Today, Thursday, May 10, marks the start of elite ultra runner Diane Van Deren’s effort to run across North Carolina, a roughly 1,000-mile journey that will take her along the work-in-progress Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee border to Jockey’s Ridge at the lip of the Atlantic. Her objective: to finish in 21 days, beating the current speed record of 24 days, 3 hours and 50 minutes set last year by Matt Kirk.
The entry in my workout log yesterday read, “Run for Diane, 7.4 miles @ Umstead, hot — and slow.”
Frankly, it was 7.4 miles I likely wouldn’t have run — in upper 80-degree heat — were it not for Diane Van Deren.
Diane Van Deren, ultra runner, elite The North Face athlete, and former women’s tennis pro will spend most of this month running across North Carolina. On Thursday, she’ll set off from atop Clingman’s Dome in hopes of running nearly 1,000 miles along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in just 21 days in the MST Endurance Run. The current record — yes, it’s been done before — is 24 days (24 days, 3 hours and 50 minutes, to be exact, set last year by Matt Kirk.
Diane Van Deren has climbed the highest peak in South America, Argentina’s 22,834-foot Aconcagua. She’s run a who’s who of endurance racing’s top events, including Colorado’s Leadville 100 and Hardrock 100, the latter, with 33,000 feet of total climbing, considered by many to be the hardest 100 miler around (she’s done that one six times). In 2008 she won the 300-mile version of the Yukon Arctic Ultra 300, vowed at the finish she was done with racing in temperatures of 50 below zero, then won the 430-mile version of the same race the following year. Before that she played five years on the women’s pro tennis tour with the likes of Chris Everett, Martina Navratilova and Tracy Austin.