Time to Represent: Black Girls Trekkin’

“Nature belongs to us all to enjoy, to protect. No tree, rock, or any star in the sky above cares where you come from or who you are or what color your skin is or how fast you go. We know nature only wants us to share in its power and imagine where we can all go together.” – Black Girls Trekkin’ Co-founder Tiffany Tharpe. 

Los Angeles, CA natives Tiffany Tharpe and Michelle Race met when they were assigned close lockers in high school. After continued years of friendship and a shared love of the outdoors, Black Girls Trekkin (BGT) was born in November of 2017. Now, two years later, BGT celebrates diversity and inclusion in the outdoors with a community of almost 8,000 people on Instagram and frequent group hikes around LA. 

We sat down with the co-founders to learn more about how they are reimagining what it means to get outside. 

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HOKA: What was your vision for BGT when you started the group two years ago? 

Michelle: BGT is trying to re-imagine who is represented in the outdoors. We hoped that the group could be a place for everyone because the outdoors is for everyone who wants to be there. The mission of BGT is to promote diversity and inclusion in the outdoors and to inspire people to protect and conserve it. 

HOKA: What is your take on the current state of representation in the outdoor industry? 

Michelle: I think there are people of color, people of all genders, people of all backgrounds that are in the outdoors all the time. It’s not that they aren’t there. It’s just that we don’t get to see it in marketing. And, so, I think it’s about changing the perspective of everyone. Even if you don’t see yourself, you can be outdoors. 

Tiffany: Personally, growing up I didn’t see a lot of representation outdoors. I was a little different than most kids our age. Even though I didn’t see it, I was still interested in learning about it.

“I think most kids will be more inclined to go outdoors if they see themselves represented from a young age.” – Tiffany Tharpe

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HOKA: What would you tell the outdoor industry to help them improve and be more representative? 

Tiffany: I would say that they’re doing well in starting to promote diversity in the outdoors, but they could be doing better. So, instead of just showcasing People of Color outdoors or just showing up for Pride month and having a gay couple on the trail, maybe hiring more diverse people up top or having more campaigns to help people who cannot afford to get into the outdoors. 

Michelle: I would say that the landscape of who’s in the outdoors is changing. It’s important for them to keep up with who’s outdoors now and to look around and notice that there are people from lots of different backgrounds that don’t see themselves in the outdoors.

“The outdoor industry can play a big part in changing who feels comfortable in the outdoors.” – Michelle Race

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HOKA: How does this play into protecting the environment? 

Tiffany: The world is shifting and minorities will soon technically be the majority. And if the minorities are the majority and they don’t have people representing the outdoors, then the outdoors won’t have a voice. So, for groups like BGT we’re trying to get people involved in the outdoors and inspire them to protect it, because the outdoors deserves that protection. 

HOKA: Can you tell us more about how you have created a community of trust to help welcome new people to the trail? 

Tiffany: If someone is struggling on a hike there’s always someone there to talk them through. We always have extra snacks and water, and then if we need we’ll turn around and stop the trail because we don’t want anyone to keep pushing themselves if they can’t do it. And then we can always try again. The trail’s always going to be there, hopefully. So, it’s just kind of working together on the trail and making sure everyone’s okay. We never get disconnected from one another. 

Michelle: Yeah, I think for me, it came out of doing a lot of summer camps. We always had a counselor at the front and someone in the back to corral everyone. So, it was pretty natural for me to kind of just go to the back and make sure that we didn’t leave anyone behind. We are going to get to the top together, we are going to make it back to the bottom together, and we are doing this for everyone. We’re all in it together. It’s really important for me to make sure that everyone feels like they’re a part of the group at every step. 

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HOKA: What has been one of your favorite moments from a hike? How does BGT bring you joy? 

Michelle: One of our more regular reactions that I love is people going back to their cars and just hugging each other. It’s a small moment, but it shows how close the group has become. Even though everyone is so tired at the very end, everyone hugs each other before they leave. And I think that’s so nice to see. Yeah. That’s one of my favorite things. 

Tiffany: The joy comes for me when we get first-time hikers with us on the trail and they want to come back and do it again. And then we see them coming back on more of our hikes and getting into it and making friends. It just brings a lot of joy to me. 

HOKA: How many women are a part of BGT right now? 

Michelle: We have anywhere from ten to 25 people that come on our hikes from different backgrounds of life. Even though our group is small and we’re just starting out, it’s growing well. I know we are making a difference in those ten to 25 lives and that matters to me. 

HOKA: How can people get involved with BGT? 

