GAR 67 | Running Home

Katie, who is a contributing editor at Outside Magazine, has written for the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, Runner’s World, Elle, and many others.  She is also an accomplished ultrarunner who is the 2018 (LEDVIL) Leadville Trail 100 Run women’s champion. Her new memoir titled Running Home details her inspiring journey through grief during her father’s terminal diagnosis and death, as well as how ultrarunning and a practice of mindfulness helped Katie move through her very difficult life challenges towards healing.  



  • What grief felt like on Katie’s skin.
  • The difference between running a marathon and being an elite ultrarunner.
  • Suffering is part of the flow when you are in grief.
  • The value of patience as you let things percolate and marinate inside you.


What did you learn about “family secrets” after your dad died?

  • What are the compelling parallels between grieving and ultra-distance runs?
  • How can we find “flow” even during the ebb times?




Listen to the podcast here


Katie Arnold: Longtime Editor Of Outside Magazine, Elite Ultramarathoner And Author Of Running Home: A Memoir

This interview with Katie Arnold will surely inspire and motivate those of you who feel knocked over by life, feel the pull of something bigger and wilder within, or have a passion for running, especially in marathons. Katie is a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and her Raising Rippers column about bringing up adventurous outdoor children appears monthly on Outside Online.

She has written for the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, Runner’s World, Elle, and many others. Katie is also an accomplished ultra runner who is the 2018 Leadville Trail 100 Run women’s champion. Her new memoir titled Running Home details her inspiring journey through grief during her father’s terminal diagnosis and death, as well as how ultrarunning and the practice of mindfulness helped Katie move through her very difficult life challenges towards healing.

Katie, welcome to the show.

I’m so happy to be here.

Me too. I’m so glad to have you, and I’m really looking forward to what’s going to be a wonderful interview. My first question is about your dad. We cannot start without talking about your dad, who was so integral to who you now are. Tell us, please, about your dad, your relationship with him, and how he introduced you to the love of running when you were seven years old.

It’s so great to start with my dad because, as you said, he’s really the fundamental piece in the story. People have said, “This is a running book. It’s a grief book but also very much a father-daughter memoir.” My father was a National Geographic photographer for his life. It’s his career of more than 30 years. He had this incredible spirit of both wanderlust and curiosity. He was the one who taught me how to see the world and to be a very open-eyed, curious observer. As photographers, they keep their eyes open to capture those moments in life that we so often miss. By being around him, I saw how important it is to be observant and engaged in the world and to look for signs and images. My medium has always been words and his were photographs.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a writer, but still, his way of seeing the world and capturing it rubbed off on me and inspired me. First and foremost, he inspired me as a creative person. He always had his camera. He never had to be the center of attention. He was always on the periphery watching. He was the observer. That’s an important skill and gift in life and something that we should all cultivate more because so much is going on around us, and so often, we miss it, especially now with our phones and devices. We’re not always present. He was an accidental Zen master in my life. The other big thing my father did in terms of being so influential to me was sharing his love of the outdoors with me.

He was not an outdoor athlete. He didn’t compete but was an explorer, as you would imagine, as a National Geographic photographer. He loved to be out in the world in nature. My parents separated and divorced when I was very young. I didn’t live with my father, but we spent quite a bit of time each year with him. Whenever we were with him, we would always be out walking in the woods and rambling around. At that time, it was the thing that kids knew. It’s boring. You’re out hiking but I never felt that way because I was grateful for the time I got with him because I didn’t get very much. My love of my father spread into my love and informed my love of nature because they were so entwined.

It was where I was with him. I learned that being outside was my happy place. Partially too, it was because the divorce was complicated. I didn’t understand it. Divorce was so different then. Kids really didn’t know what was going on, and it changed so much. I had a new stepfamily. It’s complicated when you’re little. I was 5 or 6 so I always went outside. That’s where I went to feel like myself, maybe step outside of the complicated circumstances of mine, and get out of the drama. When I went outside, I always found solace there. That’s been a huge piece of my life since I was young.

The poet Mary Oliver said, “I don’t like to be inside. I don’t like to be cooped up.” I think of that because that’s how I am. Your other point was how my father introduced me to running. I loved this story and I tell it in the early chapter of my book Running Home. As I’ve mentioned, my father was not an athlete. He was very active, but he wasn’t competitive. He was not a runner. He didn’t have any ambitions for me to become a runner. It was just an idea or a lark. One day, we were out visiting his farm in Virginia, where he lived. My sister and I lived in New Jersey. He suggested, “There’s this local 10K race. Do you want to run it?”

