Runner of the month of August

Joyce Lee


Running 100mi is not something many would run in a month, think about running it all in one shot. Joyce tells us what goes into this remarkable accomplishment. 

What inspired you to take up a challenge that hard?

To be honest, it has never occurred to me to attempt something like a 100 mile endurance run until a little less than a year ago. It was really in supporting friends in their ultra quests that they helped me realize that a 100 mile finish would be within my reach. Finding my way to 100 miles was years in the making, starting with my initial quest for 13.1 miles that inadvertently turned into 26.2 miles instead at my first race ever, the Nike Women's Marathon 2010. Countless miles from there, I found my way to completing Ironman Arizona in 2015, volunteering at an aid stations at trail and ultra races in 2016 where I witnessed grit like nothing I've ever seen before. I was intrigued by the struggle and wanted to experience what breaking through of something like that would feel like. After completing a 50k, 50 miler and pacing a friend 35.5 miles at his 200 mile race within one month's time, I wanted to experience the 100 mile for myself. The idea seemed incredibly terrifying yet intriguing.

During the 100miles what were some of the hardest parts and how did you get over them?

The hardest part during the 100 miler actually couldn't compare to my battle with self-doubt prior to signing up. I really have to give all the credit to my ultra-running friends for lending me their faith. Less than a year ago, I decided to try Javelina Jundred, a 5-loop 100 mile course in Arizona, Halloween weekend of 2016. This was my first attempt at 100 miles and I dropped around mile 70+, 3.5 laps in due to extreme foot pain. I wasn't sure at the time if it was due to my rolled ankle from the month prior as both feet were killing me equally, or if it was because (maybe?) my body wasn't cut out for this distance? Many of my ultra buds, whom I greatly look up to, convinced me that I had what it takes and that the DNF (Did Not Finish) is just something that every ultra-runner experiences. Without their support and belief in me, this accomplishment would not have even been attempted again. I basically borrowed their faith until I could muster a little bit of belief in myself.  

The midnight miles were indeed the roughest because that's when the fatigue sets in the hardest. I had with me an All-Star Ultra Crew: Catra Corbett (countless 100 & 200 mile races under her belt + 2017 Badwater Ultra Cup); Sandra Villines (2017 Badwater 135 Champion, 2X Badwater Ultra Cup, The Speed Project 3.0 Finisher); The Brother - Jay Lee (Crew Chief/driver/social-media manager of a 6-runner 360 mile relay team, The Speed Project 3.0). When you have a crew of this caliber backing you, there is no room for anything selfish anymore. Self-doubt, self-pity just cannot come along for the ride. Realizing that these accomplished athletes and crew (who have far more experience than me) knew in their hearts that I could accomplish this, was the very thing that kept me moving forward. That, and the few 10-20 minute cat naps I took!

How long did you prepare for the race?

I would have to say the preparation for this race took years of building up. The practice of setting aside self-doubt and making room for perseverance enough times to know I could fully convince myself "You got this" when a big piece of me is also thinking "Maybe I should stop". I've learned that this never gets easier, but associating with those who are in the habit doing epic *things* on a regular basis has helped me become accustomed to throwing myself into that scary arena of discomfort without a second thought. 

How has running changed your life in general?

I started running for fitness but the benefits I have experienced through this simple activity have far transcended my original intent. Running has led me to meet the most incredible athletes, witness the power of the human spirit, experience kindness and passion beyond what I knew could exist. Running for me was the gateway to embracing the uncomfortable. Since then my entire lifestyle has shifted and extended on to other sports/activities such as triathlon, yoga, surfing, rock climbing, SUP, sky diving.... I've learned to be more bold and have a greater sense of adventure!

How many miles per week you run and are there any special workouts you do?

I didn't follow a specific training plan leading up to this race, but instead spent a lot of time running & crewing friends who have finished 100 mile races and kept up my running streak. The time spent with them and their epic dream catching toughened me up mentally and physically, which served as the most important part of my training. My mileage per week averages out to about 40 miles (min 20ish, max 70ish)

What’s your goal for this year?

I have always struggled with being specific with my goal-setting, so I do something a little less conventional and strive "to be" a certain quality instead. My goal this year is to be courageous and to say yes to every new running opportunity that presents itself and to do something new and scary each month. In doing so, I noticed that I have been presented with some very unique opportunities within the running realm which has continued to build upon itself as the year progressed. To give a few examples: In January, I was flown to Hawaii to pace some friends at HURT100. Even though both ended up dropping, it was an opportunity to spend time and serve the ultra community and also to see the course. I'll be heading there in 2018 to pace Catra Corbett. In February, I ran a small portion with Sandra Villines on her 350+ mile journey from Mission Santa Barbara to Mission San Jose (in Fremont) with Tri Valley Running Club. From there, Strava offered an opportunity to take part on their 6-woman relay team running 340+ miles from Santa Monica to Las Vegas early March. For April, I took on a project to co-direct the Valor Run 7.5k with Fil-Am Racing, a race commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Bata'an Death March. 

What do you like to do when you are not running?

I enjoy arts and crafts. When I'm not running, I like creating things. These projects come about through inspiration of those around me. Recent crafts include an acrylic painting of "Raising the Flag in Iwo Jima" for a USMC veteran and a handmade trophy for a dear friend who completed the Tahoe 200 Ultra Endurance Run.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

There isn't any one person who is my biggest inspiration as I find so much inspiration in all the people I have met through running. From the youngest of runners to the "wisest", newest to the most veteran, elite or non-elite, it's their unique story that inspires me. It's one of my favorite things to do when I'm at a race, is to find out how they got there and why they love to run. Whenever I enter a field at a race, I always take a moment to look around and find inspiration in knowing that each and every runner has a unique reason for being there. I make it a point to connect with someone new and to learn their story. It's in those shared stories that I find my biggest inspiration.

What advice would you give to people who would like to start running?

There are actually a few key things I'd love to share with those who would like to start running:

1. The technical: be sure to get fitted for a pair of running shoes that work with your unique feet and running style. The right shoes and socks will keep your feet happy, free of blisters and prevent injury. I've discovered that Run Goo works well as a supplement for blister prevention in the longer distances. Foam roll, stretch/do yoga, or get massages to take care of your body to prevent injury. YouTube has great videos for foam roll methods and yoga stretches.

2. Start as you are. You are perfect for running regardless of age, shape or fitness level. If you are upright, you can start running (unless your doctor explicitly has barred you from this activity). I was a swimmer my whole life and hated running when I first picked up this hobby. I had no idea what my pace was, how far I was going or anything about endurance training. I just put on some shoes and went outside for awhile and came back sweaty. It can be as simple as that.

3. A lot of people will have their opinions when you start running. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out whose advice to take. I've found that the best people to take advice from are the ones who have accomplished the things that I'd like to accomplish and have the health I'd like to have. They've suffered through the disappointment of missing those goals, they also possess the mindset it took to dust themselves off to get back out there to accomplish those same goals. This could apply to staying injury-free or in reaching time or distance goals. Run with these people from time to time if it's possible. They'll help you get better and reach your goals. (Avoid taking advice from someone who doesn't run!)

4. Keep it fun! If not, there's a good chance you won't stick with it. Find new places to run and friends to run with and join run groups. They are great at keeping you motivated. I personally like Yelping new places to eat, then finding a place to run nearby beforehand. I call these "running-food expeditions".

5. Help someone else get started too! That way you'll have a running buddy and someone to eat with after you're done!


Thank you Joyce for being part of WeRunSF and we wish you hundreds of happy miles!