Katherine Macmillian is one of the hardest working, most dedicated runners around and that paid off with an amazing race in the Western States Endurance Run where she finished top 20 female. Here we get to know her a bit better
LENGTH OF TIME TRAINING WITH MILE 27?
I started training with Mile 27 in January 2018 – the catalyst being gaining a lottery spot at Western States Endurance Run.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTERESTED IN THE SPORT?
I always had natural endurance and very little natural speed. I ran my first marathon in 2007 after my sister persuaded me to train with her. She pulled out months before and disappeared overseas but I ended up finishing Melbourne Marathon that year (with bad ITB but that’s another story). I ran my first trail ultra in 2010 – Walhalla Wound Up (50k) and just a few kilometres in, cruising along the Australian Alpine Walking Track, I felt like I was ‘home’.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE RACE?
That’s like picking a favourite child! Western States is the one I trained hardest for so that was special. GOW has the best atmosphere and the best on-course toilet (Devil’s Kitchen if you were wondering). Cradle Mountain for the scenery. Oscars Hut2Hut/GSER for the wilderness experience. UTA for the social aspect. Fat Dog 120 was the longest I have run.
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM A RACE SO FAR?
Again – so many. Finishing my first 100k (GOW) side by side with ultra legend Paul Every. Running through a field of the most magnificent wildflowers heading down to Ashnola Aid Station at Fat Dog. Finishing GNW miler the hot year with only seconds to spare for a sub 30 time. Sunrise breaking over a misty Dove Lake at the start of Cradle Mountain. When you have spent 100s of hours racing ultras there is going to be a few memories.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ULTRAMARATHON ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
A top 50 finish at Western States is pretty good given the standard of the field. Other than that my best races were GOW the year I nearly broke 11 hours, just one week after running my fastest marathon time (3:03) and the Marysville 50k race a few weeks later. I was flying then.
WHAT IS ON YOUR RACING BUCKET LIST?
Next year I plan to run GSER. I was entered in the miler last year but was injured in the months beforehand so had to drop down to the 50 mile. I was gutted to miss out on the long course at the inaugural event and disappointed then to have it canceled this year. I do love traveling overseas to race and I would love a crack at Hardrock if I can get lucky with the lottery. I have also been eyeing off La Grand Raid Le Reunion miler for a few years. And there are a heap of New Zealand races that look amazing. I have entered Northburn miler in 2019 so will start there.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM ULTRAMARATHONS? WHAT HAVE THEY TAUGHT YOU ABOUT LIFE AND YOURSELF?
Running ultramarathons has given me an amazing amount of self-confidence. I rarely shirk away from something now because it seems ‘too difficult’. As long as you are confident that you are heading in the right direction if the end goal is worth it keep going! You get there eventually. The other thing it has taught me is to try to avoid excuses. It’s easy to make excuses but they do not help get you to the finish line. If things do not go to plan, much better to be honest with yourself and analyse what went wrong and make the necessary changes. Failure is a learning experience.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF TRAINING?
I love long slow days adventuring. Being able to take the time to stop and admire the scenery and the experience – often you miss these on race days. Social runs are a lot of fun too. I get to see some pretty amazing sunrises as one of the benefits of doing most of my training before work.
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE BENEFITED FROM TRAINING WITH MILE 27?
Probably the biggest thing is the accountability. Previously I would have a loose plan in my head but would frequently ‘downgrade’ a run if I was feeling tired or sore as it was easy to do. Now I feel like I need to be really tired or very sore to opt out of a session. Having a coach has also pushed me out of my comfort zone in that I do hill and interval sessions that are tougher than I would ever set for myself.
WHAT IS THE ONE TIP YOU WOULD GIVE A FELLOW ATHLETE TO HELP THEM ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE OF RUNNING AN ULTRA MORE?
Remember it is you racing against the course, and you are not racing the other runners*. Pacing is so much more important in an ultra than a shorter race so you have to run what is best for you and not be sucked into running faster than you should be early on.
*except in the last kilometre – then it’s on!
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT RACE?
My next A race is the Northburn 100 miler and then hopefully Hardrock.