Above: Always with a smile on her face, Charlotte takes to the trail.
What would make someone compete in a 100-mile ultramarathon? “Some people might say it’s a certain type of craziness,” says Charlotte Dequeker, laughing. The Greenwich resident ran her twenty-eighth ultramarathon in California last summer, from Squaw Valley to Auburn. To put things into perspective, running 100 miles is just shy of running four marathons—without stopping.
“Honestly, you don’t have to be superhuman,” she says. “You just have to be crazy enough to think you can do it, crazy enough that you know you will finish.”
But why does she really run? For Charlotte, it’s a combination of reasons: “It’s my meditation. I am running in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone and no contact with the outside world. It’s a primal experience where you have to keep moving, one step at a time.”
Though she’s always been active, Charlotte started to focus on long-distance running when she and her family moved here from France eighteen years ago. She begins training six months before each race, logging between fifty and seventy miles a week. And yes, while training, she eats anything she wants. “I’m French and I love to eat.” (Not to mention that her husband, Raphael, is the executive pastry chef for Valbella’s three restaurants.) However, it’s her approach to eating that’s unique. “I really am in tune with my body. If you listen to your body, it will tell you what you need to eat to be nourished.”
In last summer’s ultra, runners ascended more than 18,000 feet and descended 23,000 feet, combining running with hiking and climbing. Of the 369 runners that started, seventy dropped out. Charlotte finished 146th with a time of 25.53.37. Her next marathon is on Orcas Island, Washington, in February.
Her participation in both races benefit the Global Lyme Alliance, a charity close to her heart because her youngest son, seventeen-year-old Titouan, has had Lyme disease three times. She has set up a fundraising page that will remain active until March. To date, she’s raised more than $6,500.
“It’s important to me that each mile counts for something. Running is solitary. Running an ultra is like life in a day, with ups and downs and my mind asking me over and over ‘What the hell are you doing here when you could be home sleeping?’ Running for a charity is an added incentive for me to keep going.”
And when she finally does cross the finish line? “It’s the most exhilarating experience and I am the happiest person on the planet.”
To support Charlotte and the Global Lyme Alliance visit fundraise.globallymealliance.org/fundraiser/1461221.
FIVE QUESTIONS WE JUST HAD TO ASK
WHAT IS THE WORST PART ABOUT RUNNING 100 MILES?
The pain, the physical pain. Feet that are killing me. Blisters everywhere. So tired. Exhausted.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART
Being one with nature. It’s a unique feeling. You feel so small but are very connected to nature and the universe.
WHAT’S ON YOUR PLAYLIST?
I never listen to music when I run. We are surrounded by noise all the time. When I run, I listen to nature. I also love hearing myself think. I listen to my breath. I also think it’s dangerous to tune out what’s going on around you. So often when I run on trails, people don’t hear me come up on them and are startled.
YOU’RE FORTY-FIVE. HOW MUCH LONGER WILL YOU COMPETE IN ULTRAMARATHONS?
Forever! There was a seventy-three-year-old man who ran the western states. I want to be that person.
WHO SHOULD TRY A 100-MILE ULTRA-MARATHON?
Anyone. Or at least anyone who likes to run long distances. If you can run twenty-six miles, you can run 100. You just have to believe in yourself, have a goal, and work toward that goal. I like to tell my boys that we are our own limits. The mind has none.
All images are contributed.