Tiffany: Follow our Instagram! Or you can join our email list to learn about upcoming hikes. At some point, we will be scouting for ambassadors outside of LA to plant the seed worldwide. 

HOKA: What is your advice to anyone who might be nervous to get outside for the first time? 

Tiffany: I would tell them, “You belong here. The outdoors is for everyone. Don’t let people’s stares discourage you. There is a community of people worldwide that are doing the same thing. We’re getting outdoors. We’re breaking these stereotypes and you are not alone. See what the outdoors has to offer for you.” 

Michelle: I would tell Women of Color, “You’re already tackling so many challenges every single day that to tackle a mountain, that’s nothing. You got this. 

Meet Tiffany, Michelle and Black Girls Trekkin’ in HOKA ONE ONE: Time to Represent. 

Learn more about HOKA trail products here. 

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Respecting the race: How 5 time finisher Kaci Lickteig approaches Western States

HOKA ONE ONE Athlete Kaci Lickteig is no stranger to The Western States ® 100-Mile Endurance Run. Having run the race every year since 2014 and won it in 2016, she now returns for her sixth race from Squaw Valley to Auburn. The course is everything she enjoys about trail running and the 2016 Western States Champion hasn’t lost any love for the race.

After a 10th place finish at UTMB last fall and a win at the 2019 Black Canyon 100K, she is looking forward to another opportunity to challenge herself. We sat down with Kaci to discover what drives her to compete year after year.

Photo credit: Chris Perlberg
Photo credit: Chris Perlberg

HOKA: What do you love about Western States?

Lickteig: That’s hard to answer because I love everything about it. I love the people whom I’ve come to know since my first experience in 2014. I love the community and atmosphere surrounding the race throughout the week leading up to the race. Everyone walking around seems so starry-eyed, excited, and grateful to be there. Seeing the veterans, the first-time runners, and all the legends that have made Western States what it is today. When you set foot on the Auburn track and hear your name being announced over the loudspeaker, that is the best feeling in the world, regardless of your placing. That is why I keep coming back.

HOKA: Your consistency in training volume and comeback after races on Strava is impressive; how do you do it?

Lickteig: The key is consistency. I’ve been running for about 16 years and the key to my health is being consistent and listening to my body. I know to keep 80% of my runs very easy and 20% at a higher effort, depending on my training cycle. I’ve also learned to take recovery days when needed and I never push myself out the door if I know I will not enjoy the run at all or if it risks injury. And I just love running! It is part of my life and I joke about being married to it!

HOKA: What motivates you the most to run through the harsh winter months?

Lickteig: I can’t see myself not running. It really is something I look forward to doing and when I miss a few days I feel like part of me is missing. I enjoy, as silly as that sounds, embracing the elements and getting out the door. I need fresh air, to feel my body move, and to get the rush of endorphins running through my body.

HOKA: What gives you confidence before big races?

Lickteig: What gives me confidence is feeling both physically and mentally fit. When my body feels strong and has no lingering niggles and I know I put in all the work possible I feel mentally ready to take on the race. I want to be at the start line knowing I did everything right in training to make me capable of being my best.

HOKA: 100 miles is a long way, what do you focus on while you’re out on the course?

Lickteig: What I focus on during a 100 miles is not focusing on 100 miles. I break the race up into aid station to aid station – that way, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I look forward to when I get to see my crew, the next section of trail that I will run, and then when I get to pick up my pacer. I like to focus on the scenery and embrace the moment that I am in. It makes the time fly by and soon enough the finish will be there.

HOKA: What lessons did you learn from your previous adventures at Western?

Lickteig: I’ve learned to respect the race, the distance, and the terrain. The quad punishment from the downhills made me suffer during my first experience. The next year I was more patient and had a better day. Then everything seemed to click in 2016 and I was able to have the best day ever. In 2017 I had too much emotion going into the race with my grandma fighting cancer, and when you have those kinds of feelings going into a big race it can lead to a massive blow up. Then in 2018, I had only 3-4 months worth of training for the race due to breaking my pelvis in October of 2017. So each year has given me a different experience and they have changed my life for the better.

HOKA: How will that knowledge affect the way you approach this year?

Lickteig: I will approach this year with the same respect and patience as I did in the past. I know how the course flows and what I need to do to make sure I run my own race. I am really looking forward to this year and what kind of day and story I will have from it.

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HOKA: You seem to have Western States dialed. What advice would you have for someone trying to complete their first Western States Endurance Run?

