PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fl. -- Determination is what makes Alyssa Amos Clark stand out from most other people you may know and not the fact that she recently broke the world record for the most consecutive days running a marathon distance by a woman.
At the age of 14 while she was in the midst of an active youth sports career that found her playing lacrosse, cross country skiing, soccer, and ice hockey Clark needed to have her colon removed from a severe case of Ulcerative Colitis.
Clark remembers that when she learned of the pending removal of her colon, "It was a combination of determination, the need to overcome, and a desire to live life to the fullest," that would be what would define my life," she said. "I would not let the disease stop me from being whomever I desired. Running has served as an outlet for stress and a way for me to be free from my disease. It isn't always easy, sometimes with several stops in the woods, but it has always been worth it. "
Growing up mostly in Bennington, Vt., except for two years when the family lived in Stratton, Vt., while she and her brother Douglas attended Stratton Mountain School. Clark graduated from Mount Anthony Union High School in 2011 and like her older sister Ashley '12 and her mother Becky '82, she decided to attend Williams College just over 20 miles down U.S. Route 7 from Bennington.
Clark was considering several other colleges along with Williams, but it was her participation in a Williams political science class as a senior at Mount Anthony that convinced her to go to Williams, if accepted. She recalled, "I was impressed with the level of academic vigor in that political science class," and with that Williams moved to the top of her list. She majored in English and Studio Art at Williams.
Typical of Clark, three times she ran from Woodford, Vt. to the Williams campus with her mom and once Ashley joined them for the beginning of new year at Williams.
At Williams Clark was a member of the Eph women's crew team as a freshman following in the footsteps of her sister Ashley who had a successful rowing career with the Ephs. For her final three years at Williams, Clark decided to play lacrosse. Her junior year she served as a Junior Adviser living in a freshman residence to provide support and guidance to Eph first year students. In addition, she was also a WOOLF leader, leading a backpacking trip of first year students in the nearby hills surrounding Williamstown before the academic year began, and she was also a member of the Williams Outing Club.
Former Eph wrestling coach and the current Director of the Williams Outing Club Scott Lewis fondly remembers Clark. "Alyssa was very active in the Outing Club and still able to balance her huge commitment to women's lacrosse and excel in the classroom," Lewis said. "Seventy-nine marathons and still going is quite a feat for two feet... If I did one on a treadmill it would certainly become a 'dreadmill' if I had to keep going, not Alyssa though. Determination, self-discipline and mind over body - I think she probably got stronger after every run, and kept a smile going the whole way!!"
June 17 - 79th marathon distance run.
When reached for comment about Alyssa's accomplishment her Williams lacrosse coach, Chris Mason, responded, "Wait, you're telling me that Alyssa has run 79 marathons in 79 consecutive days?" "Yes." "That's incredible, but in some ways I'm not surprised it is Alyssa. She was always a very hard worker, who was determined to get better and better and work her way into our starting lineup, which she did."
Mason then added, "It certainly would not surprise me to see that she goes well beyond 79 consecutive marathons. Along with being a hard worker Alyssa always had a confidence about her and if she said she was going to do something everyone here was sure she would do it."
"I remember one time when she was injured and out for a few games that she made t-shirts for all of the injured players, because she wanted everyone to feel connected to and part of the team."
For Clark, "The best memories from lacrosse were my junior year when we went to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament," she said. "It was the first time we had made it that far as a team. Chris was so fired up and expected the highest level of play from us. We did not have a field that year due to the football field renovations and that truly brought us together as a team. The adversity of driving to different fields to practice and play and being on a bus for many hours, made us an incredible team."
|Alyssa attacking the goal.|
"My favorite lacrosse game memory came in my junior year against Colby, where we were not expected to win and were behind by a large margin. Instead of giving up, we attacked and came back to win in overtime. That 2014 team never gave up no matter the odds. We believed in each other and our abilities."
