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Changing the Story: Kristen’s Ultra Endurance Journey

Kristen is changing the story
Kristen Campbell Hansen
Year started: 2011
Next race: August 2024/Oregon 200/Oakridge
Favorite gear:

Mountain Hardware Men’s Crater Lake Hoody

Photo Credit: Sarah Ostaszewski

Ultrarunner Kristen Campbell Hansen has her sights set on a 200-mile foot race in Oregon this year. In 2011, Kristen Campbell Hansen found herself in a different place in life. The stress was overwhelming – she was smoking a pack of cigarettes per day and had developed a dangerous eating disorder. “I was bulimic. Things were taking a really bad turn. I kept thinking if I keep doing this, I’m going to die,” Kristen recalls. This realization would set Kristen on a path to changing the story in front of her. 

Make a Change

She knew she needed to make a change but didn’t know how. That’s when a chance school project interviewing runners at a local race opened her eyes to a new path forward. “People were enjoying this running thing. It seemed fun,” Kristen remembers thinking at the time. She started running short distances, then got hooked, entering her first 5K race within the year.  That 5K was a pivotal moment – Kristen was able to quit smoking and start getting healthier. 



She got a job at a running store after graduate school, surrounded by like-minded runners who inspired her to keep going. In 2013, she ran her first marathon in Chicago. Around this time, Kristen first heard about this crazy thing called “ultrarunning” from co-workers running distances of 100 miles or more. “When you don’t know about ultras, people talk about them like urban legends. I couldn’t believe normal people were doing this!”

Regular People Like Herself

Except these were regular people like herself. On a whim, Kristen signed up for a 50-kilometer ultramarathon in Chicago just three weeks after running her first marathon. “It was so fun. There were better snacks, awesome people. I fell in love with it from that first ultra.” Kristen was hooked. She started running more ultras on roads, eventually moving to Portland to get access to trails. Eventually, Kristen completed her first 100-mile race at Across the Years in late 2022. Kristen was changing the story. 

Oregon 200

In August 2024 at age 36, Kristen will line up for the Oregon 200 put on by her favorite race company, Go Beyond Racing. Over nearly four days and nights, she’ll try to hammer out 200 grueling miles on trails through the Oakridge area, pushing her body and mind to their absolute limits. “I very vividly remember running my first 5K and thinking I wouldn’t be able to finish. Ten years later, it’s a quite different story,” Kristen says. “I’m excited to see what I can push myself to do, how strong I can stay mentally when I’m tired for 99 hours straight.”

A Neutral Descriptor

Another aspect of Kristen’s story is her perspective on being a plus sized ultrarunner. “I use the term ‘fat’ as a neutral descriptor,” she explains. “It’s not a bad thing, it’s just like – hi, I’m Kristen, I have blonde hair, and I’m a fat ultrarunner.” Kristen is open about how people treat her differently at different weights, getting unsolicited advice or assumptions that she’s a beginner due to her appearance. “I want people to see that you can run 100 miles, it doesn’t matter what you look like. You’re out there doing it and enjoying yourself; you should be welcomed regardless.”

Visibility is Key

While finding inclusive communities and races can be challenging, Kristen believes visibility is key. “The more people start showing up, eventually there will be groups of us. You have to push yourself to get out there, find the races you like, and keep at them.” Now she’s inspiring others to keep exploring their own limits, no matter what they look like on the outside. Kristen pushes herself everyday, changing the story set before her and inspiring others to do the same.