Pam Rickard: A Voice for Recovery
“Without finding a path to my own recovery, none of my running success – let alone my personal or professional well-being – would be possible.”
AUTHORS NOTE: An alcoholic who is 10 years sober, Rickard is one of many people I’ve met in my journey as a magazine owner who has overcome so much in life and spends her days honing her running as a tool to help others. Over the 30+ years of her running career, Rickard has completed more than 65 marathons and ultra-marathons, including a seven-day adventure race across China’s Gobi Desert, a 100K trek through the Alps from Italy to France, and most recently, across the US from LA to DC, completing the Icebreaker Run for mental health awareness. In 2008, her journey from addiction to recovery and redemption was featured in the book “A Race Like No Other,” New York Times writer Liz Robbins’ chronicle of the 2007 New York City Marathon.
Pam recently ran across the country in support of mental health issues, representing The Herren Project (THP), former NBA basketball player Chris Herren’s foundation. THP provides addiction recovery resources, education, and prevention initiatives nation-wide. Pam serves as Director of THP RUNS, engaging people to run, walk, and participate in healthy activities, supporting THP’s mission. Pam has had an amazing year running and was hard to pin down – but we caught up with her for this issue in between her heavy race, work and family schedule!
ES&F: We’d like to know how old you were when you made that first step to go to ultra distances. What drove you over the edge? A life experience? Just circumstance?
RICKARD: I’ve been a runner since entering a 5k as a joke while a sophomore in college at Ohio University in 1982; but I was actually 49 years old when I went over to the ‘dark side,’ as my local running friends affectionately call it. My goal was to run a 50-miler by my 50th birthday in May 2012; so I entered my first 50k the summer of 2011, Ohio’s Buckeye Trail 50k. I must say, it was a humbling, thrilling blast!
I ran a 3:32 road marathon 2 months prior to the BT 50k, so I was going for a sub 5-hour race. As it turned out, I was an ignorant neophyte and had no idea how much harder a trail ultra could be, and how it’s not “just another 6 miles…” I ended up finishing the 50k in 7:32, but I was hooked! I went on to run my first 50-miler 3 months later, and then ran 106 miles at the North Coast 24 in September. In November, I ran my first 100-miler, Javelina Jundra.
ES&F: You went from 5k to 50-miler in a very short timeframe. What’s that all about?
RICKARD: The truth is, I simply love running; so the ultra distances appealed to me immediately because you get to be out there for a longer time. I recently celebrated 10 years sobriety from alcoholism. When I began to run again shortly after finding the foundation for my recovery in April of 2006, my gratitude to run even one step was overwhelming. My original intention was to simply run ‘one more marathon’ sober, since I had run seven during my active alcoholism. But with time, I was afforded the opportunity to use my renewed health, my passion for running and my story of recovery to actually help others as I ran. It’s been an enormous honor for me to now have run 45 marathons and 20-some ultras (including in the Gobi Desert, the Alps and most recently a trek across the US) all while raising funds and awareness for the power of recovery and mental health resources.
ES&F: Tell us more about your passion – The Herren Project.
RICKARD: I am Director of THP RUNS, an initiative of former NBA basketball player Chris Herren’s foundation, The Herren Project (THP). THP RUNS engages people to run, walk and participate in healthy activities, helping each other and others live stronger, healthier lives. The initiative raises awareness and funding for THP’s mission, which includes providing addiction recovery resources, education and prevention initiatives across the country.
ES&F: Tell us a little about your training, and the products you use in your training and in competition.
RICKARD: My training goals, both physically and mentally, are simply to stay healthy, get stronger and spend a lot of time on my feet, depending on what races or events are on my calendar. I focus on quality over quantity running, strict adherence to my strength and core training, fueling with whole and healthy foods, and getting enough rest! For me, the one thing that tends to trump all is my mindset.
I’m not a sponsored runner, but I am a brand ambassador for Generation UCAN nutrition and Dona Jo Fitness wear, only because I adore and use their products. I’m also an avid Hoka shoe devotee, as they saved my running!
ES&F: Do you budget for your competitions each year?
RICKARD: I do, because I have the unusual benefit of combining my running, my mission and my career.
ES&F: How about pain or injury…anything slowing you down?
RICKARD: Currently, nothing is slowing me down – but I’ve had every running injury known to (wo)man! I now do a lot of self-care, taking preventative measures to keep my body healthy.
To learn more about THP RUNS, visit http://www.theherrenproject.org/