"My real love of running began around 6th/7th grade," Clark recalls. "I went on a few runs that felt like I had wings. It led me to believe running is the closest thing humans can do to flying. I did track in 7th grade and ran for cross country ski training when I was at Stratton Mountain School. "
Clark also remembers fondly at a young age watching her dad Lawrence, a triathlete, run in marathons. "He's run Boston a few times and seeing him run was one of the reasons I wanted to run a marathon when I was younger. I thought the space blankets [each finisher was wrapped in] were the coolest," she stated.
"At Stratton Mountain School we would go out on long training hikes/runs for 3-5 hours and where I believe I fell in love with trail running," Clark offered. "I ran for lacrosse in college and picked up sprint triathlons my junior year at Williams. I decided then I wanted to run a marathon when I graduated from Williams to stay in shape, and then I skipped the marathon and went straight into a 50km ultra." A 50KM ultrarace is just over 31 miles, while a marathon is 26.2 miles.
"I believe the years of endurance training and playing sports as a child, transferred pretty immediately into ultrarunning," Clark noted. "I ran my first 50km ultra in August, 2015 after graduating from Williams that June and I've been racing and training ever since."
Graduating from Williams, Clark taught at a private school in Hawaii and that is where she met Codi Clark an Engineering Duty Officer in the U.S. Navy and in 2018 they were married.
A dedicated long distance runner, or rather an ultra-distance racer, Clark never entertained the thought of running consecutive marathons or breaking the world record for most consecutive marathon distance runs completed by a woman until the Covid-19 pandemic struck Italy, where she was then living with her husband. Alyssa at the time was a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Fitness Specialist with the U.S. Navy and the Clarks were living in Naples.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the entire nation of Italy was dramatically shutdown and any sort of travel outside one's home required papers and an approved reason to be out of one's living quarters. Unable to run outside at that time in March, Clark went to the uppermost floor of where she and Codi were living and began running on an old treadmill. While she was not immediately committed to chasing a record for most marathons run on consecutive days right away, she soon settled into a routine that found her ascending to that room each day with plenty of snacks and drinks to run a marathon and binge watch shows on her iPad.
Not knowing how long she would be confined to running indoors Clark began to consider running a marathon a day for however long the shutdown was in effect. So, it was then that she started thinking about what the world record was for a woman running a marathon on consecutive days.
"I remember looking it up right when I started running on consecutive days, but I didn't think there was any way I would try to go for two months straight," she said. "It was about 25 marathons in that I really started to consider the possibility." Remember that word determination and how it describes Alyssa Amos Clark.
The number Clark needed to eclipse to break the women's record was 60 marathons in 60 consecutive days, but that did not dampen her enthusiasm, rather it gave her a mark to aim for and more of a purpose. "I wasn't too open about going after the record when I began, so I kept it pretty under the wraps," she said.
Deciding to go for the record of 61 marathons in 61 consecutive days Clark knew she would need to make a solid plan as far as doing her run, keeping her fluid and food intake up, and most of all dedicating herself to a recovery regimen. While on the treadmill she would eat Snickers bars, drink Coca Cola, and down sugar free Red Bull.
"It's hard to keep up with eating 2,000+ extra calories a day, but I try my best," explained Clark. "My favorite pre-run meal is rice cakes with peanut butter, banana, cinnamon, and some sea salt. For post run, I often eat a huge yogurt and granola bowl with fruit, nuts, and peanut butter."
After her daily marathon Clark also needs to focus on her recuperation and her rest. "I try to keep on top of my hydration and electrolytes as much as possible," she said. "I always have a bottle of water near me at all times. I use a muscle recovery/rehydrating lotion called Amp PR Lotion before and after every run. I also try to keep my feet up as much as possible to prevent swelling. If I'm particularly stiff I'll stretch a bit. I also try to sleep at least 8-9 hours per night as sleep is key to recovery."
"I follow her on Instagram so I have followed the journey - absolutely insane," said Eph lacrosse teammate Emily (Gerber) Shaw '14. "Not sure what other words there are to describe it other than insane. Alyssa always displayed incredible mental toughness, so I am not surprised by her ability to push limits. Through injuries and health issues, she never gave less than 100% on and off the field."