GAR 67 | Running Home

Running Home: A Memoir

It was the most foreign concept, although I was always a very active child. As I said, I was happiest when I was in motion outside, but I didn’t run. I wasn’t a runner. It was a very different time before parents were foisting their ambitions on their kids or helicoptering their athletic careers. I wanted to spend time with my dad and I’m sure I wanted to impress him and win him back in whatever deep psychology that was as a kid, I said yes. My sister and I had no business running 6.2 miles at seven years old. We didn’t really run it. Probably we walked a lot. There was some limping and staggering, but the bottom line is we made it.

It should be noted and I tell this in the book, my father was not running it with us. He was at the finish line with his camera, waiting to capture the moment. When the finish line came into view, there was my father. The two will always be linked. Finishing something big that you didn’t think was possible, my father is there at the end. It’s his admiration for sure, but also disbelief that we had done it. It seared into me how that great suffering that went on in the race.

It was a different kind of suffering. It was a seven-year-old trying to get through 6 miles. Perseverance is so important. When you do something that you think you can’t do or seems impossible and you finish, no matter what style you do it in, the feeling of accomplishment sticks with you. We probably dragged ourselves across the finish line. That was so formative in my life that the hard things are valuable.

Perseverance is so important. When you do something that you think you can’t do or seems impossible and you finish, no matter what style you do it in, the feeling of accomplishment sticks with you. Click To Tweet

He taught you to persevere.

He taught us to persevere. He was not a fan of quitting, and he told us that outright. Many things he didn’t tell us outright. We picked up because he wasn’t that person who would get in your face and say, “This is how to do it and this is what to do.” It was more like he was guiding us. That was such a formative moment in my life. From then on, I identified as a runner. Not even competitively because I didn’t join any teams, but I would run that one race every year with my dad at the finish line. In my mind, I was a runner. He gave me that gift.

The best thing he did for the running was he did not insert himself into and start to push me to compete or do X or Y. He stepped back to let me have my relationship with running. For me, running has always been a creative process. It’s how I write. When I move my body, I move my imagination. Because he didn’t ever push me to compete or join any teams, I could run the way I wanted to run. I think that’s why I’ve had this lifelong relationship with running. I write about that in my column for Outside. When it’s intrinsic for kids or when it comes from within, and it’s this desire they have for themselves, not that someone’s telling them to do, it’s so much more powerful, true, and it lasts.

That’s absolutely true. Briefly, in my own life, I was very musical. When I was seven, my father said, “You’re very musical. What would you like to do?” I said, “I’d like to play the piano or dance.” He said, “We have a violin in the house.” I ended up taking the violin, but it was never my passion. Like what you said, it’s because it wasn’t what was coming from inside of me.

The deep theme in the book is that if it’s in you and you can hear it, the intuitive voice is so strong and has so many answers. Oftentimes, by the time we’re grownups or adults, we’ve stopped listening to that voice. We’re listening to the shoulds in our heads, deadlines, or phones. Grief, in a way, was a great gift for me because it enabled me to tune in again to that voice, which always leads you in the right direction.

Talking about that, you grew up with an adult while also being a new mom who was battling a postpartum anxiety diagnosis. How did you keep it all together when everything in your life seemed to be falling apart?

It was complicated, then the anxiety came.

I identify with anxiety. I’m sure a lot of the people on the show identify with anxiety.

The chronology was that in the summer of 2010, I gave birth to my second daughter. I was in my mid-30s. She was maybe two months old when I learned my father had terminal cancer. It was that mashup or collision of this birth, which is a great joy, but there’s also a lot of transition in your body and hormones and the grief of knowing that my father’s time was very limited. Those two things together snowballed into this grief and anxiety response. I didn’t know this at that time, and I’ve since learned it, but my grief things manifested as anxiety. I was convinced I was dying too. I didn’t know that that was not uncommon.

I didn’t know that many people take on the symptoms and physical feelings that their loved one who is dying has. It makes sense now to understand that I’m taking it on as the boundaries are blurred. I’m absorbing. I’ve been so close to my father that now I feel like I’m living his story because it’s all tangled up. I was traveling back and forth from my home in Santa Fe, where I had a two-year-old daughter and my husband. My father had this diagnosis, and it was pretty clear early on that he was dying as quickly as my new baby was growing. I had to go back a lot. I brought Maisy, my infant, with me because I was nursing.

She and I, every month or a few weeks, would fly to Virginia. I was so glad to be with my father, but it was such a heavy feeling of being in that house watching him decline so rapidly. I began to feel grief as a physical sensation. I didn’t know that either. I always thought grief was this emotional state, but, for me it is so physical. We’ll get to this later, but it is why running was so helpful because running is obviously so physical. I would go and felt like I had this layer of grief on me like a weight. It felt like a scratchy film on my skin. I wanted to scrape it off. One time, I came back from a visit to Virginia. I went up to this fancy Japanese house spa on the mountain here in Santa Fe.

