Tracy Meder will brave the heat in the Middle East to try to attain the World Trophy as an “ultra runner.” A biologist at EnviroScience in Stow, her running prowess has taken her all over the world in local, national and international competitions, including our own Akron Marathon, which she will compete in next month.
But she needs funds to cover travel expenses and entry fees.
Meder has proven herself a “superhero” in the lab and on the track. This year, she qualified to represent the United States in the Track and Field championships for the 50km World Trophy, which takes place Oct. 31 in Doha, Qatar and is hosted by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU).
The IAU promotes ultra-distance running through providing several international races throughout the year under the guidance of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), a well-respected organization that brings together high-level performing athletes from around the world.
For those of you who are not up on geography, Qatar is a small country in the Middle East that juts off of Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf. The city of Doha has been transformed by revenues from its oil resources and is gaining worldwide publicity for hosting some international events.
In 2006, it was the first Arab country to host the Asian Games, and it is also making plans to host the FIFA World Cup in 2025. According to an article in the Qatar Tribune titled “150 take part in Qatar’s 1st 50 km ultra-marathon,” the first 50k race went splendidly and hype for the October 50k race is building.
Balancing biology, running
We recently sat down with Meder to pick her brain about running and her vast experiences as an ultrarunner. At a young age, she has traveled the world and mastered a sport that takes an enormous amount of discipline, determination, and focus.
She discussed how she’ll deal with running in Qatar’s humid 80- to 100-degree Fahrenheit weather, how she balances work and training and how she can’t wait to see her running buddies from around the world.
How long have you been working at EnviroScience?
“Part-time while I was in college October 1999 and full time since graduating in 2001. I graduated with a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from The University of Akron.”
When did you start running, and why?
“I started running in 7th grade track, because my gym teacher at the time thought I would be a good addition to the team, since she coached track.”
What inspired you to compete in the World’s Trophy 50k all the way across the world in Qatar?
“In 2011, my friend competed at nationals and qualified to World’s in the Netherlands and that sounded cool, so I started running the nationals in 2012 and got invited to compete in Italy in 2012. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough funding last year to have a World’s championship.”
What is appealing about ultra-distance running?
“Well, for me, it’s a little slower pace than running a shorter race such as a 5K. Also I am not as competitive at shorter distances and it gives me the opportunity to travel the world.”
What places have you traveled to and want to travel to in the future?
“[There aren’t any] particular places but it’s pretty cool that it’s randomly picking a country that I would never think of ever going to. I didn’t even know Qatar existed or where it was located and I would never think to go to the Persian Gulf. It’s going to be such a unique culture and totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced. But I have been to Europe. That was the second time I’ve been to Italy for the 50k but it was a different part. Regions within countries are so different, even in the United States.”
Do you have any specific goals for the race (xth place, xx hours, etc.)?
“My only goal is to finish, because the conditions are going to be brutal; temperatures in the 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit. I am still going to try to compete with those around me and hopefully finish. I know a lot of people will drop if they are not careful of their pace early on in the race.”
Do you have any tips for beginner runners?
“You need to be consistent and stick with it. It gets easier the more you run and the more miles you can run. Only running 2-3 days a week or skipping workouts will never let you build a base to run. It is also helpful to find groups or running partners to keep you motivated and show you new places to run.”
What are your favorite places to run in NE Ohio?
“We’re lucky [we live in a great spot] because there’s a lot of the Cuyahoga Valley, the towpath, the hike & bike trails, and we also have trail running. I have a lot of trail friends. I do a little bit of trail running but I’m more in the roads. Where I live I can connect easily to bike and hike, trails, parks, etc.”
What is the weather like in Qatar in October and how do you prepare for that?
“Their summer should be ending, but it is still going to be anywhere from the 80’s to 100 degrees with a lot of humidity. I normally don’t wear much to run and I am now wearing arm sleeves and shirts to run in, because you need to protect yourself from sunburn. Also, women in Qatar have to be covered up at all times; it’s a different culture.”
What kind of weather do you prefer to run in?
“I prefer 50 degrees. It’s going to be really hard because I don’t like that temperature and it’s a lot hotter than I’m used to. Today I just bought a hat with a flap that goes around your neck to cover you from the sun. One of my friends who’s an ultra-runner suggested getting an ice vest which a lot of people did for the Olympics when they were in Athens. Because you just need to keep your body cool. I hope we have access to ice so I can constantly have cold water to keep cool because it will probably be in full sun, no shade, and super humid conditions for hours and hours.”
Do you find similarities in how you treat work and training? Or is one strictly work and the other play?
“Running is like a second job to me because it takes a lot of discipline, it takes a lot of my time, it supplements my income, and it allows me to do a lot of things like travel. Especially doing a race like the World’s; you meet so many people from around the world and make friends. I have friends in Canada, if I go to Australia I have a friend to stay with, or Oslo, or England. It’s just so cool to meet all of these people, and in the end it’s the same people going to all of these races.”
How do you find the time to train with your busy work schedule?
“It’s hard. We are now working 9-10 hours a day at an overwhelming pace. I am so hungry and exhausted all the time, since I have to get up extra early to run and shower and get to work an hour or two early and stay late and run again. Most night I don’t get home until 10 to midnight from working and training. The only time I have for naps are my days off on Friday and Saturday.”
Do you get excited or nervous before a big race?
‘Yeah, totally nervous. I’m usually not excited until after I’m done….If you had a good race you’re excited after you’re done.”
How do you stay focused? Do you have any strategies during the race?
“My strategy is just knowing where I’m at compared to other people in the race. Also I have my Garmin watch that gives me my exact pace, distance, so I’m constantly looking at my watch to make sure I’m running at the pace I need to be.”
Are you planning on taking a break after the race?
“I’ll probably take a couple weeks off just because my legs will be totally trashed.”
How do you recover?
“Icebags, compression clothing…that helps with the blood circulation. And I’ll do some cycling or do more trail running/grass running because it’s softer than running on the roads.”
To support Meder’s travel and race expenses, visit
In order to represent the USA and women athletes in the 50km World Trophy, Tracy Meder needs funding to cover her entrance fee and travel expenses. Show your support for Tracy and make a donation by Sept. 15 through one of these options:
1. Visit Tracy’s donation page
2. Send donations to her P.O. Box
Tracy Meder P.O. Box 1322 Stow, OH 44224