April 19, 2021 216 Comments

It was nearly 100 miles into the Moab 240, and Jessi Morton-Langehaug saw something laying on the trail. It was a quartzite rock that shimmered in sunlight. “Olive would like this,” she thought as she picked it up and put it in her 20-pound pack.

For the next several miles, she would carry that rock she handpicked for her 6-year-old daughter. Little did she know that the rock would be a metaphor for the 140 miles ahead, and that all that it represented would eventually lead her to a first-place finish.

Jessi Morton-Langehaug climbing up trail to Shay Mountain
Climbing to Shay Mountain near Bears Ears.

That quartzite rock, however, symbolized much of what Morton-Langehaug experienced over the course of the race. Some parts were dark, while there were moments she shined. She found times when the daunting load was relatively simple to bear, while others felt heavy. And much like that rock that she saw sitting on the trail, Morton-Langehaug had moments of rest, and there were times when she required a kind soul to help carry her through.

According to Morton-Langehaug, who began racing ultras in 2016, the Moab 240 was a bit of a daunting task to begin with. “When asked how I was feeling going into the race, I told people I was approaching it as a hundred mile, then some 50’s because the distance all together felt incomprehensible,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

Jessi Morton-Langehaug holding bib #27 in Moab 240 pre-race picture
Pre-Race 'Before' pic. - P.C. Howie Stern

With several 50- and 100- mile races already under her belt, this was a reasonable way to look at a 240-mile trek. What she didn’t totally account for, however was the heat of the Moab desert, and due to that, she suffered from dehydration early on. “Day one was tough!” she wrote. “It was so hot and exposed. I messed up on how I read the water chart and thought the next water station was four miles away, so I left mile 17 with two liters of water. The next aid station was over 15 miles away and very exposed. I fell behind in my water intake… I hit my first real low… It was hot…”

At that time, Morton-Langehaug was in the lead, and second place was closing in. Losing her lead could have brought her down even more mentally, but meeting up with another person on the trail, was just what she needed to keep moving forward. “... Another badass from Canada named Jessie Thomson came along and asked if I wanted to walk to the next aid station with her,” Morton-Langehaugh wrote. “We held hands and trudged through the heat, both of us out of water for the last four miles. We shared stories and I instantly knew we would be friends!”

The miles slogged on like the sand she was trudging in, and her feet began to feel it. At each aid station starting at 100 miles, became a time to count, pop and treat the blisters that were appearing. Morton-Langehaug said that she brought four different pairs of shoes with her and a medical box, and there was nothing she needed at the aid stations that she didn't have. “When I came into a major aid station, I sat in the back of my outback and ate food, while my crew, Tom Fletcher and Bobby Seeberger taped my feet,” she said. “I took the extra time at the aid station to take care of myself and it made a big difference. I also took the time to really enjoy my time. At the major aid stations, I laughed and joked with my crew. I had so much fun."

Jessi Morton-Langehaug sleeping in car getting feet taped by Tom Fletcher
Taking a moment for rest while Tom Fletcher attends to her feet.

During tough times, good music helped carry her through, both serving as a way to drown out pain and bring light and energy. Morton-Langehaug described putting in her earbuds so she could “go dark” for a while, as well as a time when jamming to the rock band “Heart” was what kept her on her feet.

Sleep deprivation and weather added to the challenges. A storm with 20-40 mile per hour winds blew in just, and things got really hard. “A storm blew in and we had 20 to 40 mile head winds as we climbed up a rocky Jeep trail to the top of pole canyon,” she wrote. “When I got to the top my mom said, ‘Jess, you need to rest here because if you play this next leg right, you’ll win this race. You are stronger than the girls behind you.’ I told her to set an alarm for 30 minutes but I woke up in 15 and Aaron and I headed back out. This is where I came alive.”

Jessi Morton-Langehaug scrambling over avalanche-downed quakies in the La Sal Mountains
Jessi scrambling over avalanche-downed quackies in the La Sals.

