Athlete Spotlight: Roslyn Bergen, Ultramarathon Trail Runner
An Edmonton trail runner explains how running 100km really isn’t that crazy!
By Jane Marshall
With over 160km of river valley trails, Edmonton is an ideal place for trail running. Trail running is not only an amazing way to be fit and commune with the outdoors — it’s also about finding community.
That’s a big draw for ultramarathoner Roslyn Bergen. Read on for an interview with Roslyn, and find out how she went from 2km to over 100.
Q&A with Roslyn Bergen
Jane: When did you start running?
Roslyn: I did some track in junior high, then throughout the years I’d run 2 or 3km. In 2005 I took a Learn to Run class at the Running Room. It involved 1 minute of running, then 2 minutes of walking. I thought, wow, it’s so hard! I was lagging behind everyone.
Then I’d run on my own to a max of about 4km. I met other runners, and began to feel that running is part of who I am.
My sisters started training for 10km races and I’d go with them. At 6km I’d think, I hate this! But then I ran 14km, a long, slow run. I thought, if I can run 14km, I can run 21km [a half marathon]. I began training for the Hypothermic 1/2 Marathon in Edmonton.
Things added up from there. I started training for a full marathon and met other long distance runners, including ultramarathoners. It was motivating! They’d say, ‘If you can run a marathon, you can run 50km [an ultra]. It becomes a normal thing.
Jane: What are some races you’ve competed in?
Roslyn: I started with 50km races, aka, ‘beginner’ ultramarathons. I did a few, then, a 50 mile race. It’s the next step up! Then, a friend wanted to do a 100km, and there was no way I wanted him to do it without me.
I was nervous. 14 people started, and only 7 finished. I was 5th and it took me 14.5 hours.
Next year, I wanted to run a 50 mile in Sherwood Park, and to get competitive. Suddenly they announced it was slated to be a national race for the 50 mile champion! That means anyone who wanted to compete for that prize would show up. Scary, but I ran by feel, did my best, and came in second. The first place woman was British, so she couldn’t take the title. I won due to a technicality. It was pretty exciting.
I ran another 100km in September and came in third. Now, I’m training for the Canadian Death Race in August (125 km).
Watch a Canadian Death Race Promo:
Jane: How much do you need to eat?
Roslyn: During a race, the goal is to take in 100-300 calories per hour. It’s difficult! Your stomach doesn’t want it. After 40km, things shut down. When I have a crew, they are force feeding me. It’s like trying to feeding a toddler. After the race I’ll get very hungry. I pack as many nutrients in, making my own smoothies with nuts, seeds, protein powder, avocado, and vegetable purees.
Jane: What does it feel like at the finish line?
Roslyn: For hours before the finish line I’ll be wishing to just stop moving. Then, I finally get to stop. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I’m just so sick and have to sit down.
Jane: Favourite Edmonton training spots?
Roslyn: We have an amazing river valley. I like running single track and mountain bike trails. What I love about trails is that you can’t see what’s ahead. I have to pay attention, and it’s good for my mental health.
Jane: What inspires you to run?
Roslyn: The sense of accomplishment. It’s something I can do for myself, and it’s something hard that few people do.
Jane: Can you describe the runner’s high?
Roslyn: I get giddy when that kicks in, after 10km. It’s like a drug. But after 25km, I feel pain again. It’s a sweet spot.
Jane: How often do you buy new shoes?
Roslyn: The recommendation is every 500km, which for me would be every 6 weeks since I run 80-100km per week. I don’t do that. Mine are 1.5 years old. I shouldn’t keep using them, but the soles are intact.
Jane: Gear tips?
Roslyn: I’m really happy with my current hydration pack, a Salomon running vest. I can put water bottles in the front, bladders in the back, and have 2 liquid fuels.
Jane: Final thoughts?
Roslyn: People use the word crazy to describe ultramarathon runners, yet there are so many people from different walks of life and athletic abilities who didn’t think they could, and then do. It isn’t just one elite segment of the population. Almost everyone I’ve seen who sets their mind to doing it, has.
Finally, it’s all about the trail running community. The way people help each other is unlike a lot of sports. People will stop to help each other out or to wait for others in the group to catch up. I’ve had friends volunteer to crew me in races, where I know I wouldn’t have crossed the finish line without their support. The camaraderie goes beyond just doing an activity together.