Clare Gallagher has quickly made a name for herself as a trail runner, but not solely for her racing success.
The 26-year-old Princeton graduate burst on the scene two years ago when she not only won the Leadville Trail 100—her first race at that distance—but also recorded the second-fastest women’s time in the 34-year history of the event. Since then she’s had many podium finishes including a win at the competitive CCC (a 100K in Chamonix, France) and a runner-up-showing at the The North Face Endurance Challenge near San Francisco in 2017.
Now the Patagonia-sponsored athlete is using trail running as a platform for her true passion: environmental conservation. Being able to run for a living and be an activist has Gallagher fired up.
“I have a renewed interest towards the sport. I realized, ‘Yeah, this is why I’m running!’” Gallagher says. “It gives me justification to do this whole trail running thing as a profession.”
We caught up with Gallagher recently at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show in Denver. Here are five (BIG!) things she has on her radar at the moment. If you want to keep up (or at least try), follow her on Instagram @clare_gallagher_runs.
1) Native American history of the Southwest
I just did a trail relay from Bears Ears National Monument to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, and learned so much. Now I’m learning about and spreading knowledge about the Native American history of the Southwest. The campaign to save Bears Ears has been so influential in the outdoor industry. But the outdoor industry has to realize that we are just the frosting of this seven-layer cake to the history of this land.
Recently, I met the founder of Native Outdoors, Len Necefer. He’s a member of the Navajo Nation and is the go-to man for information about Native people. He could tell you 10 million things that most people who’ve been going to places like Indian Creek for years wouldn’t know.
The book, “Indian Running: Native American History and Tradition,” by Peter Nabokov is on my reading list. It’s about how running is so embedded in Native American culture. It was so core; they would do crazy ultras and migrations. I’m excited to share that history with the trail running community
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2) A Perfect Match
During my first ambassador meeting with Patagonia, we didn’t even talk about running. It was all about advocacy issues. And I’m so fired up about the information they share online about all of their products, including materials and environment impact assessments. “Wear like you care!”
3) Racing in Cinque Terre
I’m going to the Cinque Terre region of Italy in March to run the Sciacche Trail Cinque Terre Ultra Trail. Interestingly, Cinque Terre was recently put on CNN’s list of places not to visit because mass tourism has gotten so out of control. Locals are leaving their farms for more lucrative tourist centered jobs, and it’s creating an environmental nightmare because the farms, which are heavily terraced, aren’t being maintained. The land is now eroding, leading to mudslides. The race passes through those vineyards and villages. The race organizers want to bring attention to the trails and land, for conservation purposes. It’s my first race this year and it’s all I can think about racing wise!
4) Representing the U.S.A.
In May, I’m going to Spain to run in my first international race as part of the U.S. trail ultrarunning team that will compete in the 2018 ITRA Trail World Championships. To wear the USA jersey will be really cool. It will reignite some patriotism for me, a modern day and modern ideology patriotism.
5) Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act
Oh, my gosh! There’s this new bill that was just announced with Senator Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado). It’s called the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act. It’s been in the works for years, but they finally have enough bipartisan support for it to be introduced. It would make a ton of the Continental Divide—from Montezuma to Silverthorne to Vail, basically all of that ridgeline above 11,000 feet—all classified as wilderness, and Camp Hale would be designated a National Historic Place. I’m so psyched. This is the first issue where I can get my hands dirty with campaigning. This land is my backyard. My family has a cabin in Montezuma, and it’s ground zero for why I care about public lands conservation.