Former Eph lacrosse goalie and captain Ali Piltch '14 commented, "Alyssa has always been incredibly hard working and committed. From the moment she joined the team her sophomore year, she immediately made her presence known with her work ethic and determination."
With Italy remaining on shutdown and folks only being allowed out for their basic living needs, Clark kept on recording marathon after marathon indoors. "Since the gym was closed down, we had very reduced hours, and I was able to work at home for some days," she added. "This helped me to be able to run the marathons."
You might think that Clark as an outdoorsy, ultrarunner would not have enjoyed running indoors, however, she pointed out, "In many ways it is easier to run indoors. The temperature is controlled, there's no wind or elements to take into consideration, no need to carry water or food with you and a bathroom is available at all times. I make sure I have TV shows or movies I want to watch on Netflix ready to help me break it up as well. Outdoors can be much more logistically challenging and especially in the summer, carrying water is always a decision of weight versus security. I do love being outside though and find the miles can go by much faster exploring new areas and finding new routes."
While her pursuit of the record for marathons run on consecutive days was well underway Clark was able to run a few days outside in Italy as Covid-19 restrictions loosened just before she and Codi had to pack up to head back to the U.S. Codi was transferred back to the U.S. Naval Base in Panama City Beach, Florida, for dive school before the Clarks will be sent on to northern California, where Codi will be attending graduate school. Running outdoors meant Clark had to adjust to harder and uneven surfaces that are not present on a treadmill and she now also had to account for the summer weather.
The trip from Naples to Florida found the Clarks flying first to Germany and then to Virginia. Some extra planning was required to get in marathons on those travel days. When the Clarks stopped in Germany and before their flight to Virginia, Alyssa ran her marathon at 1:15 A.M. to keep her streak alive.
The Clarks elected to drive to Florida from Virginia so they could meet up with friends and Alyssa could experience some different routes.
It was when the Clarks reached Charleston, S.C. on May 30th that the stage was set for Alyssa to break the record and complete her 61nstconsecutive marathon. It was a hot and humid day, especially compared to the days Alyssa ran indoors and in Italy and Germany.
The women's record for consecutive days running a marathon became the sole possession of Alyssa Amos Clark that day in Charleston, S.C., where she ran with friends, Codi, and was followed by a TV crew from WBCD Ch. 2 who came along to capture that bit of history.
"The record breaking marathon was by far the easiest and most fun marathon of them all," Alyssa recalled. "I felt like I was flying the whole day and had an absolute blast running with my friends and Codi. It was a truly special day."
As of right now Alyssa has completed 79 consecutive days of marathons and she does not have a final number of her marathons in mind that she will stop at, but she does have plans to do some ultraraces this fall. At some point Alyssa will switch from running marathons to preparing for the fall ultrarace schedule and that is when her marathon record total will be finalized and at a number much higher than the previous record of 60.
Clark is looking forward to running in the famed Moab 240 in October. The Moab is a 240-mile race, four-day event, through the mountains of Utah that features steep ascents and demanding descents. Each runner has just 96 hours to complete the entire route. To complete the Moab 240 takes a lot of training, endurance, determination, and runners have to plan out everything to the minute.
"It's the fastest you can possibly do it, so it's all about strategizing how much sleep to get, while not losing too much time to sleep," stated Alyssa. "Some people will do an hour and a half every night and others will go as far as they can and then try to nap for 5-10 minutes here and there." A great deal of determination will be required to complete the Moab 240 and by now we all know that Alyssa Amos Clark has logged miles and miles of determination.
"There's something very exciting about knowing how far you can travel on your own two feet," Clark added. "I've explored the world in a different way and by using my own power. I notice things I would not recognize in a car, train, etc. I also love the feeling of working through fatigue and finding the other side. The downs are hard, but the ups are like nothing else."
Alyssa Amos Clark's Instagram page Theory in Motion summarizes her living/running mantra perfectly, and each time she posts there she concludes with, "One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time. One step at a time. We keep moving forward. With love to all."
When you add her determination to that mix you not only get a world record, you know that Alyssa Amos Clark has delivered on not letting a serious illness as a teenager hold her back and she has succeeded in defining her life and that has been her greatest accomplishment to date.