach, but I don’t really have those kinds of issues anymore.

Favorite Food/Drink During An Ultra: Water.  I love hummus during a run, but I don’t see it often.  Avocado also!

Favorite Food/Drink After An Ultra: Water and a good craft beer.

Favorite Crew/Pacer Person(s): Laurie Underwood and husband Tim (with a shout-out to Don Plummer).  They got me through my first 100 – Rt. 66, in Oklahoma.  I don’t use crew anyone, but they got me in.  I will always be grateful for that.

Favorite Place To Run: In the woods.

Favorite Type Of Running Surface: Dirt

Favorite Famous Quote: “I bounded up the trail, passing rocks and trees, as if they were standing still.”  I have no idea who wrote that, but I love it.

Karen “all smiles” finishing the 2014 Heartland 50 Mile!


Number of Years Running Ultras: 19 years

Number of Ultras Finished:  I don’t keep track – UltraSignup has me at 118, but some of those aren’t ultras and some ultras aren’t on the list, so I’m guessing around the 100 mark.

Best Ultra Performance(s): Last Annual Vol State – 7 days, 19 hours, 40 minutes and 6 seconds.  My goal was 8 days and I still can’t believe I beat that!

Most Memorable Ultra: So many memories.  Last Annual Vol State, but also Salt Flats 100.  I met a guy, Blaine Phillips, at mile 3 and we stayed together and helped each other the entire rest of the race.  It was so beautiful, so surreal.

Typical Training Week(s) Before A Major Race:  Other races usually are my training.  One race is training for the next.  I try to keep active always.

Injuries: Not an injury, but I got Hantavirus from breathing mouse feces.  It first seriously affected my lungs, and then my heart, so now I’m dealing with that.  I’m in Afib so I’m walking now.

Ultrarunning Idol(s): Dave Renfro and Angela Ivory.  They both pursued ultrarunning during their battles with cancer.  I never heard a complaint from them.  They both were dear friends and inspirational individuals.

Why Do You Run Ultras: Because I get to be around these incredibly positive people!  So many people in the ‘real world’ are so negative and like they say – finishing an ultra is more mental than physical (well – at least for us back of the packers). I just get uplifted every time I run.  It is a passion of mine.  And – what other sport is there where you can run with the best and they are actually your friends?  No one has ever put me down for being slow – even the best runners congratulate me!

Advice For Other Ultrarunners: Don’t give up!  But don’t over do it and get hurt either.  Learn what works for you.  Most of all, have fun!


Personal Hero: Letha Cruthirds – she is one of very few women to do the Grand Slam and the last 7 years she has been through more than any of us could possibly handle.  And she still pursues.  She is my hero.  Terrie Wurzbacher- what a tough ol’ gal she is, and she’s getting ready to do a Trans Con right now!  Very honest person, so trustworthy.  Rene Villalobos – a humble man, so considerate of others.  I have known him a long time and I don’t think he knows how much he has helped me.  Sherry Meador – talk about beating the odds, conquering and keep on keeping on!  And she tells some mean stories also!

Personal Philosophy:  You are better than you think you are and can do more than you think you can.

Short-Term Goal: Keep walking through this Afib and get some more 100’s done.

Long-Term Goal: Trans-Con?  PCT?  Another Camino adventure?

Most Prized Possession: Strangely enough, I can’t think of anything, except old pictures of family and friends (before phone cameras)!

Most Proud Achievement: Two things turned my life around – from being pretty insecure to thinking I can do anything!  When I got my Engineering Degree – without financial assistance from parents, working full time and going to school part-time, I felt I had really conquered and I did it on my own.  I was very proud of myself.  And when I finished my first marathon – because I was so totally non-athletic – never did any sports in school.  I did it.  On my own.  I think that may have even meant more than the Engineering Degree!

Happiest Memory: Sitting with my paternal grandfather when I was a little tike, eating grapes at the kitchen table (it was quite a treat for me to have grapes), and talking.  I haven’t a clue what we talked about, but he listened to me and we just sat and talked.

Secret Ambition/Fantasy:  To be a chef of a gourmet healthy restaurant.  To play the fiddle in a band.  To get a book published.

Greatest Adventure:  My greatest adventure to this day is my Camino Adventure – I started In France and hiked from le Puy en Velay, then on through Spain, finishing up in Santiago de Compostela and then going on to Finisterre.  It wasn’t treacherous, but it wasn’t easy and it WAS quite an adventure!


Least Liked Subject: It was History in school, because of the most boring teachers, although I would like it today if I took a course in it.

Least Liked Household Chore: Cleaning in general.

Pet Peeve(s): People who are late, people who aren’t honest.

Greatest Fear: Getting mauled by a grizzly – I know, a bit irrational, but I had watched ‘Grizzly’, and then went to Alaska to run the unsupported Resurrection Run, where there were Grizzlies and I was scared the entire time!


Book Currently Reading: A totally non-serious read “Recipes for Love and Murder’, by Sally Andrew.   My book club just finished Forty Autumns, by Nina Willner, about survival in Germany on both sides of the wall, and I needed something light.

Hobbies: Hiking, reading, cooking, photography, and sometimes yoga (my new-found hobby).

Collections:  My race medals.

What’s Next: Several short runs throughout the year – Dan Man, Twilight 24 hour run in Michigan, hopefully Pigtails in Washington, A Race for the Ages in September I hope!

Karen finishing 100 Miles at the 2019 Snowdrop Ultra!

2 Responses to “Featured Runner “Karen Holmes” March 2019”

  1. Caroline Stampfli

    Good article on you Karen. As a childhood friend,I can attest to the fact that Karen was never a sports type kid. Impressive to be doing these Ultra ‘s at this point, Good job! Ho[e to see you this summer!

  2. John Longan

    Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself. I have been on course with you at least once or twice so this is a treat to know more. Great write up. Will you make 24thw this year?

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