Krissy Moehl is an amazing trail runner.

She’s also officially a writer now. Running your first Ultra is her first book. Trails, life, thoughts, clients and friends…this is the most in depth interview of her you’ve ever read. “It gets a little personal here” she said.

Exclusive interview by Gaël Couturier – Cover shot © Jeff Johnson

FitWild: I like the fact that this book is so practical. It’s a really helpful book that has been written with heart. What’s the story behind it? What or who gave you the idea to write it like this and title it this way?

Krissy Moehl: Page Street, the publisher, approached me. They find individuals who are passionate and well versed about a topic and ask them to write a book. It’s a super small publisher, a small branch of a bigger company called Macmillan. All my methodology, the way I think, and all my spreadsheets were new to them but they were really open about incorporating my ideas into the book. It was a great working relationship. We cruised through the process. I wrote the book in two months.

FitWild: This is not the book I was expecting from you. I was hoping this would look more like a travel journal with exotic inspiring pictures of all those places you’ve been. I know you would be totally legit at writing a book like this so can we expect such book from you anytime soon?

Krissy Moehl: Hopefully this year I will get back to the memoir writing. It is not the current publisher’s strong suit. They’re more into “how to” books. The book you are talking about, a lot of it is actually written. I just need to find a different publisher. For the last two years I have been working on a manuscript for a memoir about the running and traveling that I’ve done in my life but put that on the back burner when Page Street approached me. I jumped at the opportunity to write a training manual. I’m not the academic type or the researcher type, but I love learning through experience. This book is a result of studying myself and my coaching clients. I have been coaching runners for the past 5 years. Watching what worked for myself work for others is what really motivated me to write this book. I am moved and inspired by first time runners, they bring such passion and curiosity to the sport. I love when they realize they can do something that they previously thought was impossible. That’s why I wrote it and the title it the way I did; because I wanted to talk to excited first time runners. That said, there is a lot of information inside that is helpful to someone who has run one hundred ultras to someone who will never ever run an ultra but who wants to know more about running.

FitWild: I’m impressed by the number of important people from the running community who supported you on this book: Lizzy Hawker, Christopher McDougall, Scott Jurek, Kristin Armstrong… You’ve become a true American running icon! Is this book a way for you to say that you’re now transitioning from competitive running to coaching, writing and more race directing?

Krissy Moehl: No, at this point the book was just something on top of what I’ve always been doing. I’ve been active in the community for 16 years and I can’t imagine my life without ultra running, whether it takes form in participating in races, Fastest Known Times challenges (FKTs), writing, trail work, volunteering or race directing at Chuckanut 50k – a trail race every 3rd Saturday in March Fairhaven, Washington ( There will always be some form of participation in the ultra running community for me. I’m aware that my body is now doing better at the longer adventure runs. I don’t know if I’m as competitive in the racing scene as before but I love being a part of it, hanging out and pushing myself. I’m always going to try the best I can. What you are physically capable of and what you envisioned yourself capable of doing sometimes can be very different, I know. But I can’t wait to sign up for some new events! I have a couple of races in mind. All I need is to sit down with a calendar and make some commitments.

Check out Krissy’s new book “Running Your First Ultra” (buy it now on Amazon) published by Page Street Publishing

FitWild: You’ve not always been a Patagonia ambassador. I know you’ve had regular jobs before, at Montrail or at the Conservation Alliance for example. Can you tell us more about your background: from what kind of family you grew up in to what college education you got, to how you became this full-time sponsored pro athlete?

