Donald is an ultramarathon runner. An ultramarathon is any foot race longer than a typical marathon, which is 42 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards) long. He has competed in many races in the U.S. state of California, including the 161-kilometer (100-mile) Western States Endurance Run in Squaw Valley, the Miwok 100-kilometer (62-mile) Trail Race in the Marin Headlands, and the Quicksilver 80.5-kilometer (50-mile) Endurance Run in San Jose.
Donald is also the rehabilitation manager for the Central Coast Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice in Monterey, California.
Donald says he didn’t compete in endurance sports growing up. “I was kind of a team sports kid,” he says. “I was the basketball/baseball/soccer player growing up.”
While attending J.K. Mullen High School in Denver, Colorado, Donald gravitated toward classes in human biology and anatomy. “When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to be a doctor,” he says.
Donald pursued his interest by majoring in exercise physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and getting his master's degree in physical therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
After competing in traditional endurance running events, including the Big Sur International Marathon in Big Sur, California, and the Vineman Ironman Triathlon in Sonoma County, California, Donald began entering ultramarathons. His first was the Carmel Valley 50K (31 miles) in Carmel Valley, California, in 2003.
MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK
“It’s pushing your body to the point where you question whether you can carry on—and then pushing on.”
MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK
Donald says it is very difficult to override your body’s instincts to quit when you are competing in ultramarathons. “It’s basically pushing through your body telling you to stop,” he says.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?
“I think of terrain and the characteristics of a certain outdoor area.”
Donald says he determines which ultramarathons he will enter by looking into geographic features of the course—the amount of climbing in the race, the type of technical terrain, and the beauty of the region.
Terrain also dictates where Donald chooses to train. “I just try to find as many hills as I can,” he says.
He carries a GPS receiver when going out on long training runs. “I pretty much use it to figure out how far I run,” he says.
Before running an ultramarathon, Donald looks over topographic maps of the race course. “That’s so you know where a hill will be at what point in the race,” he says.
SO, YOU WANT TO BE AN . . . ULTRAMARATHONER
Donald suggests entering other running competitions first. “You can do a lot of trail races that aren’t ultras,” he says.
He also says it is beneficial to develop other outdoor interests, suck as rock climbing, hiking, and backpacking.
Donald says that by volunteering at running competitions or assisting racers, individuals can become interested in ultramarathons. “The people who aren’t ultra-runners can get into it by supporting someone in a race,” he says.