WSER training: Eating hills for breakfast

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

When Katherine Macmillan’s name was drawn in the lottery for Western States 2018, she hired a coach for the first time to have a crack at achieving the best time possible.

At the peak of her training for Western States, Katherine Macmillan was “eating hills for breakfast”.

The vet from Kinglake in Victoria had done much tougher milers in the past.

But she wanted to be more prepared for Western States and hired a coach who altered her training regime.

In the six months leading up to the race, she ran 2500km and 85,000m elevation, trudging up and down the mountains outside her back door in the hills north of Melbourne.

“When you hire a coach you are more accountable,” says Katherine.

“If the alarm wakes up at ridiculous o’clock you think to yourself ‘I should go and do what the coach has recommended’.”

Katherine has a number of wins under her belt, including Maroondah Dam 50km and Mt Macedon 50km this year and Marysville 50km and the inaugural Hut2Hut 100km last year.

She was determined to do her best at Western States and finish under 24 hours for a silver buckle.

As part of her training Katherine embarked on high-intensity intervals, strength training, back-to-back long runs and “nasty” hill repeats.

The extent of her preparation raised the pressure on herself to do well and when it came to race day Katherine admits she was nervous.

“Normally I am relaxed before a race but I had invested a lot in training and things can always go wrong in ultras,” she says.

Katherine completed Western States in about 21 hours 30 minutes and says her goal of finishing under 24 hours was never in doubt.

She ran strong, everything went to plan and Katherine placed 16th female.

“I was rubbing shoulders with people who are legends in the sport and ran past some of them,” she says.

“I ran past Dean Karnazes – he was behind me all day. He had only entered a few weeks before but I’ll claim it.”

For Katherine, Western States was not the toughest race she had completed nor even has hilly as climbs in Australia.

But she is glad she put in the extra effort.

“It was a big investment but I didn’t want to cross the finish line in Auburn wondering if I could have done better,” she says.

Katherine Macmillan has raced some of the toughest milers since taking up running in 2007 – Alpine Challenge (37 hours), Great North Walk (29 hours 57 minutes), Fat Dog (37 hours), You Yangs 19 hours 30 minutes). Another iconic trail event on her bucket list is the Hard Rock 100.


Katherine Macmillan goal to finish under 24 hours at WSER was "never in doubt".

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