I signed up for one of those exfoliation treatments where they rub salt all over your body. I thought I had this delusion that would take off my sadness. Grief is such an altered state and I thought I could scrape it off. At the end of the treatment, she raised me down, I stood up, and I was like, “It’s still there.” When my father died, it was not even twelve weeks from his diagnosis to his death. It was so fast like a runaway train. When he died, I had this moment. I was at the farm with my stepmom, and I had this moment where I thought, “It was a relief.”

It’s the relief you feel when someone you’ve loved has been suffering and isn’t anymore. Also, a little bit of selfish relief, like for me, “This is going to end.” As quickly, I had that voice inside of like, “This is just the beginning.” It really was. From his death, I went into this period of very acute anxiety that I was dying. I could hear a news report about a rare disease or a friend of a friend who had X disease or something happening. I would manifest those symptoms. I would feel that in my body. I’d never had that before. I had a history of worry as a child of divorce, going back and forth between families.

You’re traumatized in a way, and you didn’t even know.

That’s the dislocation and I think worry is a kind of dislocation too. You’re not always at home in yourself but this anxiety was totally new. I had this new baby. Motherhood triggers that worry and then all of a sudden, you realize the stakes are so much higher. I cannot die because I have these tiny babies. It was also a crash into midlife. I was coming up to 40 and I realized mortality is real. I am mortal too. All those things together made this turbulent time of anxiety where I was gripped by it.

You made it through that even though your skin was crawling and you had all these sensations, which is amazing.

I’ve since learned stress is leaving the body, but my head was tingling. I’m like, “I have a brain tumor.” Maybe I’m a writer because I have such a vivid imagination. I have always had a great imagination, and that serves me well as a writer. It also can be a downfall. I’m like, “This must be this.” Being a child of divorce, you’re always looking. You’re a little detective. You’re trying to understand, put your world together, and make sense of it. I used those same detective skills on weird sensations in my body. That was not a good idea because I’d be conflating these feelings. It was grief, but it felt like I was dying.

That’s even wonderful for our audience to know because some of them may be grieving and have these sensations. They’re like, “That’s what it is.” Speaking of anxiety, how did your dad’s terminal diagnosis and death lead to the unfolding and processing of family secrets, which was a part of your anxiety?

This is in the book. A big theme in the book is what I learned about my father after he died. Because of his work as a photographer, he obviously left this incredible body of photographs. He was a documentarian. That was what he did. He was a photojournalist, but he also was a prolific letter writer. He kept journals and notebooks. He did videos and audio. When we were kids, he used to carry around one of those Panasonic tape recorders that were half the size of a suitcase.

He would put it on the table, press record, and document our lives with him and his life. He left behind this amazing archive of work, thinking, and writing. After he died, my sister and I went through his office. My stepmother was so generous and gave us total access and freedom. In many ways, I learned who he was after he died. Some of the things we discovered were painful and not what we knew. I won’t go into that here because it’s a big part of the book.

Everyone, you have to read it in the book.

There were many things I hadn’t known, but I think the great gift of it is it was a kind of healing to go back. I took a lot of time. I couldn’t have sat down right away. It was all there in his office, labeled and marked, and he wasn’t hiding anything, which is also such a gift. He was very transparent with his material. Honestly, he was working on a memoir. He had never said that outright in those words, but I knew he was working on his photographs. He’d spent twenty years trying to digitize and edit them, and he was doing a lot of writing. He’d left it all. He ran out of time, but he wanted it to be orderly.

The night he died, I remember I went down to his office. I wanted to feel him. I felt that he was still close to the house. There was something of him. I went down into his office, where he’d spent fifteen years in his retirement, laboring over his images, which are some of the most beautiful photographs. I definitely felt him down there. I started to open some notebooks, and right away, some things jumped out that were painful. On the night of his death, it’s like a gut punch. I remember I set them down, and I realized then, not even consciously. I knew I would go through his material, but I would do it slowly. I was so in grief and raw, and the death was so fresh.

Even as I went back a few months later and then after that to help my stepmother, I never sat down systematically and went through everything. I picked up things here and there very organically and listened to that intuition. The result is this beautiful unfolding of my father’s life in the years after he died. In a way, I read and found what I could find when I could find it. By the time I was reading the harder stuff, time had gone by, so I must have intuitively known to give myself some space. That was a gift. Again, it was not a conscious decision. It’s beautiful to find those things and there can be some bombshells. You want to be gentle with yourself in finding them.

I can identify with that. Katie, what is the difference between running a marathon and being an elite ultra runner?

When people think of marathons, they’re thinking of the ones that are run-on-road marathons. That was my understanding of what a marathon was. In my mind, it was the New York City Marathon. An ultramarathon is any distance over the marathon length. Anything above 26.2 miles is an ultramarathon.

26.2 miles is the top for a marathon.

