Ultramarathoner thrives on long-distance relationships

Thoughts of Mizzou propel Kristin Walls to the finish line.

runner after finishing marathon

Marathon runner Kristin Walls

Published on Show Me News August 19, 2021
Tony Rehagen BA, BJ ’01

Like many runners, Kristin Walls, BS HES ’88, enjoys the sport for its solitude. Whether she’s out for a quick trail run in Columbia, in the Chicago Marathon or at 10,000 feet for the Leadville (Colorado) 100 ultramarathon that she completed in the past year, it’s a chance for her to escape the stress of work and daily life and get inside her own mind.

Funny thing is, once she’s in that runner’s zone, her thoughts inevitably drift to other people. She thinks of her father, a high school basketball coach who had once played for Norm Stewart at the University of Northern Iowa and always pushed her to explore her limits as a child athlete, sometimes with more than a touch of tough love.

She thinks of her undergrad friends from Mizzou, the circle that helped a self-proclaimed “lost soul” from Springfield, Missouri, feel like she belonged and who were still in Columbia when Walls returned as an adult. When Walls decided to dedicate herself to distance running, they became her pacers, organizers and motivators following her all over the country, stationing themselves along the course in Leadville, urging her on when she was ready to quit at Mile 50. “Many crews had more experience at ultraracing,” Walls says. “Each member of my crew played their own unique part in getting me across the finish line.”

She thinks of Jerrell Jackson, BHS ’12, the former MU wide receiver, whom she met when he worked with her two sons at youth sports classes and who now trains Walls for these superhuman endeavors. Jackson accepts no excuses in his Columbia gym. “I used to tear up in training, thinking about all the people who I don’t want to let down,” Walls says. “We share such a bond over this thing.”

Today, Walls trains with her team. She’s also inspired a couple of her crew members to lace up for their first trail marathon. Walls will be there to support them. She knows that no runner crosses the finish line alone.

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