The fall leaves lined the singletrack of the La Sal Mountain range, and Morton-Langehaug felt like she was flying -- until she got lost for nearly an hour on the course. A nap, refuel, some new tape on her feet, and a fresh set of feet by way of pacer, John Maack set a positive state for the final 40 miles. “I felt great at first and was so happy to be running so well post 200 miles,” she wrote. “After about five miles on a fire road I started to get so tired because I didn’t have the beautiful Le Sals to distract me. My attention kept going to my painful feet. I laid down beside the road to try to get some energy back and to get weight off of my feet. I hit another low.”

It was at that low when her pacer, John Maack helped to redirect her energy into a strong finish, and when she had to dig deep within.

Jessi Morton-Langehaug managing a big smile at porcupine rim even though she has very painful feet
Managing a big smile at porcupine rim despite painful feet.

“At the last aid station, I tried to fix my feet,” she recalled. “John kept saying,’ try not to think about them. I know they hurt but you need to try to pull your energy somewhere else.’ … “At one point, in a very grumpy manner, I told John I just wanted to get done, no more stopping, everything is going to hurt. … I started chanting my mantra out loud, ‘Pain is temporary. I am strong.’ I did this over and over as I tried to hold back tears of pain and fatigue. Crossing that finish line felt so dang good. I can honestly say I left everything on the trail. I gave it my all.”

After 240 miles totaling 80 hours and nine minutes, Morton-Langehaug not only crossed that finish line as first place female, but she came in three hours ahead of the second-place woman.

Bringing that win with her to the Cocodona 250

The finish that day, would be the start of something that would catapult her into elite runner status. It would put her in a position of a projected top three female finish going into the prestigious Cocodona 250 race in Arizona that will be held on May 3, 2021. The rankings come from Ultrasignup which calculates your ranking from prior races. And while Morton-Langehaug is excited to be ranked so high among other talented runners, she understands that there are variables outside of ranking algorithms. She knows that she will have to work hard to reach her potential.

Beautiful barrel cactus lined trail lit by the low-sitting sun in the Arizona sky.
Beautiful barrel cactus lined trail lit by the low-sitting sun in the Arizona sky.

“I think there is some truth to the ranking, but I also think there is a lot more that goes into how well a runner performs,” she said. “How do they handle the heat? How do they handle sleep deprivation? Everyone has bad races, and I had a few bad races last summer where I kept throwing up and my health wasn’t great. To be honest, I try not to think too much about my ranking. So much can happen in a long race like this, and my ultimate goal is to enjoy the experience. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn't’ going for an overall top 20 spot or a podium finish.”

Morton-Langehaug says that she is both excited and nervous for the Cocodona 250, but hopes that her preparation will show in how she performs. “I am equally excited and intimidated by this race,” she said. “It will be 15 miles longer than any race I’ve run, and in heat that I’m not used to training in right now. I have been using a sauna to prepare for the heat. I also spent my spring break in Arizona where I ran the rim to rim to rim, followed by the last section of the course. I also ran 10 miles of the Sedona section.”

Cocodona 250 offers spectacular views as trails wind through breath-taking formations.
Cocodona 250 offers spectacular views as trails wind through breath-taking formations.

As far as a goal time, she says she’d like to finish under 80 hours, and not just because it’s a goal time. Morton-Langehaug would like to have time for a little R and R. “I am renting a condo in Sedona for the race, and I would love to finish in time to at least enjoy it,” she joked. “I am also really excited about the concept of this course. I love that we get to run through so many towns. I am stoked for the saloon. I most likely will not have a shot of whiskey, but the idea of having an aid station in a saloon is genius because It shows that the race directors want us to enjoy ourselves and that is what I plan to do.”


100 Responses

Karim Al-Khafaji
Karim Al-Khafaji

May 01, 2021

super impressive!

James
James

April 30, 2021

I hope she is able to enjoy the condo!

Sarah Hernandez
Sarah Hernandez

April 29, 2021

Amazing!

Robert Williard
Robert Williard

April 28, 2021

What a champion!

pam Reed
pam Reed

April 27, 2021

wow how cool is that. Congrats

Keoki L
Keoki L

April 26, 2021

Inspiring

Bonnie
Bonnie

April 26, 2021

Amazing – good luck!!!