Yes, that’s the marathon distance. They’re always 26.2 miles, no matter where you go in the world. An ultramarathon is any distance above 26.2 miles. The traditional ultramarathon lengths are 50 kilometers, which is about 31.5 miles, 100 kilometers or 62 miles, and then 100 miles. Believe it or not, there’s an increasing number of 200-mile races. It’s a big jump up from the marathon, and many of them, I would say most, although there are some that are run on roads, are on trails. They’re on a path or technical trail. They’re in the mountains or the desert. You’re not running around a neighborhood or a city. You’re in the wilderness. For me, that was a huge draw because, as I said earlier, nature has always been a source of solace and inspiration to my creativity and healing.

I was drawn after my father died. You asked how I got through it. Initially, before I realized that running would be the thing that saved me, I had a lot of different healing modalities. I live in Santa Fe, where there are incredible natural healers on every street corner. I’m a very open person and willing to try anything, so I tried a lot of them. Some of them helped, and others less so. I went to Somatics to learn about how trauma gets stored in our bodies.

That tingling feeling is stressing your body. Acupuncture has been incredible for me. That’s been my constant. Other thing is not working as well, but I tried lots. I stayed with the things that worked. What worked and what fed me and gave me relief from that cycle of anxiety was running into the mountains alone and being in motion, in nature, and on my feet. Feeling the Earth’s energy come up was important.

It was revitalizing and reminding me that I’m connected to something greater than myself and something much faster than my little worry in my mind, which wasn’t to say that it wasn’t real. It was real. My fears were real and legitimate. I wasn’t discounting them, but being in nature, I felt connected to something much bigger. It felt like it was a consolation. In nature, I would see a fox or little mouse prints in the snow.

I went all seasons. No matter the weather, I would go out into the trails. It was the combination of being in nature but also being in motion running. If you’re a physical person with a physical practice, whatever you do, you get into that repetitive motion and it becomes a moving meditation. It’s like a form of almost hypnosis because you can run. Your body knows what to do so your brain can let go. I would find peace.

GAR 67 | Running Home

Running Home: If you’re a physical person with a physical practice, whatever you do, you get into that repetitive motion and it becomes a moving meditation.

My mind went a little quieter when I ran. Not always. I had hard days, and many times, I would start my run with this every fear in my head. It’s like, “Why do I have a pain like a toothpick in my chest? Am I going to have a heart attack? What is this feeling?” I’d find that after twenty minutes or so, I’d have to fight through that urge to stop, turn around, lie down and cry, or go back to my babies who were still so little right and needed me. If I kept going, I would break through. I would be in that more thought-free place and meditative state.

That in itself is amazing for people to know. You talk about perseverance because you start out. In so many things in life, you say you quit, and you didn’t. This leads me to my next question. What was it like to run your very first marathon? What did you learn from that experience?

If we’re being specific with the distance, my very first marathon was the 26.2-mile distance. That’s a funny story. I also tell this in Running Home. I met an ultramarathon runner. He’s quite famous named Dean Karnazes. Because of my work for Outside Magazine, they wanted me to interview him. I thought, “I’m going to interview him while we’re running. That’s going to get the better story.” Long story short, I thought I would run 5 or 6 miles with Dean. It wasn’t a race because he was doing 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. It was a random Saturday. He’d mapped out a marathon distance. I had my tape recorder around my neck and we were running at quite an easy pace. When you’re running a marathon every day for 50 days, you’re not going out at Olympic pace.

We could talk about his story about how he got into the ultra distance and would go out and run 100 miles overnight. It was so compelling that I went much farther than I thought. I thought I was going to do 6 miles, but I ended up running the whole marathon with him accidentally. The feeling was much like that feeling I had when I ran my first 10k, only much stronger. It was like, “I did something I didn’t think I could do.” The lessons will stick with me for a long time. I learned from Dean Karnazes. I asked him what his secret to running ultra distance was. He said, “You’re stronger than you think you are, and you can go farther than you think you can.”

You’re stronger than you think you are, and you can go farther than you think you can. Click To Tweet

Honestly, those words stuck with me. It would be another four years before I lost my father. Running with Dean was in 2006 and I lost my dad in 2010. I didn’t think about them every day. I probably didn’t think about them for years. Somehow, after my dad died and I was struggling with the anxiety and in the trenches with it, his words came back to me. When I started running, I said, “Katie, you’re stronger than you think. You can go farther than you can.” Those became my guiding words as I got more serious about my running. I got through that initial triage period of grief and came out the other side, and then it was like, “I wanted to see what I could do and how far I could go.” That’s when I began racing and having a lot of success for those reasons.

A theme in your life is perseverance, testing your limits, and knowing that you can do it. Many people quit before they know how much they’re capable of.

