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Running Beyond Empty: Bryn Foster '18

Running Beyond Empty: Bryn Foster '18

For some people, running far just isn’t far enough…

That’s perhaps the case with Bryn Foster '18 who, after a more than decorated cross country and track career at HIES, is now taking to the roads not in marathons, but ultra-marathons. 

If that isn’t enough, she’s winning them as well, as she currently has completed two ultras and three 200-plus mile relays – while also pacing a friend on a 100-mile race. Currently she has won every individual race while placing in the top two or three on her relay long runs, and is currently the course record holder in five different places. 

“It’s not that I wanted to see how far I could go, it was more a case I wanted to know what my limits are or were,” she said. “At some point, it then became sort of a meditation. Also, I think I have an abnormal tolerance for pain.”

Looking back, Ms. Foster's love for the tracks, the trails and the courses, began in Middle School, as she was a part of three state title teams before emerging as an All-Region and All-State runner for the varsity squads that finished second-in-state twice.

She also completed a year in varsity lacrosse and four in track, and did all this while earning National Honors, Headmaster Awards, Dean’s Lists and stayed busy with Student Council and countless clubs and organizations.

Her pace continued at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as she double majored in biology and public policy, minored in sustainable energy, and competed on the club cross country team three of the years, with one year canceled due to Covid. The Tar Heels placed fourth in the nation her freshmen year, second her senior campaign, and Bryn had an individual top 10 finish as a freshman and top 20 as a senior. 

Still, the high school cross country distance is 3.1 miles, though it’s a bit farther at the collegiate level, but where did the ultra-marathon bug come in?

“It was something to do,” she said with a laugh. “It was tough just sitting or standing at a desk all day (she works at Cox Enterprises), and then go home. It was driving me crazy.” 

So, she amped up her mileage, entered a race, loved it, went online, entered another, loved it, repeated the process, etc. Looking ahead, she has a 50K slated for this fall, and is already in the lottery for a 100-miler for next year.  

“I’m not sure if I’m ready to hit the hallucination stage yet, and I have no plans to go over 100 miles, but – knowing me – I’m sure I could probably be talked into it,” she said. 

Regardless, getting ready for such races is more than just moving forward, as sleep, food, balancing work and life itself get in the way. “About two weeks out, I have to clean up my diet,” she said. “Getting closer to race day, I’ll eat a ton. My parents are shocked at how much I eat.”

Under normal conditions, she eats healthy but doesn’t declare herself a vegetarian or a vegan. “Actually, if someone was running in front of me with a cheeseburger, I’d probably run faster,” she said. 

Looking at it all, she’s a personality that can bounce between the extroversion of work and school and social, while loving, enjoying and even needing the time alone of the distance runs. She expressed gratitude for her launching point at HIES as she “learned how to think, and learned good habits, whether in the classroom, socially, or in athletics.”

And, despite all the successes and medals that wrap around her diminutive frame, she still takes it in stride, as her advice even to herself is “not to take yourself too seriously.”

With this said, Ms. Foster remains a busy woman – a blonde-haired whirlwind with trail adventures waiting to happen. So, as the interview ends, she checks her phone, grabs her stuff, says her goodbyes, and in true Bryn Foster fashion, leaves with these words:

“Good seeing you. Now, I’ve gotta run.”

— Dunn Neugebauer