You don’t need fancy gear to be a runner—just good shoes and some discipline. That’s part of what drew Morgan Arritola to the sport.
However, the 27-year-old Idaho native isn’t your average street or trail runner. The former Olympic Nordic skier has made the transition to mountain running—a sport that, as the name suggests, is very much on the rise.
This past Sunday, July 21, Arritola won the women’s U.S. Mountain Running Championships in North Conway, N.H., finishing the Cranmore Hills Climb course—two grueling 4,000-meter loops—in 42:31.
Arritola, a bronze medalist at last year’s World Mountain Running Championships, where Team USA earned gold, finished 19 seconds ahead of runner-up Stevie Kremer. Third place went to another former U.S. Olympian, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Games Marathon.
Joining the top three in Poland at September’s 2013 World Mountain Running Championships will be Megan Kimmel, a 33-year-old Colorado athlete who was a member of the 2008 and 2009 U.S. squads.
In a recent interview with Running Times, Arritola called running “a very true sport” and explained why, after competing as a cross-country skier at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where she finished 12th in the 4x5000-meter relay and 34th in the individual 10,000 meters, she opted to trade her skis for shoes.
“I really burned out on cross-country skiing, and that made me take a step back,” she said, according to RunnersWorld.com. “Putting a lot of pressure on myself didn’t help anything. I ended up hating cross-country and wasn’t getting joy from it anymore. I don’t want that to happen to running, so I decided to approach it differently and enjoy it.”
In the men’s 12,000-meter race, the winner was Joe Gray, a 27-year-old Washington athlete who has now notched five consecutive North American/Central American/ Caribbean (NACAC) Mountain Running Championships victories. Gray finished in 56:23—five seconds ahead of Zachary Ornelas and Max King, who both crossed the line in 56:45.
“On paper, you looked at the guys and knew it was going to be a painful race, and it was definitely painful,” Gray told Examiner.com. “I don’t think I started feeling good until the last climb.”