Catra Corbett, also known as the “trail diva”, is an ultrarunning legend.
She has run over 250 ultramarathons, and is one of only 4 people in the world to have run more than 100 100+ mile ultras.
She holds the womens’ record for completing the John Muir Trail twice (out and back), a total of 424 miles, and has the second best all time result for a woman running one way (212 miles).
I first learned about Catra Corbett through a mutual friend and I have followed her ultra career ever since.
What follows are 5 ultrarunning and life lessons I have learned along the way from Catra Corbett.
Catra is known for “fastpacking” – carrying a lightweight pack with food, shelter, and supplies and going out on extended multi-day runs alone in the wilderness. Sleeping on the ground and getting up each day running and hiking as far as you want.
She is known for epic runs — such as a 144-mile trail run around Lake Tahoe, which she did in 43 hours with only 50 minutes of sleep.
Lesson #1 – Add some flair.
You can’t miss 50-year-old Catra Corbett. She has bright red hair, wears loud colorful clothing and has a body covered with tattoos and a couple dozen piercings. Think body/crowd surfing at a rave.
For her ultra races, Catra usually dresses in her signature neon running skirts, armbands, spray-painted running shoes, scarfs, visors, and polarized sunglasses. I like her style!
Corbett loves goth, punk, techno, and alternative music.
I learned from Catra the courage to embrace my inner-gypsy.
Society too often demands that people dutiful assume their rightful place in the system. Too many people are numbed out. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.
Oscar Wilde wrote in De Profundis. “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Not Catra! Nope. She’s 100% doing her thing without apology. How refreshing!
Some people ask the question, “Who’s gonna let me?” The “trail diva” asks, “Who’s gonna stop me?”
Here’s what I’m saying… Add some flair to your style! Express your individuality freely and fully as a human being and ultrarunner. Be that beautiful, unique, awesome, loving, edgy, big-hearted, eccentric, passionate, electric, radiant person that you are.
What would that mean for you as a human being and ultrarunner? What would it look like for you to inhabit and fully express your true and authentic self? The most common form of despair is not being who you are. Make your ultrarunning an expression of the unique person that you are, whatever that looks like for you.
Carta Corbett is known as the “trail diva.” I wonder what your ultrarunner name would be. Create one for yourself that inspires you and expresses your own unique flair. It’s gonna look different for everyone. It doesn’t have to be a knock off from Carta. It only has to be authentic and true to yourself.
Lesson #2: Get addicted to healthy living.
Catra Corbett was an alcoholic and meth addict and says that ultrarunning was a major factor in her becoming clean, sober and free.
She replaced her destructive addictions with a lifestyle of healthy living, which includes being a vegan and fruitarian. Consider the possibility that ultrarunning isn’t just something you “do,” but someone you are.
Consider making ultrarunning about healthy and whole living. Be that kind of addict. I’m not saying you have to be a vegan or fruitarian, but that you decide for yourself what it means to be healthy and whole in mind, body, and spirit.
Love your body. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel and nourish it with whole clean foods. Find a rhythm in life that nourishes your body, mind and spirit. Focus on positive relationships. Practice forms of stress relief and self-care.
A more holistic lifestyle means that all parts of the self are taken care of. This is a very simple concept that most people have forgotten about, partly because of the fast pace of living in today’s world. The way of life for most people evolves into a hurried dash to get to work or to run another errand, grabbing a quick bite to eat along the way, being so rushed that there is no time for truly nourishing and loving our body mind and spirit.
Ultrarunners can show up in an inconsistent and half-hearted investment in things such as recovery, rest, and sleep. Instead, we keep pushing, pushing, and pushing. Pretty soon the stress of all this starts to pile up until the body, mind, and soul can no longer handle it. This is the point where most illness and injury sets in.
Let your ultrarunning obsession be an addiction to healthy, whole, and holistic living. It’s not necessarily easy. If it were, more people would be doing it. It requires determination and intentionality.
No one is losing sleep over whether or not you are healthy in body mind and spirit. Take responsibility for your life and your well-being. What does that mean and look like for you?
Lesson #3: Make it about something bigger than you.
As a vegan and dog rescuer, Catra loves animals and uses her ultrarunning success and popularity to encourage more kindness and compassion towards animals, each other, and the planet. She promotes a lifestyle that seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of — and cruelty to — animals for the purposes of food, clothing, or anything else. These values are an important part of who Catra is and her ultrarunning.
Consider the possibility of expanding your purpose and meaning in ultrarunning beyond merely reaching or achieving your next PR. Make it bigger than that.
How could your ultrarunning make the world a better place? How could it be something bigger than yourself or an act of solidarity with other human beings, animals or the planet? What would it mean for your ultrarunning to be an expression of your most deeply held convictions or what you most want to see change in the world? How could you and your ultrarunning friends act together as one to promote love, compassion, peace, harmony, and justice in the world?
There are many compassionate and great all-around people within the sport of ultrarunning, and many who add a dimension of activism to it. Consider the possibility of combining your love for running with your love for the world in some meaningful and worthwhile way. Make it about something bigger than you.
These and other lessons I have learned from Catra Corbett. I hope they are an inspiration to you and your running. Let your life and ultrarunning be an inspiration to others.
I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I'm proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons… even ultramarathons.