Amelia Boone hadn’t slept in four days.
There’s this 5-mile race course in Las Vegas, and she had to run it as many times as possible in 24 hours. She made it around 15 times, for a total of 75 miles.
Only it isn’t just a race course; it’s an obstacle course: 40-foot cliff jumps, a bunch of mud, that kind of thing.
It’s called the World’s Toughest Mudder, and I talked to Boone two days after she completed it in mid-November. Won it, actually.
For the third time.
“When you’ve been running for 24 hours straight, nonstop, you have that adrenaline still pumping through your body, even though you’re physically exhausted,” Boone told me, explaining her lack of sleep. “I’ll catch up eventually.”
I think about Boone when I’m experiencing a wimpy phase, which happens a lot this time of year. I recently weighed whether the potential fun of a Mexico trip was worth the hassle of applying for a family’s worth of passports, and I didn’t arrive at an answer swiftly. Paperwork is my Waterloo. I lack endurance.
Boone is endurance personified. She looks at challenges and can’t wait to surmount them. She probably eats paperwork for breakfast.
I admire the heck out of her.
Until recently, Boone, 32, lived in Chicago’s South Loop. She worked as a corporate bankruptcy attorney and was known to walk to her office lugging a backpack of bricks.
“People always say law firms are competitive places, but I never felt that way,” Boone said. “I never felt like I was competing with anybody there. I guess I just compete against myself.”
She moved to California to take a job as an in-house attorney at a San Jose-based corporation.
“I leave Chicago, the Cubs start winning (for a bit). I arrive in California, it starts raining,” she tweeted Nov. 2. “You’re welcome, everyone.”
Ending a drought – be it World Series or precipitation – seems only slightly outside of Boone’s powers.
She placed first among women racers in this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder, following her first-place victories in 2014 and 2012. She has won the Spartan Race World Championship twice and placed first among women racers in multiple state Spartan sprints, a shorter version of the obstacle races that have competitors belly-crawling under live wires, climbing rope ladders, leaping off 25-foot platforms and generally putting their bodies through hell on earth.
“I love the law, and I love being an attorney, and that’s mentally engaging and stimulating,” she said. “But I definitely need to be physically engaged and push myself.”
She’s been called the Michael Jordan of obstacle racing.
“If there was the tiniest modicum of competition to it, like folding laundry, she would find a way to excel in it,” Boone’s law school friend Skylee Robinson told SBNation.com, an online sports magazine that profiled Boone in 2014.
Boone grew up in Oregon, and her childhood was not punctuated with feats of athleticism.
“I was always a really good athlete at everything I picked up, but I never focused on one thing,” she said. “I went from soccer to softball to basketball. I tried golf; that was just too slow for me. I remember breaking my grandmother’s heart when I gave up golf.”
She sang in an a cappella group during her undergraduate days at Washington University in St. Louis. The desire to compete physically kicked in shortly after she completed law school at the University of Washington in Seattle.
“You don’t need a specific background to compete in obstacle races,” she said. “It’s speed, endurance and strength all mixed together. You have to be a utility player, and you have to be pretty good at a lot of things, but there’s nothing special about me that would allow me to excel in this.”
I appreciate her humility, but I beg to differ. Her unwillingness to yield to pain and exhaustion is special. The example she sets for young female athletes is special. Her ability to do it all while working full time as an attorney is pretty darn special.
“I hope my daughter grows up to be just like @ameliaboone,” a fellow named Craig Moss tweeted recently. “Successful lawyer, even more successful athlete.”
I hope my daughter – and my son – grow up to excel in the ways that feel right and true to them. But if they acquire an ounce of Boone’s grit along the way, I’ll be eternally grateful.
Then I’ll ask to borrow some.