Kim and Ethan Nedeau return to alternative competitive running disciplines

  • Kim Nedeau, 37, of Leverett, will compete for the U.S. Mountain Running team at the World Championships in Bulgaria in September. FACEBOOK

  • Kim Nedeau, 37, of Leverett, shown running the 2016 Mount Washington Road Race, will compete for the U.S. Mountain Running team at the World Championships in Bulgaria in September. COURTESY GIANINA LINDSEY/SNAPACIDOTIC


For the Gazette
Published: 8/19/2016 8:46:07 PM

Ethan and Kim Nedeau weren’t looking for national recognition when they got back into competitive running a few years ago.

Both ran competitively in college and for a few years after graduating, but injuries and a focus on starting a family led them to take a break from the trails until recently.

Yet the Leverett residents have had remarkable success in their respective fields of competitive running.

Kim Nedeau, 37, is a newly appointed member of the U.S. Mountain Running team and headed to the World Championships in Bulgaria in September. She earned her spot on the team by being the third woman to cross the finish line at this year’s Mountain Running National Championships at New Hampshire’s Loon Mountain in July.

She also clocked impressive times at the Merrimack River Trail Race, where she was the first female finisher with a course record by 24 seconds, and at the Mount Washington Road Race, where she was second in the female division and 22nd overall.

Ethan Nedeau, 43, is a two-time Obstacle Course Racing World Champion in the 40-44 age group. He will get a chance to three-peat at this year’s competition in Ontario this October.

A hip injury when she was 20 led Kim to take a break from racing. Ethan switched to mountain biking after a disc injury, but he “found his way back to running in his early 30s,” Kim said.

“He’s really the reason why I’m competing again. I was watching him get back to the races,” she said. “I had no reason to not get back into it myself.”

Though she’s enjoying her success, she acknowledged that the sport is physically taxing.

“Sometimes I feel like, why do I have to be good at mountain running,” she said. Other running is hard, she admits, “but it’s not that full body fatigue where you can’t even run, where you literally have to hike it because it’s so hard.”

While mountain running is a physically grueling sport, it does have a major appeal, according to Kim.

“It’s one of the few sports where you can compete your whole life,” she said.

At this year’s Mount Washington Road Race, a 7.6-mile climb to the summit, 15 of the top 23 finishers were older than 30.

OCR has a similar appeal, according to Ethan. It doesn’t take much experience to start competing in obstacle course races. “Just having a general fitness and a willingness to try something new, that’s all you really need,” he said.

The level of success the Nedeaus have had was fairly unexpected when they got back to the races.

“Qualifying for the national mountain team wasn’t something I ever thought about until maybe last fall,” Kim said. “I thought I was all done with competitive running when I was 24. Even when I started racing again two years ago, never did I ever think that I’d be doing this.”

Running now means more because she can share her experiences.

“Part of (the appeal) is that we’re taking our kids to these races,” she said.

With the fairly small, tight-knit community of mountain runners in New England, Kim said, “when we go to the mountain races, there’s always somebody that’s offering to be with our kids while we race ... We feel like it’s a safe place to bring our family.”

One thing she’s looking forward to about traveling to the World Championships in Bulgaria is getting to spend time with her father, whom she’ll be bringing on her trip.

“My dad was at every race through high school and just about every race through college,” she said. “He is always up for a good adventure so when I asked him if he wanted to join me in Bulgaria, he jumped at the chance.”

For Ethan, competing isn’t even the main focus.

“Doing the races, to me, isn’t quite as fun as training for them,” he said.

Courses that he said are “like a big playground for grown ups” can offer a lot of opportunities for creativity in training. Even something as simple as going to the actual playground with their two young children can be a training opportunity.

“When you have kids and take them to the playground, they get to do all of those things, and the grown ups just sit there,” he said. “But I’ll get out there.”

He even built a “fun little” gym in their garage, where he and Kim can both train.

There, they have monkey bars, inclined monkey bars and other obstacles. Ethan also found another method that allowed him to spend time with his kids while training.

“I used to do things like put my kids in the wheelbarrow and walk or jog for a few miles,” he said. “And the kids enjoyed it.”

That joyful spirit is present in Kim’s approach to running as well. Running a long-distance race up a mountain can be incredibly fatiguing, but she has a method of dealing with the fatigue.

“I use mantras when I race, which I find really helpful, so I don’t think about how uncomfortable I am,” she said. “For Mount Washington this year I used ‘be joyful’ and I found that when ever I said that to myself, my shoulders dropped and I felt more relaxed. I really did feel joyful for the entire race.”

At Mount Washington, runners climbed 4,650 feet to reach the summit. When engaged in this kind of physical feat, it can be easy to lose track of the surroundings.

“That’s the hard part, trying to run fast and see what’s around you, but if you look up, it’s amazing,” Kim Nedeau said. “The day of Mount Washington, we happened to have perfect weather at the top of the mountain. Whenever I could, I would look up.”

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