Boulder ultrarunning champion Clare Gallagher on adventure + activism

Running long miles + advocating in Boulder

By Paul Hagey Aug 13 2020

Like many professional athletes, Boulder lured champion ultrarunner Clare Gallagher to town in early 2016.

Thanks in part to Boulder’s established athlete community, the training group Rocky Mountain Runners and other experienced local trailrunners, and miles and miles of trails to train on nearby, Clare won the Leadville 100 — the legendary 100-mile trail race that starts and ends in Leadville — that summer.

From then, she literally went off to the races — she became a professional ultrarunner. Outdoor athletes must cobble together race wins, brand endorsements and various influencer tasks to make a living. In 2019, she won, with a time of 17:23:25, the women’s division of perhaps the nation’s most prominent ultrarunning race, the Western States, a 100-mile race in the California Sierras.

When we called Clare she was wrapping up a work call with Patagonia, where she is employed as a trail running ambassador. In essence, she gets paid for what she loves to do — run and advocate for causes she cares about such as the environment and equality.

Coming into activism

Covid-19, of course, has shifted much of Clare’s plans and life, and she expressed feelings of pressure about the upcoming election, the environment, along with the challenges the pandemic brings to all of our daily lives. She’s not actively training for a race now, but, of course, runs — last week she ran 50 miles, for example. Her favorite local run includes a mix of trail and dirt road on Boulder’s expansive, awe-inspiring South Mesa.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential election sparked an activist fire in Clare as she started tracking various policies of the Trump Administration that affected the environment, including its threatening to shrink national monuments and making higher percentages of federal land available to mining and drilling. She traveled 200 days per year, much of it to run outside, and so confronted much of the environment that faced impact.

“I felt a duty to talk about these wrongs,” Clare says.

With the pandemic, her national activism has taken a local focus. In particular, she currently advocates for the local movement Bedrooms Are For People, which has sued the City of Boulder to get its measure to change Boulder occupancy rules on the ballot this fall.

Much of her activism includes posting about the issues she cares about on her social media accounts, such as Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

Did you know it’s illegal in most parts of Boulder for more than 3 unrelated people to live together in the same house, regardless of size? So many young people and lower income earners live and have lived illegally, myself included. . I’ve never been involved in local politics until this year when I heard about a charter amendment petition in the City of Boulder that would update this law: allowing one person per bedroom, plus one (to allow for a couple) to live together. So, 3 bedroom house: 4 people could live in it, regardless of last name. All standard housing codes still stand. . We need 4k signatures from registered voters in Boulder to get this measure just on the ballot in November so that the people can vote on it. We’re well on our way and I encourage you to read up on this @bedroomsareforpeople. Additionally, the @ourmayorourchoice2020 measure would allow us to directly elect our mayor—currently we don’t; city council chooses mayor amongst themselves. 🧐 Yep, this is #Boulder. . Follow these measures to know where you can find a signature gathering and SIGN! This is just to get on the ballot. I’ll also have some open hours collecting at my place next week. Stay tuned. . All politics are local! Get involved! Stay informed! Stay psyched to live in an amazing place that should be accessible to all people! #bouldercolorado #housing #politics 📸 @trappephoto

A post shared by Clare Gallagher (@clare_gallagher_runs) on

Listen to our conversation below:

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Header image: Photo by Mike Thurk, modified by BLDRfly.

Paul Hagey

Paul Hagey is BLDRfly’s founder and editor. When not wrangling video, audio and words in the name of story, he’s riding his mountain bike, trail running and hanging with his awesome wife Jen and their young daughter.