Steamboat’s Freedman third at trail running world championship
Steamboat Springs — Mud season in Colorado isn’t going to be as intimidating for Steamboat Springs runner Penelope Freedman after her experience competing in Hawaii’s Paul Mitchell XTERRA Trail Running World Championship on Sunday.
“There was one section where you climbed for about half a mile straight up, and as soon as you come over the top the sun is just beating down on you. Then it’s just mud,” Freedman said. “Mud everywhere. You are sliding down, just hanging on trying not to fall. I must have fallen at least five times in the mud. It was so intense.”
The half-marathon trail run, held north of Honolulu at the picturesque Kualoa Ranch, included more than 2,000 men and women from across the world competing in what is considered to be the “crown jewel” of trail running. And Freedman, 32, a late addition to the field, surprised even herself by finishing third among women, despite the foreign terrain.
“Big, big smiles. She couldn’t believe it,” said Charlie Chase, Freedman’s Steamboat-based strength and conditioning coach who traveled with her to Hawaii. “She has worked super, super hard. She is such a hard worker. I can’t emphasize that enough. And now she is starting to see the rewards for it.”
Freedman, who won the Steamboat Springs Running Series this summer, had been looking for tougher competition. A South Africa native who spent many years in New Zealand, she has a stronger background as a snowboarder than a runner. But an injury a few years ago pushed her back into running, and she’s been excelling in the sport ever since.
Sunday’s race in Hawaii, which included a $10,000 purse for the top seven men and women, was by far the most difficult and prestigious of her running career.
“To me, this race was more about proving something to myself,” Freedman said. “It’s just extremely rewarding and comforting to know I can have the confidence in myself to compete on a higher level.”
The 13-mile course took runners up and down hills, through dense jungle, across muddy trails, and along stunning beaches, all with an oppressive humidity weighing down on them. Freedman completed the course in one hour, 47 minutes and 18 seconds, her third-place time about 11 minutes short of race winner Kimber Mattox, who defended her title from 2014.
“She was quite a bit ahead of me. She’s also done the race before so I think she was more prepared,” Freedman said of Mattox. “It was just such an honor meeting her. She is the most humble girl and she was very excited to meet me, too.”
Now, Freedman has plans of taking at least a short break from running, although she is hoping her performance Sunday could lead to possible sponsorships. After a few days of rest and relaxation in Hawaii, where she plans to hang out on Oahu’s North Shore, Freedman will return home where she expects to find some fresh powder for her snowboard.
Until then, she can revel in her third-place finish at the world championships.
“I was not expecting third place. I’m so happy,” Freedman said. “It was so fun, and beautiful. It was the most stunning views. Everybody was so nice and supportive. The love and support helped me do so well. Now, I’m ready to celebrate.”
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