It’s going to be hard. The hard is what makes it meaningful, deep, and profound. The suffering is part of it. It’s part of the flow. If you quit too soon, you won’t break through. That goes for grief. You’re in it and you can’t see forward. Being in grief is like running an ultramarathon because you don’t know what’s around the next corner. It’s like this deep fog. That’s how grief felt to me. I was in this bubble or this cocoon. The outside world is going on. You’re sequestered from it and protected in a way that I think is biologically important.

GAR 67 | Running Home

Running Home: Being in grief is like running an ultramarathon because you don’t know what’s around the next corner.

We’re buffered, but it creates this sense of disconnect in your little world and you can’t see forward. Add to that having a baby. It was like this double bubble. Having a new baby, you’re also in that timeless state. It’s beautiful. You’re moving at a different speed than the rest of the world. I always tell my friends who are having babies or new mothers, “You’re going to climb the walls and feel like you’re going insane, but you will miss that feeling of being separate and moving in a different way in time.” In grief, I couldn’t see forward.

It was never premeditated. I never thought my dad was dying and then he died. Now I’m in anxiety. I’m going to heal myself by running, and then I’m going to write a book. I never thought that way. You don’t think that way in grief. It sounds like a cliché, but with running, you have to put one foot in front of the other. That’s what I was doing. I trusted it because I was listening to my intuition that running would save me. It didn’t make sense on paper. I was afraid I was dying, so the last thing that would’ve made sense for me was to go out alone into the wilderness.

The mountains here in Santa Fe are 12,000 feet. There are wild animals. It didn’t make sense, but intuitively I knew it was right. Being in that grief state enabled me to hear that intuition because all the other stuff was tuned out. I was following my gut that it would help me. The same thing with running. You don’t know what’s around the corner. You can be as well-prepared as possible for an ultramarathon, but in life and grief, there are so many variables and factors that you’ll never be able to predict what’s going to happen. That’s why running, especially ultrarunning, is such a great metaphor for life because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to stick with it.

That answers my next question. What are the compelling parallels between grieving and ultra-distance runs? Do you want to add anything to that?

You have to show up for yourself. Grief is like running. You want to make a steady effort. You don’t have to know where you’re going. The same with grief. You don’t know where you’re going to end up. Trust that you’re showing up for yourself every day, which in grief means caring for yourself and doing those things that feed you even in the littlest ways. They don’t have to make sense. There is this scene in my book that this moment is especially dear to me because it has my husband in it, who’s very incredible. He has the biggest heart and is so patient.

He sounds like an angel.

He’s hilarious too. We’ve always given each other a lot of freedom, being in our adventurous lives and doing the things that bring us to life. One day, he looked at me, and he was like, “What is all this running about?” He was getting impatient like, “What is this for?” I turned on him and said, “I don’t know, but I know that it’s more than about running.” That’s all I could say. It’s the feeling of like, “I don’t know why I’m doing it, but I know that it’s something important.” I would say, for your audience, when you’re in grief, you don’t know what you’re doing, where you’re going, or how you’ll end up, make that little effort every day for yourself. I call it steady effort. Not knowing where you’re going, we all live in that. We think we know where we’re going, but grief, death, and loss shock you out of it.

You see that it’s an illusion all the time. Anything can happen. As you well know, that can turn it upside down. It’s not to say you should be passive, let life happen to you at all, and be in the not knowing. What I’m saying is it’s okay not to know, but at the same time, you want to be making little steps every day in whatever direction. If it’s your intuition saying, “Go to this yoga class. Go outside for a walk. Call your friend,” do those things. Look after yourself.

You’ve touched on intuition, running, and the healing power of nature to heal your grief. Would you like to add anything to how running, writing, mindfulness, intuition, and the healing power of nature helped you with your grief?

We haven’t talked about mindfulness, and this is something that’s come to me. It came to me in my grief. I met a wonderful person who became a dear friend. I had an intuitive feeling about her when I first saw her. She’s a Zen teacher, a mindfulness practitioner, and an incredible writing teacher and writer herself. Her name is Natalie Goldberg. She’s written 15 or 16 books. Her book Writing Down the Bones was an international bestseller. She’s a legend and an icon, and she happens to live in Santa Fe. About maybe 3 or 4 months before my father died, I saw her walking down the street in that very contemplative, mindful way. I had this feeling like, “I’m going to be friends with her.” Fast forward a few months, I had a new baby.

I didn’t yet know my father was dying and I saw her on the trail. I had been wanting to take one of her writing workshops. When I saw her on the trail, we had this funny little exchange. I went home, and I was like, “That’s my sign to sign up for this retreat with Natalie.” You’ll never believe it. The day the retreat started, which was two months after that, was the day I literally discovered my dad had cancer. I had gotten a call from him with the terrible news. I went to the retreat and there was Natalie. We became friends. We began hiking together. I had my new baby and I would hike up this little mountain with her once a week.

