Running 50km up and down a mountain doesn’t sound like an activity the average person would willingly do. But for 26-year-old ultra marathon runner Emilie Mann, there’s nothing she would rather be doing. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

The enigma of ultra runner Emilie Mann

The Fernie athlete secured gold at the Canadian Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, Vernon

To the average Joe, running 50 kilometres up and down a mountain doesn’t sound like an activity one would willingly do. But for 26-year-old ultra marathon runner Emilie Mann, there’s nothing she’d rather be doing.

This is evident in her contagious smile, which follows her all the way to the finish line.

On May 5, the Fernie local was the first to finish the 2019 Canadian Long Distance Mountain Running Championship. This is one of her biggest accomplishments to date.

The running championship, held in Vernon, required runners to ascend and descend 2000 metres of elevation over two 25-kilometre laps.

With her podium finish, Mann secured herself a spot on the Canadian Mountain Running Team to race at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Argentina this November.

Mann described any 50km race as an emotional rollercoaster.

“You will be really enjoying yourself – I’ll be feeling so good and 30 seconds later, I will be just having such a struggle-fest. I’ll be angry or really irritated,” she said.

Mann said the key to balancing out these emotions and avoiding those lows comes through proper hydration and nutrition throughout the race. Also, she said, learning to cope and accept these moments is key.

During the race in Vernon, Mann was running low on water while the aid station was still 8km away. Catching up to a runner in front of her, they shared water and talked. This gave Mann the boost that she needed to continue.

“I think setting the little goals within such a long distance is really important,” she said.

The only thing consistent about the morning before the race in Vernon was Mann’s traditional oatmeal and coffee breakfast. On days like these, not everything goes according to plan.

Mann found this out the hard way when, less than an hour before the race, she drove up to the wrong start location. Fortunately, a mutual friend who was also racing was able to describe to her the area and she arrived just moments before the race began.

Mann said she ran a little faster than usual when starting out because of the adrenaline still coursing through her.

“Not the ideal way to start,” she laughed. “That’s definitely not a habit that I get into or a healthy ritual I do before each race – I didn’t even need coffee. I was up.”

For Mann, the mountains are home. She grew up in Fernie exploring the forests, which were her backyard. Running became a natural activity for her and has followed her through the years.

This, combined with her deeply engrained knowledge of yoga, has given her a ‘leg up’ on the competition.

Growing up, Mann ran with the Max Turyk running club and then started covering longer distances once she moved to Kelowna. However, it wasn’t until she ran Heiko’s Hellish Half Marathon that she discovered her love for trail running.

“I’m kind of addicted to it,” she said. “I love being outside, I love the endorphins and the energy that it gives you once you learn to get past the sucky part of running.

“It’s like a type of meditation in a way; I really like it.”

Mann’s passion for health and helping people has driven her to become a yoga teacher, and study respiratory therapy in Calgary, which can be applied to many different lines of work in the health industry.

Yoga helps Mann stay balanced, both physically and mentally; it helps her slow down. She also credits it as the reason she has avoided injury for years.

Last year was Mann’s most accomplished race season and so far this season is also off to a good start. Coming up for Mann is her biggest race to date; the Sinister 7.

This gruelling 161-kilometre race leads runners through some of the most rugged, remote and beautiful terrain in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. It includes 6400 metres of elevation gain through mountain passes and down into deadfall-covered riverbed valleys.

The Sinister 7 is said to be one of the hardest running challenges around. It takes place in Blairmore on July 5.

You’ll also see Mann on course at the Elk Valley Ultra marathon in Fernie on July 27.

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Emilie Mann grew up in Fernie exploring the forests, which were her backyard. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

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