Krissy Moehl: I feel like I am an Outlier, as explained in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: I fell in at the right place, at the right time, and met the right people. Being female in a primarily guy’s sport set me up to be unique in the sport at that time. Now that it has become more mainstream, I have a running resume of experience that very few happen to have. At that point you didn’t grow up saying “I’m going to be an ultra runner!” you know. By following my heart and doing the things that felt and sounded right to me, I set myself into this position that I hold today. I grew up in Washington State, close by where I’m living right now, which is 20 min from my parents. I was very active in sport growing up. My Ma signed me up for almost everything, from bowling to horse back riding to ballet. I guess I was always too busy or too active to get myself in trouble. I went to college at the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in Romance Linguistics. I studied in Ecuador my Junior year because I was really interested in the Spanish language. When I returned my Pa advised me to graduate, get out of school, and move on with my life. That was the best advice. I am such a better student of life than in the classroom! Regarding my jobs, I started with the Seattle Running Company, a specialty running shoe store, where I met my friend Scott Jurek. A year later I went to work for Montrail and stayed 6 years. When Montrail sold to Columbia, I had the opportunity to work 8 months for Nathan, the hydration pack company. Then I left to work for the Conservation Alliance, a non-profit, which I’m still associated with. Since 2008, Patagonia has been sponsoring me as an ambassador, but I have been associated with them since I started my ultra running career because the Montrail team was also sponsored by Patagonia.

FitWild: I met with Sir Ranulph Fiennes recently, one of our top world explorers, and he praised motivation above all things within his people. Ultras are long, they’re hard and they’re painful. You mention it often in the book. Have you ever analyzed the reasons behind your motivation to run ultra races after ultra races for all those years?

Krissy Moehl: I have been a runner without thinking about it basically since 7th grade but a shift really happened when I was working at the Seattle Running Company with Scott who took me out for my first trail run. This is when it just made sense to me. Trail running is a sustainable relationship for me: As much energy as I put in to being a runner is returned when running on trails. Sine that day, I never missed another Sunday morning trail run.

FitWild: What makes you one of the most successful competitive ultra-runners on the planet? What is it you have that others may not have? Why did you win so much over your career?

Krissy Moehl: Honestly, I never thought about it like that. The feeling that I get is that I love running at such a core level. I started ultrarunning relatively young. Through my twenties and thirties, I have logged pretty big miles, without too many injuries. That’s probably a big factor in my long-term success. I’m kind of an old soul when it comes to injuries. If something starts to creep in, I’m likely to take care of it right away. Take last night for example: my heel was really in pain. So I spent a bunch of time rolling it out on a massager, use a bunch of cream and herbal anti-inflammatory on it. I hit it hard early on and did not let it develop into something bad. It’s always been that way. I just spent more time healthy. I listen to my body a lot. And can be quite patient… At least when it comes to running. I have a lot of people in my life that are not runners and they have a hard time understanding how running is that important for me. I explain that it is my passion, just like they may have a passion.

FitWild: Why encouraging other people to become ultra runners? What will people benefit from ultra running?

Krissy Moehl: I feel that I have learned lots of wonderful life lessons, spending long miles out on the trail and I’m really thankful for it. When I run I’m able to tune in and listen to my body and work through life issues and whatever stressors I can place on myself. Running has been a gift for me, helping me to process life. Like everyone, I’ve been through some rough times. Life is not always easy and I’m glad I had something like running to help me work through the good and the bad. The highlights of life are celebrated with long runs and some of the lowlights are also processed through with long runs. I guess I just want “that” for everybody. If they can just figure out what “that” is: what is it that gets to them through a rough day? And what is it that they go do to celebrate life on a good day? It doesn’t have to be running. I heard plenty of people tell me that they hate running and that is just fine, but my advice is to find something, whatever that something is.

© Tim Davis
© Jeff Johnson

FitWild: Out of all the races you’ve done, there’s one very famous race that more or less always resisted you. I’m talking about Western States 100 that your mentor and friend Scott Jurek won 7-times and that you’ve never won. It feels that it’s not your kind of race. It feels that all your wins at Hardrock 100, Ultra Trail Mount Fuji or Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc show what are more your kind of races ( What do you think? Are you better when there’s a lot of elevation gain involved?

Krissy Moehl: I came second at Western States in 2009 but yes, I will agree with that. When things are adverse, I have an ability to push through. Like the harder the better. If the weather is bad for example, cold or rainy, it’s not that I like it but I have the ability to endure through it. I can celebrate the running part of it enough that I’m able to forget about the other bad stuff. So basically, for me, the more challenging the better.

FitWild: I remember in a TEDx from summer 2011, you mentioned how important your crew is. In your book, there’s a whole chapter – 12 pages – on crews and pacers. Why are crews and pacers so important and aren’t they more of an elite concept? Also, allow me to say this: having a crew is like using poles: it makes your life so much easier. So isn’t having a crew a little bit like cheating?

