This 13-year-old Park City runner is here to run 100 miles and crush us all
Hannah Lutzker, 13, likes to run. Like, really, really likes to run. She’s been that way since she was six.
“My first 5K was with my dad, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to try a 10K, I’m going to try a 15K, I’m going to try a half marathon, I’m going to try a marathon.”
Jax Mariash, Lutzker’s coach and mentor, said that kind of attitude is not typical for a young girl.
But then again, Mariash, an accomplished ultra-runner in her own right, probably wouldn’t be mentoring her if she was typical. There’s no simple way to explain Mariash’s own accolades besides saying that she became the first woman to complete the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series Grand Slam Plus, which entailed running five 155-mile desert stage races in a year.
Here’s something that makes Lutzker special: Over the course of nine months, Lutzker said there has been just one day when she didn’t feel like running, and she means that. Or at least, her running log makes it seem plausible. Between May 28 and June 3 she ran 60 miles. From June 4 and June 10 she ran 42 miles. And between June 11 and June 17, she ran a breezy 61 miles.
Admittedly, those figures are outliers. They were her last big runs in preparation for her first ultramarathon, the Twisted Fork 64K (39.8 miles), set for Saturday. She hasn’t always logged those distances.
In fact, she hadn’t run a marathon until she finished the Mid Mountain Marathon last summer. Afterward, her father, Monty, contacted Mariash about the possibility of mentoring Lutzker. They met for an introductory run around Round Valley to see if the two were a good match.
A natural fit
Lutzker said she was nervous that her possible mentor wouldn’t like her, or would outpace her badly.
“But it was immediately perfect,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh I love her so much.’”
So Lutzker’s training began, and progress was close behind.
“I remember we were doing 20-, 25-mile weeks,” said Mariash. “Maybe (she) approached 35 miles once in the winter, and now, Hannah, not even noticing, has progressed to, like, 60 miles.”
Lutzker said Mariash made the process easy, adding just a few miles each week.
A month into training she finished first in her age group in the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals and took 10 minutes off her personal record.
Three months into their training together, the two went to the XTERRA Trail Run World Championships, where Lutzker again finished first in her age group. Then, a few weeks ago, she competed in the Utah Valley Half Marathon and beat her personal record by 25 minutes, finishing in 1 hour, 42 minutes and 35 seconds.
“For a 13-year old, that’s blazing fast,” Mariash said. “And she didn’t taper.”
“Did you even have a day off?” She asked Lutzker, who was sitting beside her for her interview.
“No, I ran on Friday, and then the day after we ran 10 (miles),” Lutzker said.
Mariash said that Lutzker’s competitors probably slated the Utah Valley half marathon as their big race with a star beside the date on the calendar. But for Lutzker, it was just another day, except for the traffic.
But training at such an elite level cuts both ways. It means Lutzker has to be more organized in her life, and has to be more disciplined with what she eats, how much she rests, and, basically, how she lives.
Finding a balance
Mariash said a big part of her role as a mentor and coach is knowing all the elements of Lutzker’s life – including Lutzker’s emotional health and threshold for work — so she knows when she can push her, and when to back off.
Monty, who said he runs 75 to 100 miles per week, said part of the reason he hired Mariash was to bring in someone more objective, who knows the sport more intimately, and who probably wouldn’t have as much influence over Lutzker’s intent to run or not.
Basically, he didn’t want his daughter to feel pressure from his own love of running, and he doesn’t want her to lose her love for the sport in favor of chasing a goal.
“She’s not ultra-competitive,” he said. “And, as a father, you wonder: Does that switch ever flip? Is there a point where it stops being fun?”
Along with Mariash, who looks after Lutzker on the trail and monitors her progress, Lutzker makes frequent visits to a pediatrician and a strength trainer, sees a masseuse, and cross trains in several sports throughout the year to keep her from developing injuries from overuse and overspecialization.
“There’s some trepidation and some nervousness,” Monty said about his daughter’s love of running longer and longer distances. “You just try and surround her with the best people, whether that’s her pediatrician or professional runners.”
And at the end of the day, Monty said Lutzker’s running was probably a safer activity than most she’s involved in.
“At least she has two feet on the ground here and she doesn’t have to wear a helmet,” he said, referring to Lutzker’s training as a moguls skier.
But, with the Lutzker’s support network, Monty said he hopes to ensure his daughter’s choice to run is a long term benefit, not a long term detriment.
Statistics to smash
And if Lutzker’s doctors keep clearing her to race, Mariash said she could be on course to make a name for herself in the running world.
“She’s a prodigy,” Mariash said, plainly.
Lutzker turned to her.
“What does that mean?” She asked.
“It means you’re very talented, special creature in the world of running,” Mariash said, before continuing her thought. “And when it comes down to it, she’s 13 and she’s edging up on women who are way older than her. By the time she’s 18, she could smash everyone. And she’ll decide if she wants that or not.”
Without hesitating, Lutzker said she did.
Lutzker’s next major goal is to be the youngest girl to run a 100-mile race, though Mariash doesn’t know how to find out when the deadline for earning that distinction is, and if it has already passed. The sheer number of 100-mile races around the world make it a hard figure to pin down. According to run100s.com, which tracks 100-mile races in North America, there are more than 150 scheduled for this year.
“I don’t know the youngest woman that’s done 50K, so there’s some statistics out there that she might already be smashing and we don’t even know it,” Mariash said. “And that’s what I think is really cool, is that Hannah is staying super humble.”
She turned to Lutzker and looked her in the eyes.
“Hang onto that, OK?”
Lutzker tilted her head down, a little embarrassed.
“Yeah,” she said.