She taught me about meditation. I knew that being still was a component to healing, just as I knew that running was my main vehicle for healing. I also needed stillness to help quiet my mind, and the running helped me do it. There are so many studies about how meditation and mindfulness can help you with anxiety and grief. I get my toes in a very little bit here and there. Natalie would transmit this ancient wisdom to me directly from the Buddha. I would take it in. Most of it I didn’t understand on an intellectual level, but it went into my body.

Energetically, you were absorbing it.

I was absorbing it. I knew that it would be important to me. I put it inside of me without needing to know what it was or why. I think that’s a great thing. It was the same thing when I heard Dean’s words. I knew they would be important to me but they didn’t have to be important that minute. It’s patience too. It’s like letting things percolate and marinate inside of you and knowing that they’ll come out at some point in a way that’s meaningful. I began to do tiny little sitting practice meditation and work.

I would do it for two minutes and go to some meditation retreats. It was hard to sit still. I was very antsy. I felt I’d always been happiest in motion, but little by little, I built up some experience with it. What I learned is that, in meditation, they say people think that you have to empty your mind of thought. That’s not it. You’re always going to have the thoughts, but the trick is to see them coming and let them pass like clouds.

It was being the observer like your dad being the observer.

That’s a great connection. Observe them, “Here’s a thought,” and I’m going to let it go. I’m not going to get hooked on this thought that this pain in my elbow is a tumor. It helped me with my grief and in running, too, because ,in running, you have lots of sensations come up like, “I wonder what that thing is in my ankle. I’m not going to attach to it right now and make a story around it. I’ll come back to it in 3 or 4 miles if it’s still feeling like something.” I trained my mind not to always go down the rabbit hole. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you get in that loop, but the sitting helped me. To summarize, meditation has been a huge part of my healing, even though I don’t sit for 20 or 40 minutes every day.

With all that goes on in your life, do you take time every day to walk and meditate or sit on a cushion? Do you do it for a long time?

It’s evolved, and in the last couple of years, it’s become a much deeper practice for me. Now I’m daily and I range from 10 to 15 minutes a day. I do miss days. Sometimes, I’ll miss a couple of weeks, and then I’ll know I feel off-centered. It’s so integral to my process as a writer and as a competitive athlete. I do think I never use my meditation toward an end. It’s not for a goal because that is counter to the spirit of Zen, which is the tradition I practice. It builds this strength inside of me that I know translates to my running, my writing, and that sense that anything is possible. Being able to transcend these limits and tap into this greater flow state that I have come from that Zen practice. I am getting more serious about it, and I feel even in this next year that, I’m shifting into a deeper practice as well.

Do you silence your mind or do you do guided meditation?

I don’t do guided. I sit by myself. My practice is usually to sit outside, as you probably know from having heard my story. I’ll sit beside the river. I’ll bike my kids to school and then I go to the little spot by the river and I’ll sit, or I’ll sit up on top of my mountain. I do sit inside. I’ve started sitting more with the community at the local Zen center. That’s something I feel like I’ve been approaching on and off for many years since I first met Natalie. It’s finally coming into a clearer form for me. That’s another example of being patient and trusting that if you’re on your path, you’ll come to where you need to be when you need to be there.

Be patient. You’ll come to where you need to be when you need to be there. Click To Tweet

Can you share with us your inspiring ebb and flow story that begins with a rafting accident prior to winning your first 100-mile race in spite of having been told never to run a long distance again? I think I would’ve not done that and here you went and did that.

This is the heart and soul of the next book that I’m working on. My husband and I were having our tenth anniversary and we went up to Idaho to do a river trip. We love rivers. We’re big into nature. We do a lot of river trips. We were on this river in the Middle Fork of the Salmon and this fluke accident flipped our raft. We both fell out of the boat and I broke my leg when I fell out. I didn’t know it was broken. I obviously have quite a high pain tolerance. I knew it was hurt, but I was hoping it was soft tissue or something.

Long story short, I stayed on the river. It’s a six-day trip. We are in the wilderness. To get out would’ve required an emergency evacuation. We get out and drive back to Santa Fe for sixteen hours and I go to the doctor. He X-rays me and I’m knocked over when he tells me I’ve broken my leg and will need surgery. I had the surgery and the surgeon, quite dismissively, was like, “You’re going to have to find another hobby. You should never run again.”

That was a huge blow on so many levels because running is not a hobby. It’s how I’ve healed myself. It’s my expression. It’s a form of deep, true personal expression both from my spirit and also as a writer. Running isn’t just a sport for me and definitely not a hobby. That knocked me over. I had to call him back afterwards before he did the surgery and tell it straight and explain why it was so deep to me.

You did that? That’s fantastic. A lot of people would accept and be aggravated by it.