Brandon M. Mathews
Brandon M. Mathews

April 26, 2021

Congratulations and best of luck to you @ Cocodona!! 💪🔥🔥🔥🔥

CamE Tasker
CamE Tasker

April 26, 2021

Congratulations and best of luck to you @ Cocodona!! 🔥🎉🙌🏽

EDWARD SOUSA
EDWARD SOUSA

April 26, 2021

240 Miles in 80 hours is really impressive!

Cynthia Sizemore
Cynthia Sizemore

April 26, 2021

What a beautiful place. I can bet they really loved the scenery.

Melissa
Melissa

April 25, 2021

My house is routing for ya — virtual hugs!

Lynn D
Lynn D

April 25, 2021

Awesome never quit attitude! Inspiring!

Norm Levy
Norm Levy

April 25, 2021

Wow, simply wow. You are one tough competitor.

Debra Patton
Debra Patton

April 25, 2021

Amazing accomplishment!

Bevis Lobo
Bevis Lobo

April 25, 2021

well done everyone and never give up !

Cynthia L Whipple
Cynthia L Whipple

April 24, 2021

Beautiful terrain. Beautiful smile!

Lauren Fiore
Lauren Fiore

April 24, 2021

Thank you for sharing.

Courtney Wanek
Courtney Wanek

April 24, 2021

Wow! Sounds super intense. Congrats!

Dennis Gum
Dennis Gum

April 24, 2021

Always be a good steward of the planet. Walk its varied topography. Enrich you life with its wonder. Never disrespect what nature has created. Live well and cherish the moment that you are here.

Stacie
Stacie

April 24, 2021

What an inspiring story – congratulations to those involved!!

Laura Hall
Laura Hall

April 23, 2021

Jessi is really incredible. I’ve had the privilege of running into her in a training run and a55K in February. She’s very strong, but I was most impressed by her mental strength. Can’t wait to cheer her on from afar! ❤️👏🏻

Linda Treadwell
Linda Treadwell

April 23, 2021

Very motivational! Even though I’m not a runner, I can relate to her struggles, like in what life dishes out to all of us. And I can’t help but feel, the strength that carried her through the race, was her love as a mother. Because, like when she picked up the rock for her daughter, she’s always a mother first, no matter how many awards she wins.

Kathy
Kathy

April 23, 2021

Fantastic story!!

Zachary Russell
Zachary Russell

April 23, 2021

Such an inspiration to the female ultrarunning community. Inspires me to go on some long running adventures and FKT attempts once the snow clears and warmer temperatures return to the mountains in Colorado where I live. Love to hear about all these people conquering and inspiring others with their athletic feats. i hope to do the same someday, and inspire others to reach for their dreams no matter what they are and how crazy they may seem.

Jenni Phillips
Jenni Phillips

April 23, 2021

I love that she listened to Heart, what other music does she listen to in competitions like this, maybe some Zep? Music does so much more than just create sounds and that is great to hear how she uses it. :D

María Ramírez
María Ramírez

April 23, 2021

NIce and useful article

Robyn Biren
Robyn Biren

April 23, 2021

What an amazing and special journey that went on with this race!! Anytime spent on the trail is a gift. ♥️

Heidi
Heidi

April 23, 2021

So inspiring!

Kevin L. Gibbs
Kevin L. Gibbs

April 22, 2021

What an accomplishment!! That is truly inspiring!

Melanie Fry
Melanie Fry

April 22, 2021

What an amazing and inspiring woman! Her daughter has a tremendous role model.

Steve Webb
Steve Webb

April 22, 2021

I can’t wait to see how she does, I’ll be out there but way in the back I’m sure. Good luck to all

BEN  EHRLICHMAN
BEN EHRLICHMAN

April 22, 2021

GREAT READING AND EXTREMELY INSPIRATIONAL .

Duyen Luong
Duyen Luong

April 22, 2021

This is such an amazing and inspiring story!

Josh Rymer
Josh Rymer

April 22, 2021

So cool an inspirational! Best of luck next week!

Jennifer George
Jennifer George

April 22, 2021

Great story! Wish I could do the same.

Jeff R
Jeff R

April 22, 2021

Impressive and inspirational.

Abbi Auger
Abbi Auger

April 22, 2021

What a wonderful accomplishment… good luck in your next adventure!