Lickteig: I would recommend staying patient early in the high country and not overloading your quads and legs too early. You want to be able to come into Foresthill able to run. Then once you get across the river and up to Green Gate you will want to keep moving forward because that section can feel very long if you have to walk. There are only a few big climbs left so this is where you can make up the time you saved back in the high country.

Once you hit No Hands Bridge, give it one last push up to Robie Point and know there is still a good climb up to the final mile sign…then it’s relatively all downhill from there! Follow those red footprints closely and make sure you don’t make a wrong turn as you head towards the Auburn Track, where your friends, fans, and buckle are waiting for your arrival!

HOKA: What model of HOKA will you be racing in?

Lickteig: My favorite HOKA for the trails is the Torrent. I love the fit and feel of this shoe. The Torrent is lightweight and has adequate traction for the trails. I have used these shoes in snow, mud, dirt, and rocks and they make me feel confident in their ability to grip the trail when I am running.

HOKA: What do you look forward to when it’s all over?

Lickteig: I look forward to sitting down, going back to the hotel for a nice shower and sleeping. Then waking up to go out and cheer on the people coming in at the Golden Hour, the last hour of the race. For me, knowing people are giving it their absolute all to get under 30 hours and seeing how hard they are still pushing is so inspiring to me. I love to help bring them in with encouraging words and if possible to trot beside them as they make their way to the track. That is probably one of my most favorite moments of the race.

After a solid block of training, Kaci is ready to toe the line. Follow the HOKA Instagram Story and Twitter for updates on Kaci’s 100-mile race this Saturday, June 29th.

Want to hit the trails like Kaci? Check out the HOKA Torrent.

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From Ultras to Half Marathons, a Q&A with HOKA Athlete Jim Walmsley

You may know HOKA Athlete Jim Walmsley as the course-record holder at the Western States® 100-Mile Endurance Run. More recently, he was named Ultrarunner of the Year for the third consecutive time by Ultrarunning Magazine and even earned the 23rd spot on Sports Illustrated’s Fittest 50 list. Although Jim has spent the last few years on trails putting up enviable mileage on Strava, his training has taken an unexpected turn. Just two months ago, Jim announced he would compete in the half marathon at Houston Marathon in an attempt to run a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier.

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Photo credit: Tommy Rivers Puzey

Although Jim ran cross country at the United States Air Force Academy, the half marathon is unexplored territory for this relatively new but very accomplished ultrarunner. We sat down with Jim to find out the things we all can’t help but wonder about his uncharacteristic event choice to start off 2019.

HOKA: How long has competing in a half marathon been a goal for you?

Walmsley: “I’ve known I wanted to try to run a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier in the half marathon for the last year or two. I think it’s a harder standard, especially for an ultra runner, to hit 64 minutes for the half than 2:19 for the marathon, which would show more versatility from me.”

HOKA: Why is now the right time to go for it?

Walmsley: “With The North Face 50 Mile being canceled in November, it turned into a good time to be able to shift focus because there aren’t too many big ultras this time of year, and Houston is renown for being the place to run a fast half marathon time.”

HOKA: What was the reaction you received from your peers and fans when you announced you would be training for Houston Half?

Walmsley: “Most people’s first question is, ‘Why don’t you run the marathon?’ The marathon standard is easier and translates better to my ultra running background. However, for me, it’s about a bigger picture and seeing how I would fare in a faster-paced race that could translate to something similar in a marathon down the road. The half marathon can be complimentary for my trail race schedule whereas the marathon is definitely an event that is more all consuming of preparation and recovery.”

HOKA:  How are you feeling at this point in your training? Are you confident?

Walmsley: “I think one of my most relatable feelings through this process is having to talk myself out of self doubt, especially during periods of this training block where I have hit a couple days of not running well or not running as good of a workout as I would’ve liked. I go through self doubt just like anyone else. I am constantly needing to remind myself of the good workouts I’ve had and the entire block of training as a whole. I’ve come a long way towards this goal, and I definitely have a very real shot on Sunday.”

HOKA: Is there anything you are hoping to prove by participating in this race?

Walmsley: “I feel like I’m representing the stereotype of slow ultrarunners from the competitive road perspective. A 63-minute half marathon is a good mark but far off from a competitive world class mark at the distance. But, I think it’s enough to interject something different which makes people rethink the traditional route to road running.”

HOKA: What will be the biggest challenge of this race for you?

Walmsley: “My biggest challenge has been the most obvious challenge. Making a 4:52 min/mile pace feel comfortable enough to sustain for a half marathon. Fitness and strength is there, no question. But, the leg turnover is so different than what I’ve been doing the last 5+ years. The pace is less efficient for me, and it is challenging to sustain.”