I was deep in the trauma that he set off when he said that. I know he didn’t mean that, but he didn’t know my story. I don’t mean that by he didn’t know who I was that I won all these races. I called him and said, “This is what it is to me and what running is.” He listened and said, “This doesn’t change at all how I’m going to do the surgery. I’m still going to do the best job, and I was going to do the best job I could anyway, but thank you for telling me this.”

Somehow, by stepping into my own voice and power, maybe at that moment, I reclaimed my story. I was fourteen weeks without being able to walk. I was on crutches, so obviously no running. I had to find different ways to access that creative flow inside. It was a very important lesson that I could find those flow states without running. It took me a little while and there was a lot of resistance inside. I got off my crutches. A few months later, I tried running. It felt okay. The voice of him was deep in my body. Any day that my knee would hurt, his voice was in my knee. I joked that the doctor had lived in my knee for a long time. I did have to have that moment where I said to myself, “Katie, that is his story, but that does not have to be yours.”

That’s so smart.

It came to it because I felt like I was taking on his story, and that wasn’t necessarily going to be mine. I started running long distances again. I worked back up to 30 miles and 50 miles. I signed up for my first 100-mile race. My only goal was to finish. Because I was not fixed on winning or trying to prove myself in that Zen way, I did not have a gaining idea. I was not focused on the result. I was trying to make everyday progress toward being able to run 100 miles.

I went into the race with this incredible gratitude that I was even healthy enough to show up at the starting line. A lot of humility too, which I think is part of the flow state, and accessing that flow state is giving yourself over to do something bigger. I went into that race, and it was twenty hours of being in this prolonged flow state. It wasn’t that it felt easy but it felt natural. I felt like everything was aligning for me, and I won the race.

That’s amazing coming out of that injury and everything. Does your doctor know what you accomplished?

A friend of mine told him and he laughed. I don’t know if it was a nice laugh. Everything aligned for me as a writer, a runner, and a mother on that day. Teaching me about that flow state is when you let go of a certain result and make an effort every day for training or whatever you’re working toward. On the race day, I just went in. I had this feeling that no matter what happened, it was going to be a celebration of all the work I’ve put in. I ran in that spirit, and I know that that’s what’s for me.

For the rest of us who aren’t runners, how do you find that flow during those times? Do you have a message about the importance of healing to share with our audience?

The flow is so important. It’s what I’ve learned since then. That was a peak experience of flow. I’ve learned since then that the ebbs are part of flow. You need the low to reach the highs. It’s the eddies. I call them eddies, which are those moments when you’re on a river when you’re swirling and you don’t know where you’re going. Those are very generative times. I would say to people, “Don’t fight the times that feel very sticky, unproductive, or where you feel lost. Things are building in you whether you know it or not.” What I would say to do is be mindful of those times and be easy on yourself. It doesn’t mean to sit on the couch and don’t do anything.

Make that steady effort every day to do something that moves you, uplifts you, or gives you a tiny spark of joy, contentment, or that little feeling of being alive. Do those things, and they will add up. Trust that if you stay in those ebb times, they will lead you into the flow. My other practices are sitting and meditation. You can do it guided but I don’t. I don’t like it when someone is talking in my ear, but any kind of sitting or mindfulness practice will help. Walking in nature, too, is mindfulness and being an observer. I’m taking it back to my dad. Aware of your world or awake in your world to the details. One morning, I saw this man. He had a sign that said, “Struggling every day to stay alive.”

GAR 67 | Running Home

Running Home: Make that steady effort every day to do something that moves you, uplifts you, or gives you a tiny spark of joy, contentment, or that little feeling of being alive. Do those things, and they will add up.

His message went right to my heart, and I had to make a U-turn. This was on my way to do this interview with you. I had a $1 bill scrunched up on the floor of my car and a half-eaten bag of cashew. I made a U-turn to his message. Because I was paying attention, it struck me in my heart. Now, his story is part of mine, and I gave him that. I said, “This is all I have.” In those ebbs, helping others, staying in your body, staying in motion, and walking.

You don’t have to do anything epic. You do not have to run. I tell everyone I talk to about my book that my journey is with running. That was my vehicle and what helped me. I crossed out every time I could write running in my book. You could write your own thing. It is the same. Stay with yourself in the ebbs and trust that they are leading you to flow. It’s a hard thing to trust. I’m a little bit in that myself right now. My book is my own teacher, which is good.

I’ve tended to do this, too. If they’re going through an ebb, they feel in a black-and-white way that this is it instead of understanding that this is just something that’s going to leave them. I should keep going and it’s going to leave me out. That’s part of the healing. If you can find your modality, I would think to help you with that ebb. You can move through whatever it is to higher ground.

It made a little steady effort in Zen. They say, “Steady effort for the good.” Do the little bit you can because there are definitely going to be days when you feel like you cannot scrape yourself off the couch. I’ve had that. I’ve had days where I literally had to lie down on the ground on a run, and I felt like I couldn’t go home. I would lay there and feel the grounds. That was almost like I could feel the Earth spinning beneath me. I was like, “I’m here. Keep going.”