Brittany Watrous
Brittany Watrous

April 22, 2021

I can’t even imagine running that many miles. So amazing and I love hearing about the ups and downs. We all have them!

Michael Michalak
Michael Michalak

April 22, 2021

Very Inspiring! Go For It!!

Lori Byrd
Lori Byrd

April 22, 2021

So impressive. So inspirational.

Merle Clifford
Merle Clifford

April 22, 2021

Her Shoes Are Made For Running and Then Some

Broderick O Lovett
Broderick O Lovett

April 22, 2021

Awesome Awesome Awesome

Jimmy Malthaner
Jimmy Malthaner

April 22, 2021

Awesome read. Being new to the sport, I find these articles of individuals very interesting and informative on what you can expect.

Tee Trimble
Tee Trimble

April 22, 2021

OMG – I’m in awe. What a story you have for the rest of your life. Bravo!

Bill
Bill

April 22, 2021

Great story! Can’t fathom doing 240 miles in 80 hrs. Good luck at Cocodona!

Heather Canali
Heather Canali

April 22, 2021

So inspiring, you are amazing physically and mentally (we know it is very mental!) wishing you luck in all future events.

Danelle
Danelle

April 22, 2021

She got lost for an hour and still beat the next finisher by 3 hours! Wow! Such grit! Best of luck on Cocodona! Kick butt!!!

Chris Fields
Chris Fields

April 22, 2021

She is a great inspiration for all.

Paul
Paul

April 22, 2021

So impressive! Congratulations! Having just completed my first official ultra distance (50K); I find Jessi’s story relatable (breaking up the distance) and encouraging. Even though I can’t fathom this distance; her experience, courage and determination are a great example to others. I look forward to watching her and others take on the Cocodona 250!

Kelly Supple
Kelly Supple

April 22, 2021

It is truly impressive and inspiring that anyone can run these long distances, but to do so and come in highly ranked as well is amazing to me!

Jeff Klomstad
Jeff Klomstad

April 22, 2021

Awesome!

Maureen Froemming
Maureen Froemming

April 22, 2021

I give you so much credit! You are so awesome! You are so inspiring to all!

Sarah
Sarah

April 22, 2021

I can’t imagine even getting to 100 miles, much less adding another 140. Kudos to her. That’s a whole different level of baddass.

Mark Sweeney
Mark Sweeney

April 22, 2021

I’m so jealous of your ability and determination

Cecil Vermule
Cecil Vermule

April 22, 2021

When my Ultrasignup ranking says I am expected to finish 478th out of 500, I tend to believe it. :-D

Lynne Day
Lynne Day

April 22, 2021

What a great story! Thank you for sharing.

Becky
Becky

April 22, 2021

What an amazing and inspiring athlete!!

annette
annette

April 22, 2021

unbelievable resolve! inspiring.

Tamra F
Tamra F

April 22, 2021

Amazing and inspiring stories and adventures out there!

Ronald Plunkett
Ronald Plunkett

April 22, 2021

Amazing job, love to see family involved

Karin H.
Karin H.

April 22, 2021

Incredible journey !! such a inspiration for Ultra running women !! SHE POWER !

KETAL VYAS
KETAL VYAS

April 22, 2021

Mindblowing!

Bill Lovett
Bill Lovett

April 22, 2021

Ok so not the only spotting quartz or rocks with quartz veins running across them lol. Often I’ll just place them more prominently for others to spot and enjoy

Mike Horner
Mike Horner

April 22, 2021

What an incredible race that was. I was glued to the tracker as one of my friends was the third place woman. Bad ass women do ultras extremely well!

Jody
Jody

April 22, 2021

Way to dig deep and keep yourself focused through the ups and downs – physical, emotional, mental and literal. You ROCK!

Tom
Tom

April 22, 2021

Way to go Jessi!! Such an awesome account of your toughness!

Tracy DenBleyker
Tracy DenBleyker

April 22, 2021

Awesome! I wonder how well the Ultrasignup ranking will hold up for Cocodona?

Sean Crawford
Sean Crawford

April 22, 2021

Hard Core! Looks like a great adventure.

Roberta
Roberta

April 22, 2021

Wow! Impressive and inspirational!

Travis L
Travis L

April 22, 2021

I’m in awe of these athletes, and of what the body is capable of!

