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If They Can, I Can: Kathleen’s Ultrarunning Journey

Kathleen believed if they can, I can. Here she stands over a horizon.
Kathleen Hanley
Year started: 2011
Next race: Grasslands 100 in March

Kathleen Hanley appears like an unlikely ultrarunner at first glance. The Houston native started running in college mainly out of curiosity after seeing people of all ages and body types jogging around her college campus. “I was just using the elliptical at the gym at that point. I wasn’t athletic,” Hanley recalled with a laugh. “But then I noticed people outside running – older people, people I didn’t consider runners. And I thought if they can do it, maybe I can too.”  

Pursuing Longer Distances 

One day Hanley attempted to go for a run, starting with 30-second intervals. “I remember I could only run for maybe 30 seconds, and then I was out of breath. And then another 30 seconds, and over and over again,” she said. It was those short, consistent intervals that laid the foundation for Hanley’s running habit. Over time, she worked her way up to 5K races, then half marathons after encouragement from her uncle. Her first ultramarathon was a 50K trail race that she described as “so much fun” – no doubt a key reason she kept pursuing longer distances.

Launching an Endurance Sports Business

Now Hanley has done several 100-mile trail races. Her first was the Rocky Raccoon 100, which she finished in just under the 30-hour cutoff time. In 2022, Hanley finished the Moab 240-mile endurance run. Kathleen joined husband Jason Hanley in launching an endurance sports business, Wildsense Goods. Their company provides adventure goods specifically designed for outdoor adventurers. “We wanted to work on designing products with our production manager who’s a good friend and has been in the business for over ten years,” Hanley explained. “It was fun to test out products and work on getting what we wanted.perfected for athletes.” Hanley gets to focus on the creative aspects of the business naming products, designing branding, and managing social media. And she loves having the freedom to connect with her trail running community. “It’s a little scary because you don’t know how people will react,” Hanley admitted. “But as we got feedback, it was great validation that people loved the products too.”


Divide 200

Most recently, Kathleen took on the grueling Divide 200-mile endurance run in Canada. The 200-mile trail ultramarathon provided a difficult test both mentally and physically for Hanley. The race proved to be a different beast from the Moab 240. Without her usual crew support in place, she had to problem solve on course while fatigued. Still, she appreciated the personal growth she gained. “I had to do a lot by myself that I didn’t normally have to do. I became way more independent,” Hanley said. “It was hard, but in that I was really able to grow.”

Fully Alive

For Hanley, taking on intimidating endurance challenges is about more than just racking up finishes. She runs to feel connected to the natural environment and fully alive. “It allows me to express myself…to feel like I’m part of the earth,” she described. “It’s really what living is – doing.”  Hanley recognizes that endurance sports can seem intimidating to outsiders. Her advice is to start small and not worry about hitting certain metrics. “There seems to be this idea that you have to look a certain way. But it’s okay to take small steps and you’ll get stronger,” she said. “Our bodies are incredible in how strong they can get.”  

Enjoying Each Small Step 

Just as Hanley started with 30-second running intervals back in college, she encourages others to start wherever they can and slowly build momentum from there. “We all come from a place where we weren’t strong and capable at one point,” she reminds. “It’s hard to believe that now.” For Hanley, the journey continues with eyes on returning to Rocky Raccoon to revel in the challenge of pushing her limits. But no matter what, this Houston ultrarunner knows it’s all about enjoying each small step along the way. Kathleen’s journey started through watching others of different bodies and ages take on the sport. She hopes to encourage others to get into the sport with the same belief: if they can, I can.