Photo: courtesy Pamela Chapman Markle

Sixty-three-year-old Pamela Chapman-Markle of the US broke the course record in her age category at the 2019 edition of Badwater 135. It was the fourth consecutive time she broke the age category course record at the ultramarathon. She finished with a timing of 34 hours and three minutes, bettering her own record of 34:30:53 hours set during the 2018 edition.

A nurse-anesthetist by profession, Pamela started racing at the age of 55. Her first race was a 100 miler. This interview provides an update to the last one we did, a year ago.

How was your running in the last one year? Was it good, satisfying; were there any setbacks?

It was indeed satisfying for me. My timing at races matters to me. There was nothing to really get depressed about.  I just work harder at training and come back with a vengeance. I did extremely well and am very blessed with how I have completed the races.

During this period you set new course records at several races. Can you detail some of them?

The new records are:

  1. 48 Hour (Across the Years) USATF age record of 153.271 (I was really sick and stopped nine hours early so I could have completed more miles ). I am repeating the 48 hour in November and hope to break the world record and break my 48 hour USATF Record.
  2. Badwater Cape Fear, Badwater Salton Sea, and Badwater 135 – these three races are considered The Badwater ULTRA CUP. You consider the total time you ran to complete all three races; the winner does it the fastest.   I was the female winner.
  3. Mad City 100K – overall USATF age group 100K national winner, 1st Masters, and 3rd overall female.
  4. Keys 100 – age course record
  5. Badwater 135 – new age group course record with a time of 34:03. I beat my record by almost 30 minutes.
  6. Six Days in the Dome – The Redux: 1st female, 2nd overall, 100K USATF Age Record, 12 Hour Age World Record – New USATF Record, 24 Hour USATF Record.

Photo: courtesy Pamela Chapman Markle

Have you incorporated any new elements into your running? How has your recovery been in the last one year after these long ultra-races?

I have done seven ultra-races, so far this year. I have incorporated more interval running. I also try to go to the hills in Austin twice a month.  My recovery has been excellent.  I am blessed to recover as well as I do.

I have started to add one day of strength training in my weekly schedule.  I feel this will help me in recovery.  As far as nutrition goes, I am still trying to figure that out!  For recovery, I am increasing the protein and vegetables in my diet.  As far as racing, I am still trying to figure that out.  I have not found anything that prevents GI distress in me.  Solid foods seem to help after 50 miles.  I will be joyous when this is figured out!

Can you describe your run at the 100K Mad City Ultra races? 

I had a great run until the last 20 miles.  My stomach was not feeling well and I went without fuelling that entire time. I slowed myself down quite a bit.  It was really cold there. I froze which I feel slowed me a bit.

Can you throw light on your 100 mile run at the USATF Championships?

I won the 100 Mile USATF Age Group Race.  I found out after the race that I missed the world record by 11 minutes. So I am challenging it at Tunnel Hill in November this year.

Photo: courtesy Pamela Chapman Markle

You have run Badwater multiple times. What brings you back to it; what makes you want to court it every year as a test of your ability?

I love Badwater in so many ways!  I feel it is a really difficult race to complete.  The challenge takes me back every year.  Not only is it the hottest part of the USA but the climbing from 282 feet below sea level to 8500 feet above and starting late at night to cover 135 miles is quite a challenge.  I really love the Badwater family and the people.

As someone who has run Badwater multiple times, are there any changes you notice to race conditions? Is Badwater warmer than before? At night during the race, is it colder than before? How was the 2019 experience?

For me – the weather in the 2019 experience was cooler than all the other times I have run the race; at night, and during the day.  The people who ran it for the first time had no idea that it was 10 degrees hotter in 2018.

You set a new course record this year. What made it possible? Did it have anything to do with your training or was it how you felt and performed during the race? Was there anything about the overall environment / race conditions that helped?

I believe I had a team that believed in my goal for Badwater.  They are a big part of why I set a new course record.  I fell and broke my nose at about mile 91 and had a slight concussion.  I was so nauseated and couldn’t hold anything down for the remainder of the race.  My team was awesome and forced me to take little sips of fluid until we finished.  My training is spot on now. This has been my fourth time running Badwater.  I will keep trying to better my time again and again!

When you choose your races do you have any preference in terms of weather and terrain? 

I would prefer hot road races but I hardly get to choose my weather or terrain.  I love mountain trail races but I do not live in the mountains.  I still try and race one or two a year.

I would love to start racing overseas.  India would be perfect for me.  I am going to investigate the runs and work some of them into my schedule hopefully in the next couple of years.

Photo: courtesy Pamela Chapman Markle

What are your plans going ahead?

I raced at Six Days in The Dome; 24 hours.  I beat the USATF record for 100K (10:47), I beat my USATF record in the 12 Hour (69 Miles) and this gave me the world age record. I PR’d my 100 miles time in 19:02, and won a USATF 24 hour record, running 118.76 miles.  I came in 1st female, 2nd overall racer.  I had a great race and know I can improve.  I did all this coming off only four weeks of racing Badwater 135.  My muscles were not fully recovered and I had pain from mile 25 on.  It was definitely a chore!  I ran with Zach Bitter and was able to be in the Arena when he won the World Record. That was so much fun! Then there is the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile in September. No woman over 61 has ever completed this race and I intend to complete it. There is the Icarus 48 hours in Florida and Tunnel Hill 100 in November.  I plan to compete for world records at both.

(This interview was conducted by email. The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai. For more on Pamela Chapman Markle please try this link:

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