HOKA: Do you think this will be more difficult than an ultra for you?

Walmsley: “There are obvious parts that will be harder like the pace. But there are also parts like being in a pack and only lasting one hour that will be a lot easier than an ultra. It’s a fun change.”

HOKA: Which HOKA shoe will you be wearing?

Walmsley: “I will be racing in the Evo Carbon Rocket on Sunday. It’s a really plush but very responsive shoe that I’ve gotten to do most of my workouts in for this race.”

HOKA: What does half marathon training look like for you?

Walmsley: “My training has been more traditional for this half marathon than compared to what I do for ultras. I have kept the mileage modest for the base, with up to 120 miles per week. I do one threshold/half marathon specific pace workout early in the week, followed by a faster, more broken up track workout later in the week and a rolling long run of about 20 miles on Sundays. It’s pretty similar to the schedule I would do in college.”

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Photo credit: Will Baldwin

HOKA: After the half, what’s next for you?

Walmsley: “After Houston Half, I will be trying to pull off an equally interesting change of gears. I’ll be running Fast 100 Ultra, a 100km race in Hong Kong on February 16th. Later in the year, I hope this block of leg speed can be translated into a fast road ultra. I will be going back to Western States in June and running Sierre Zinal 31km and UltraVasan 90km in August.”

As usual, Jim’s story continues to keep us on our toes. Follow the HOKA Twitter for updates on Jim’s performance at Houston Marathon this Sunday, January 20th.

Looking for Jim’s race day shoe of choice? The Evo Carbon Rocket will be released this spring.

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Top Trails Video Series 9: Washington D.C.

The ninth stop for the HOKA ONE ONE Top Trails video series is Washington D.C. HOKA Athlete Mike Wardian leads us through Billy Goat Trail; a gnarly, technical trail in the northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area. Host Matt Barnhart then meets up with Chris Farley (Owner, Pacers Running) to talk about the running community in D.C., which surprisingly has more running clubs than anywhere else in the country. Our hosts end their trip at local favorite, Ser, to chat with Mike Wardian about life as an ultra runner and the opportunity to travel with his family.

Check out the HOKA Speed Instinct here, Mike’s shoe of choice for braving the Billy Goat Trail.

First Place for HOKA Athletes in UTMB 2016

Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc is to trail running what the Tour de France is to cycling, says HOKA ONE ONE co-founder Jean Luc Diard. This dramatic 170km race through the Alps of France, Switzerland, and Italy tops the bucket list for thousands of ultra runners world wide. This year, HOKA athletes Ludovic Pommeret and Caroline Chaverot came out on top. They raced through darkness, heat, and thunderstorms for over twenty hours. HOKA co-founder Nico Mermoud notes the significance of this win for the HOKA brand. The original HOKA Mafate made it’s debut as a prototype at UTMB in 2009, and this year was worn to claim overall titles for both men and women. This is a dream come true to Jean Luc Diard. He is “equally proud to see so many runners attending the race using HOKA equipment in the perspective of making their own dream come true.”

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Ludovic Pommeret was one of the original elite athletes to wear HOKA. He traveled the world with Nico to test the shoes, and of course, chose to wear them for his win at UTMB. This year, Ludo almost dropped out at 30km due to stomach sickness. Fellow UTMB winner Caroline Chaverot says,”I can’t believe when I saw Ludo during the race, he was totally white. Then knowing that he won the race, I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes when you think it’s finished, you can fight to the end to win.”

Ludo told his wife he would finish, even if it took him 40 hours. He dropped to 50th place and then persevered to make it back to 1st place, winning in (22:00:02). This was one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of UTMB.

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Ludo says, “To come in this race with Caroline for the first HOKA victory close to where the shoes were born is so special.”

HOKA athlete Caroline Chaverot lead through the whole race, but was continually challenged by Andrea Huser. Andrea placed second to Caroline by only seven minutes. Caroline won in 25:15:40. She says, “It’s a dream. I am still not realizing but it was so great to arrive in Chamonix with all the crowd. The race was really tough, it was a fight. I was so happy to finish and to win. It was just amazing.”

unspecified-6Other notable finishes include HOKA Athletes Magdalena Boulet and Julian Chorier. Magda was the first American woman to finish, taking 5th overall. This was her first attempt at UTMB. Julian placed 8th overall, pushing hard from the start and staying in second for most of the race. 

Shop HOKA Trail: Men Women

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