Clifton Park & Halfmoon Emergency Corps (CPHM) employees work hard, train frequently, and never stop trying to excel in their work. So, it’s no surprise that they also push themselves to excel in their hobbies and leisure time pursuits. Mary Claire Walker, a full-time CPHM Paramedic, is passionate about running and keeps pushing herself to be the best she can be. In April 2020, Mary Claire ran a virtual 50K and finished 14th in the world! What an amazing accomplishment!We took some time to ask Mary Claire about her love for running and her recent achievement. She also provided us with these photos from her April 50K race.

Why did you run a 50k? That sounds like a really long run!

Mary Claire: I was scheduled to run a 50-mile race on May 3rd, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. I had been in training and still wanted to run a long race and challenge myself. So, I ran a 50k race, which equals 31.1 miles. The race was called Aravaipa Strong.

How exactly did you run a “virtual 50k”?

Mary Claire: I ran the distance on my own near my home. It took me 5 hours and 14 minutes. Once I was done, I uploaded the data from my GPS tracker to their website as proof I had completed the race. I ended up placing as the 14th female overall in an international field!

How did you keep your energy up while you were running?

Mary Claire: Thankfully, I had my coach and best friend drop some water and extra food at the halfway point for me. I stopped for a minute to eat the food and fill my water packs and then got right back to running. It was a lot different from a typical race, which normally has multiple aid stations along the route.

I aim to consume 300-500 calories an hour while racing. I use a mix of honey stinger gels which basically taste like chocolate frosting and come in a little squeeze pack. I also sip on Vfuel which is an electrolyte drink. After about 20 miles, I normally start craving salty food so I switch to a mix of boiled potatoes, broth, pretzels and peanut M&Ms. I also take salt pills every 60 minutes to keep my electrolytes in check.

You really are accustomed to running long distances. Do you ever get bored while you are running for that long?

Mary Claire: I absolutely love running, and I feel like I go into almost a meditative state. I have never gotten bored on a run or in a race. My longest race to date took me 14+ hours and I truly enjoyed it!

I normally run on trails, so the views and varied terrain keeps me engaged. Also, I will listen to music or a podcast sometimes to mix it up, usually as I get into the second half of a really long race.

Why do you run? What is your running story?

Mary Claire: I have been running since I was 8 years old. I started running because of my mom, who is an avid runner. She started taking me on her trail runs and I instantly fell in love with it. I ran my first 10-mile trail race when I was 10 years old. I ran my first marathon at age 16. My family was super active while I was growing up. My parents took me hiking as soon as I could walk, so trail running was a natural progression!

I find peace and joy in every run. It makes me feel strong and free. I am also a competitive person and really enjoy racing. So, it’s been especially satisfying to run and train and be able to improve. Last year, I placed in the Women’s Top 5, or better, at almost all of my ultramarathons!

Would you run another virtual 50k?

Mary Claire: I would definitely do this type of race again! Mentally, it was much more of a challenge compared to a normal race, and I liked that. I am currently training for a 100-mile race that is scheduled for the end of September this year. If it gets switched to a virtual race, I plan on running it solo! That particular race will be a bit more challenging since I will be running through the night, but I am looking forward to it!