The AT50: Ultrarunner Lizzy Hawker (#36)
Highlights: Five-time winner of the 103-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc; record, 199 miles from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu (72 hours, 25 minutes); record, distance covered by a woman on foot in 24 hours (247.07 km/153.48 miles)
Quote: "I still feel like I have more potential to pull out of myself."
Fact: She bought her first pair of trail shoes just 10 days before entering—and winning—the 2005 UTMB.
AT50 Point Total: 36.5
To see her now, you'd think Lizzy Hawker has been running through forbidding mountain environments her whole life. Since 2005, she's made her mark with incredible feats of endurance in long-distance (some are 100 miles or more) alpine trail races. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, for example—which she's won five times—makes a 103-mile circuit around the Mt. Blanc Massif through the French, Italian and Swiss Alps, with 31,168 feet of uphill. She also owns the record for the fastest time running from the thin air of 5,131-meter (17,588-foot) Everest Base Camp to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, nearly 200 miles away. In 2011, she attempted to run the entire 1,000-plus-mile length of Nepal's Great Himalaya Trail with minimal support, but came up short when she lost a pouch with her sat phone and permits. She's hoping to try again in 2013.
But this is all new to her. In fact, prior to her lark entry in the 2005 UTMB, Hawker was a doctoral student studying physical oceanography at Cambridge, which had taken her on several British Antarctic Survey expeditions to the Antarctic and South Oceans. She still proofreads academic papers and edits theses and dissertations, but, for the most part, has left that very secure life behind to pursue her passion of running free in the mountains. How's that for pursuing higher education?