Got Fitness Goals? Find Inspiration from the Nurse Who Runs Ultramarathons


Read the story of a Renown nurse who finds purpose and de-stresses while undertaking 100-mile runs — called ultramarathons. 

A nurse in Renown’s Healthy Heart Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehab), Emily Richards, RN, BSN, runs ultramarathons.

What’s an ultramarathon?

It’s a race that makes marathons — 26 miles in length — look like a walk in the park. Because ultramarathon races are usually between 30 miles and 100 miles in length.

For most people, those distances seem insane to run. But for Emily and her fellow athletes, they love to train and find the thrill in getting to the finish line.

Recharging with Every Mile

And ultramarathon endurance athletes don’t usually run those distances successfully without great motivation and inspiration behind their training and endurance.

“Being out in nature and in the mountains has always fed my soul and my creativity, it’s offered me perspective and given me joy,” Emily said. “Trail running helps me feel healthy and balanced in mind and body. It’s where I recharge.”

She came in first place for the 55K (34 miles) women’s race in the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run in July 2018 and broke the women’s record set in 2001.

Emily (right) with her husband Colin and their daughter Aila.

It can be hard to balance work and being a mom, but Emily still finds the time to train. And she also balances her husband’s endurance training too, but says that they make it a priority because it makes them better parents to their 2-year-old daughter.

It also helps that Renown offers incentives like the Healthy Tracks program, where she can earn discounts on her health insurance through Hometown Health by participating in healthy activities.



Lessons from Ultramarathons

Emily has completed 19 ultramarathons so far. And she says each one has taught her something.

“Endurance events are like life; you experience the highs and the lows,” she said. “I’ve had some dark periods in my life, as many of us do. But I am grateful for those challenges, as they have brought me a lot of clarity and strength in how I want to live out my best life. I draw on that in my ultramarathons and what I experience from the starting line to the finish line helps me live life with a little more courage and gratitude.”

During her first 100-mile ultramarathon, Emily became hypothermic as she reached mile 72 in the middle of the night after the temperature dropped. She reached her husband, Colin, at an aid station. Thinking she couldn’t run any further, he called a friend for advice who told him to get Emily back on her feet and take a couple steps.

“Never did it cross my mind that I was going to quit the race,” she said.

So she got a change of clothes, ate some food and finished the race.

Her lesson from that race: “We’re stronger than we think.”


“I think Emily’s understanding of overcoming barriers gives her a deep understanding and compassion about what our patients face in their pursuit of making healthy changes,” said Lynice Anderson, Director of Renown’s Intensive Cardiac Rehab.

And this is the lesson she tries to teach the patients she works with every day.

“Patients coming in to the intensive cardiac rehab are pretty frightened by what’s recently happened to them,” she said. “Often they express to me that they feel they’ve been given a second chance after they’ve just survived a major cardiac event or issue.

“What gets us back on our feet is a strong support system; people who believe in us and can help us begin taking those first few steps. But then, once we see we can do it, we gain momentum and we can be unstoppable.”