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Kristen Genet, coach for Blaine and Lino Lakes Moms on the Run, calls the North Shore of Minnesota her happy place. Overlooking Lake Superior, the North Shore is home to the Superior Hiking Trail, a 310-mile trail that traverses the Sawtooth Mountain Range from Duluth, MN to the U.S.-Canadian border. For 16 hours, two minutes and thirty seconds, Kristen experienced the highs and lows — 25,000 feet of elevation changes — of those forest trails to complete her biggest challenge to date: the Superior 50 Mile Trail Race. “There was not one moment in the 50 miles I did not enjoy,” Kristen raves. She is a big inspiration to those who know her, and for that, she is our October Inspiring Member of the Month.
While she now can claim the title of ultramarathoner, Kristen is humble enough to admit she started running 10 years ago simply because she was mad at her mom. Her mom died at the age of 67, suffering from type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, when Kristen was 33 and a mom of two.
“I grew up on a farm where we basically ate dessert for breakfast [cinnamon rolls, donuts, coffee cake],” recalls Kristen. “I have some resentment because my mom never took care of herself, and I decided I’m not going to do that to my own kids.”
Heavier and less healthy than she wanted to be after her mom’s death, Kristen started biking and swimming, losing 30 pounds in six months. Nine months after her mom died, her father passed away from Alzheimer’s, and in the middle of that, Kristen suffered a miscarriage. It was a hard year. Fast forward a few years and a third child later, her niece suggested they train for a triathlon together.
“I had to run three miles for the triathlon, and I remember telling John [her husband] that I’m never going to run farther than I have to.” That was 2009. The next year, she and her niece completed their first half marathon. In 2011, she started training for her first full marathon. Around that time, a flier came home from her kids' school for Kids on the Run. Intrigued, she hopped on the website to check it out. That’s when she learned about Moms on the Run. “I immediately thought, 'heck with the kids, I want this.'”
Kristen started coaching with Coon Rapids-Bunker in 2011, and has been a coach with Moms on the Run ever since. As part of the biology faculty at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in the Twin Cities, Kristen says teaching and coaching is something she naturally falls into. “I just love working with people," she shares, "plus, it’s fun sharing what I’m passionate about.”
Some call it passion, others may call it crazy. In addition to her ultra, Kristen has now finished nine marathons: Superior Trail 26.2, five Twin Cities Marathons — in 2011 she ran on the MS Charity Team in memory of her mom and on the Alzheimer’s Association Charity Team in 2013 in memory of her dad — and three Grandma’s Marathons, attempting Boston qualifying times each time. This year, she came in 1:43 under the qualifying standard, but due to the competitive nature of applying for Boston, she is still awaiting that elusive invitation.
Because of Moms on the Run, Kristen's life is forever changed. She's shown her kids what it means to be a strong, confident mother runner who runs challenge after challenge. And she knows she couldn't do any of it without an amazing support network of running friends who cheer her on. Case in point, she didn't run the Superior 50 alone either, thanks to friend Emily Flaten, the owner of the Roseville and New Brighton/St. Anthony Moms on the Run franchises. "I was given a gift of sharing 52.1 miles of beautiful and technical trails with a friend — and a friendship that is forever changed for the better because we shared that experience together."
They had a three-part goal for the race: to finish, in daylight and without injuries. Unfortunately, somewhere between miles 12 to 15, Emily sprained her ankle on the steep terrain embedded with roots and rocks. Determined not to let that stop her, Emily persevered. While they did not finish during the day (headlamps help at 9:15 p.m.), nor without injury, they did finish — completing a race billed as one of the most difficult 50 milers in the country.
"It was pretty much the hardest day of my life. And also the best day," reflects Kristen. "This is by far my favorite race."
Kristen lives in Blaine with her husband, John, and three kids: Sarah, A.J. and Hannah.