Mallory
Mallory

April 22, 2021

What an awesome woman! Go get it!

Kelly E Hughes
Kelly E Hughes

April 22, 2021

What a wonderful story of perseverance! Thank you for sharing

Sam Whittaker
Sam Whittaker

April 22, 2021

Wow, what an incredible article and story. It really shined a light on how instrumental all of the different members of a runner’s support system are to their overall success; from the pacers pushing her when it counted, to the crew at aid stations, and in an unexpected and beautiful way, Jessi’s daughter.

When I read the headline I assumed that it would be about how a young-adult daughter paced her for the last leg or something (which already would have been a powerful story for me as a dad with two little girls), but when I saw that it was thinking about her 6-year-old that made the difference, that was even more incredible.

Great article and story, what an inspirational accomplishment.

Amanda
Amanda

April 22, 2021

congrats! thought about doing it this year but too much going on! maybe next

Naresh Kumar
Naresh Kumar

April 22, 2021

This story reminded me of what I’ve read about Diane Van Deren, another ultrarunner/superheroine. So many hurdles to overcome on this challenge, a metaphor illustrated well by the photo of the aspen. And getting lost and finding her way back – and still beating the competition by hours! Such an incredible accomplishment. Although I would have taken a picture of the rock and left it on the trail. :)

Allison Lerer
Allison Lerer

April 22, 2021

Can’t wait to see you there

Jeff Spurlin
Jeff Spurlin

April 22, 2021

Congratulations on a race well run! I hope your daughter enjoyed her rock!

Joseph OSO Bearss
Joseph OSO Bearss

April 22, 2021

Amazing and inspiring! Can’t wait to get out there to crew/pace/run soon!

Dana Matthews
Dana Matthews

April 22, 2021

How awesome! Good luck to you!

Tiffin
Tiffin

April 22, 2021

Congratulations!

Dan U
Dan U

April 22, 2021

Congratulations!

Michael C
Michael C

April 22, 2021

I love this! Having a young daughter, I love showing her strong women doing amazing things. You are capable, you are strong, you are unique, you are YOU! ❤️

Jim R
Jim R

April 22, 2021

Keep putting one foot in front of the other and power through to the finish

PHil
PHil

April 22, 2021

So wonderful to read about ultra racing. Hoping that we can get back to racing once this Pandemic is under control. Really missing my Ultra Community.

Spencer W.
Spencer W.

April 22, 2021

What an awesome experience, and congrats! I’m planning to hit at least 1 of those 200+ milers within the next couple of years, so I really appreciated this article. Thanks :)

Worth C.
Worth C.

April 22, 2021

Great job at Moab and good luck at Cocodona! Love the mantra.

Craig Findley
Craig Findley

April 22, 2021

Good luck Jessi!!

David
David

April 22, 2021

Amazing Race

Sean St.Onge
Sean St.Onge

April 22, 2021

Awesome stuff! Good luck

Kate
Kate

April 22, 2021

Such an inspiration. Anyone can do something that’s easy. Love how she kept her head in it and was determined to finish strong. it’s easy to give up. It’s hard to keep going.

Paul Bradley
Paul Bradley

April 22, 2021

Great race!

Dana Hansen
Dana Hansen

April 22, 2021

Living in this naturalistic environment and adapting is so very important.

Cindy Merrill
Cindy Merrill

April 22, 2021

I have a bum knee from an old skiing injury- still, I’d love to go hiking- hopefully the trails where I live will reopen soon.

Anita Sue Hamilton
Anita Sue Hamilton

April 22, 2021

Mohave 240 for you to win
Rockhound stuff for another

Bryan S
Bryan S

April 22, 2021

Way to go!!!

Max Bellemare
Max Bellemare

April 22, 2021

Awesome job!

Richard Hanson
Richard Hanson

April 22, 2021

Love it! Such an inspiration and I would love to be a part of that race.

Meghan
Meghan

April 22, 2021

I am so inspired by this article! Feeling motivated for my morning run.

Jessica Haffner
Jessica Haffner

April 22, 2021

What an inspirational story. Great example of how we all suffer through things, but we are strong and can overcome them and come out happy and glowing on the other side!

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