You don’t have to be an ultra-runner to be inspired by Hal Koerner. But once you start talking to the 38-year-old Oregonian about the more than 120 ultramarathon races he’s completed (finishing in the top three in three-quarters of them), your feet might be getting itchy for the trail. We asked Koerner, owner of Rogue Valley Runners in Ashland and author of “Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning: Training for an Ultramarathon, from 50K to 100 Miles and Beyond,” to talk about his ultra love.
For the uninitiated, can you explain what ultrarunning is?
“Ultra,” by one definition, means “extreme.” When people first hear the term applied to a running race, they imagine that the event must be 100 grueling miles or more. While it is true that some ultras are 100 miles, and certainly some are also quite grueling, the fact is, an ultramarathon is simply any distance beyond the marathon distance (26.2 miles).
What’s the appeal?
Ultrarunning takes me places that I didn’t know existed. Mentally, ultras have the power to transport me to a unique place, one where I feel totally in the present.
How many miles do you run in a week?
I try to log anywhere from 80 to 110 miles per week. Those are trail miles, which take longer to bust out than traditional road miles, and they come with approximately 20,000 feet of climbing thrown in.
Do you run with your family?
Our daughter just celebrated her first birthday, but we like to joke that she logs 40 to 50 miles per week in a stroller. Before we became a family, my wife Carly and I usually stuck to different training schedules, but one of the most special moments we shared was when I paced her from mile 60 to 100 at this year’s Bryce 100.
What do you think people can get out of running?
Running is the vehicle to health, happiness, camaraderie and community. It provides inspiration for many other aspects of life.
How can running help build community?
I have seen relationships that spring from running routines and conquering seemingly indomitable distances become partnerships for life. Running offers groups the opportunity to fundraise and raise awareness for charitable organizations and diseases that affect our immediate as well as global community.
What is special about running in Southern Oregon?
The terrain here is forgiving, but the climbs and descents are rather robust. That mix helps make our area unique and with a little something for everyone. Whether it’s a run to the top of Table Rock or through well-manicured Lithia Park or a four-hour dusting in the watershed around Ashland and the Siskiyou Crest, we have you covered.
What are your favorite trail runs in the Ashland area?
I love the Hitt Road Trail for the hard earned views of town and the 3,000-foot climb to Ostrich Peak. The Pacific Crest Trail, just outside of town, is a summertime favorite with expansive terrain that is well maintained. Finally, the Rogue River Trail is an amazing point-to-point experience for year-round excursions into the wilds of Southern Oregon.
When you aren’t running, what is your favorite Oregon place?
Anywhere on the Rogue River when the weather is nice.
How about your favorite Oregon food and drink?
Dungeness crab and Ninkasi Tricerahops.