Krissy Moehl: It’s definitely an advantage. But if the race approves it, I don’t see it as cheating. Some people think that listening to music is a huge benefit and I just feel like knowing that I’m going to see my crew person is a huge benefit to me. When I have a crew involved, it’s much more about sharing an experience and, since I think life is better shared, I like to take that into my most favorite pastime, which is running. It doesn’t mean that without a crew you shouldn’t try to run an ultra. It just means that it is a different experience. What I mean by that is, that the races that I’ve done by myself, typically when I travel overseas and run more solo, that’s a different story. It’s more about self-reliance, it’s more internal. It’s more about my own work to get through.

FitWild: Name the one experience that was the most fulfilling for you and tell me why?

Krissy Moehl: 16 years of doing this sport has shaped me in a really amazing way and there are countless stories that contribute to that… I guess the one that sticks out of my mind right now was when I got to run around the Kilimanjaro with Simon Mtuy, in the fall of 2011 ( That was a really cool adventure. We finished the 8-day stage run around Kili the day before my birthday. Then I woke up in Simon’s camp on my birthday and opted to then hike up the mountain. It was fun to go around and then up it. It was actually also the first edition of the run around Kilimanjaro.

FitWild: Oh wow. What was so special about it?

Krissy Moehl: Africa, Tanzania, the colors, getting to run for 20 to 50 km a day with a group of perfect strangers and the fact that it was totally non-competitive. Meeting locals along the way was also amazing, not to mention the vegetarian meals that we had the whole week, even though I’m not a vegetarian.

FitWild: This book, you write, has been “motivated by passion and consistency, life lessons and reinforced with trail time”. Tell us more about how trail running has shaped you as a person. What are the life lessons gained from all that time on the trails? How did they impact your every day’s life?

Krissy Moehl:It gets a little personal here, but I guess that the biggest thing is that running has always been my constant. I know I can go to the trails for life lessons and to process. It’s always been there for me. It’s something that I rely on as a way to work through the positives and the negatives. You know when you think you can’t work through it, but you usually can by going out there and run? A lot of times, it has the connotation of helping you through the hard times but it actually is part of the really good times too. Take this last December for example, when I bought my first home, I was working my tail off 15 hours a day to remodel, but I also always went out for at least a 30-45 min run and it was a way for me to connect with my new neighborhood, made me feel I was taking care of myself even though I was working so hard. I always make it a priority to get a run done. I guess one of the things that I always hope I’ll get from my runs is to be able to understand myself, to pay attention to the little things that I need. To me it is about being able to run long distances and the ability to translate what we learn back into real life. I feel when I’m out there running, the more miles I log the more of a real version of myself I become. These ultra runs make you raw and stripped down and you feel really real out there. My hope is to be that truest version of myself, when I’m going through life: like when I’m on a date, or interacting with family, or cooking, dealing with clients…or anything that I’m doing in life. If you can maintain the ability to see who you really are, that core person that long distance running reveals, to me this is the best gift that you can receive from the sport. It’s a really great way to interact with the world, that kind of real, raw, honest sense of self, not being guarded but just moving forward without fear. It’s not easy, but it seems to be the best way to me.

FitWild: What is your close future going to look like?

Krissy Moehl: I’m running the Quiksilver 100 km in California in May. Crewing/Pacing a friend in June at Western States, running a RunSLO event in September (… And a few other adventures including the Zion Traverse across Zion National Park and a fly-fishing / running adventure in the Sierra. We are hosting a trail running camp for women in Bellingham (Washington), and I have been invited to run in South Africa again this November. I’m really excited about how 2016 is shaping up.

FitWild: Where will you be 20 years from now?

Krissy Moehl: Life has been such an amazing series of adventures and I have lived a bit of a gypsy lifestyle. As I reflect, I feel it is more a path of following my heart rather than following a specific plan. When I bought this condo my dad said he thought it would be about 3 years before I move again. We’ll see. I want to prove him wrong. I feel I’ve found my home.