Tell us about keeping going. I know that you inspire other people to get into the flow. You have what’s called Flow Retreats. Tell us about that because you help others to find that flow. If any of you out there are stuck, you can definitely reach out to Katie and maybe want to be a part of this.

I’m offering a couple of them this 2023. One is Flow Running and Writing. I look at that intersection between our creative minds and physical bodies. I believe that whether or not you’re a creative or a physical person, you need both practices. I think all physical people need a creative practice that feeds us, whether it’s writing. I don’t mean that in a professional way. You don’t ever have to publish anything or sell a piece of art, but having that creative expression is a deeper way to be in the world and a deeper relationship with the world, ourselves, and our creativity. The same thing with artists who are entrepreneurs, we all are healthier when we have physical practice. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to be an elite ultra runner.

It could mean walking a mile every day. At this Flow Retreat, I’m looking at that intersection between the creative and the physical or the imagination and the body, and when you get both of those things firing, you can prime yourself for flow. You can’t force flow. That’s the opposite of flow. You can create these daily habits that help put you, cultivate, develop flow in your life, and enable you to trust that the flow is coming even when you’re at the ebb.

What we’ll be doing is writing practices daily and sitting meditation. Again, nothing like Olympian. You don’t have to be a professional meditator. If anyone can meditate, it’s me like the restless ultra runner. We’ll be doing trail running. If running is not your thing, you can also come, we walk. It’s that time in nature. That’s in February 2023 outside Zion National Park.

Zion, that’s beautiful.

Zion is a very powerful place. The landscape is so powerful to me and I know to other people too. I think many of us get disconnected from the natural world. That’s February 28, 2023 outside Zion. I love that symbolically because it’s over leap day, and I love leap day. It’s the big leaps forward we can make. The second one is more of a writing and walking retreat. It’s not running focused but it’s at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. They have a writer’s lab here in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Photo Workshops are a renowned workshop for photographers and artists. I’m teaching there. It’s called Writing in Motion. If you’re ever curious about in motion or in movement and how that feeds your creativity, this is a great workshop. You can find all the info on my website,

Katie, I would imagine some people make wonderful friendships also.


That must be so cool.

We’re exploring how when we move our bodies, we move our minds. There are so many studies about it, but I think what gets lost is, especially with writers. Wherever you are on the writing journey, all writers are welcome. People say to me, “I’m not a real runner. I’m not a real writer.” I always stop them. I say, “If you run any distance, any speed, or any amount of time, you’re a runner. If you write in any way, you don’t have to write for publication. You’re a writer.” We’re exploring those two things, being in motion and being a creative person, which we all are. We all need those things in our life.

This sounds wonderful. I’m going to give you another chance to tell our readers all the ways they can find Katie Arnold, like the shops to get her book, all the wonderful things which she is, and all the wonderful things she can help you to resonate with.

Everyone reading can find me on my website, That has my retreat schedule info. You can sign up for my newsletter, which I send out a couple of times a month. They can follow me please on Instagram. I’m very active on Instagram and that’s @KatieArnold. On Facebook, I’m Katie Arnold, Author/Athlete, and on Twitter, I’m @RaisingRippers. That’s the name of the column I launched for Outside Magazine. I’m active on all three. You can buy my book.

I read her book by the way. I loved it. It’s spellbinding, everyone.

My book is available obviously online at Amazon, also Random House. It’s published by Random House. You can find it as an Audiobook. I narrated it, which was exciting and also a deep Zen practice. It’s also available on Kindle or eBook and hardcover. Please support your local bookstores. We need bookstores in our communities. I’m such an avid reader, and I only buy my books at stores. I encourage you. If your local bookstore does not have it, they’ll be happy to order it.

That’s great. Katie, of all people in this universe, tell us your tip for finding joy in life.

My tip for finding joy in life is to do what moves you every day. When I say moves you, I mean literally what gets you up out of your chair and preferably make it outside. We are so healed by being in the elements, in nature, and whatever the weather, meet the weather where it is. Move outside and do what moves you and be in nature.

Do what moves you every day. Click To Tweet

Katie, I know you have touched many hearts and minds on the show, and you have also inspired our audience, who are passionate about running. I want to thank you for this wonderful interview.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. I’d also like to share the following profound quote from your book Running Home with our audience. “Keep it flowing and the energy will carry you onward and upward again, flying down the far side. Don’t stop. Keep going. Keep rolling through one after the next. The hills will carry you home in the spirit of onward and upward.”

Here’s a reminder, everyone, that the show is your home for interviews filled with comfort, enlightenment, and inspiration. Make sure to follow us and like us on social @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks again for joining us, and as I like to say, to be continued. Bye for now.

Thank you, Irene. That was wonderful.

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