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

Dave Stephenson
Dave Stephenson

April 22, 2021

Amazing recap! Can’t wait to hear how Cocodono goes for all these amazing people

Melinda Wexler
Melinda Wexler

April 22, 2021

Wow! What an inspiration to all of us!

Amy
Amy

April 22, 2021

Looking forward to seeing you race. Will be there crewing for another incredible athlete.

Kim Haven
Kim Haven

April 22, 2021

“Pain is temporary. I am strong.” Love this! I may have to borrow it for Cocodona! See you out there, you got this!!

Ruth Stewart
Ruth Stewart

April 22, 2021

Congratulations! Enjoy Cocodona 250!

John H.
John H.

April 22, 2021

I think that it would be really cool but difficult to accomplish that in the Moab.

icefairy
icefairy

April 22, 2021

Way to go! Good luck!

Luisa Serrano
Luisa Serrano

April 21, 2021

Great new race, great athletes, and a great article — best of luck to all at Cocodona!!

Melanie Aldobaiki
Melanie Aldobaiki

April 21, 2021

I feel like the final “just want to get it done” attitude is so relatable. I have been there multiple times (with much less mileage) and remember exactly how much I wanted to quit, be left alone, and how hard it was to push through. It amazes me that she not only did that, but plowed ahead to major ranking and success! What a beast!

Kevin Shanley
Kevin Shanley

April 21, 2021

good luck and tear it up

Dan B Smith
Dan B Smith

April 21, 2021

Good luck in beautiful Arizona. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what type of rock Olive gets from the run. There will be quite an assortment of colorful, shiny, dark, and mysterious rocks along the way.

Benjamin
Benjamin

April 21, 2021

Beautiful metaphor for life. Go girl 🙌

Ryan V
Ryan V

April 21, 2021

Very inspirational! Good luck in AZ!!

Kelli Stewart
Kelli Stewart

April 21, 2021

I love this! She is such a badass! I’m glad I’m not the only one who will stop for a pretty rock. My first hike with my (now 11month old) I saw a perfect heart shaped rock and couldn’t resist picking it up! It took me forever to stand back up with my baby in a giant (overpacked) pack on my back. That single effort was harder than the entire hike. That rock is now my most prized possession.

Alek
Alek

April 21, 2021

Can’t wait to hopefully do Cocadona 250 next year

El Erickson
El Erickson

April 21, 2021

An amazing accomplishment! I admire so many ultra athletes because of their dedication and endless drive! Best of luck on your next big adventure :)

Bill Schnefke
Bill Schnefke

April 21, 2021

These runners are so tough and mentally strong, very inspiring.

Naphtali Masse
Naphtali Masse

April 21, 2021

Very Beautiful. Wonderful achievement.

Cynthia Braus
Cynthia Braus

April 21, 2021

Congratulations and good luck at Cocodona!

Sam
Sam

April 21, 2021

Incredible – just like the lights Kogalla makes.

Linda VanSteinvoorn
Linda VanSteinvoorn

April 21, 2021

I don’t have a bucket list but if I did a 100+ miler would be on it. Congratulations and well done!

Karen
Karen

April 21, 2021

Wow! What an incredible story. I can only imagine winning those distances.

Kim Salmi
Kim Salmi

April 21, 2021

What a story of persistence and strength : )

Beth
Beth

April 21, 2021

#digdeep!!! Very inspiring as I begin to train for my first 100! You go girl!

jill wilkins
jill wilkins

April 21, 2021

What an awesome girl and race story. Loved hearing about her experiences as well as her victory 👊🏻

Shawna
Shawna

April 21, 2021

Such a strong mom!!! Go get em!!!!

Mark Sweeney
Mark Sweeney

April 21, 2021

I really understand the part that she listened to music to get through the tough spots and that’s true with a lot of things in life music will lift you in the tough times

August Kryger
August Kryger

April 21, 2021

What an amazing challenge! Good luck at Cocodona!

Paul Nelson
Paul Nelson

April 21, 2021

Bit wordy and long article,boring.

English Knowles
English Knowles

April 21, 2021

I’m so inspired by your journey as I prepare for my own >200 mile event while trying to be a good mom to 3 kids. The grind of extra long distances is not unlike parenting, and definitely helps with patience. Big high five to you and great luck in Cocodona. I hope to be there next year 🙌.

Sydney
Sydney

April 21, 2021

So inspiring! Ever since I heard of the Moab 240 I’ve wanted to do it and when I heard about you, and read your book it made my goal seem not so out of reach! You’re amazing!

Krash
Krash

April 21, 2021

What an amazing runner and positive attitude. I believe your attitude can take you along way in an ultra race. You are going to crush it.

Heather Kelley
Heather Kelley

April 21, 2021

Fantastic Article! Very inspiring.

Heather T
Heather T

April 21, 2021

Amazing! Even after getting lost on the course for over an hour that is great she still finished first! Heart music is a great choice for inspirational movement! “Pain is temporary. I am strong!” Keep shining like the quartzite!

Koren
Koren

April 21, 2021

What a trooper! So stoked for cocodona! I’ll be rooting for you from back of the pack!

Phil S
Phil S

April 21, 2021

What a beautiful course! Great read. Would love to do this race one day.

Judith Shaw
Judith Shaw

April 21, 2021

I, too struggle with heat, and I live here! You are an inspiration. I will follow you during the 250!

Brock Railey
Brock Railey

April 21, 2021

A 250 in 80 hours would be one hell of a race! Best of luck to Jessi and all the incredible athletes taking on Cocodona!

Jeane Drover
Jeane Drover

April 21, 2021

Quartzite as a metaphor, interesting. Amazing athleticism.

Rebecca Charles
Rebecca Charles

April 21, 2021

Wow what a great inspiration you are💪 I enjoyed reading your story and will read it to my special needs daughter who gets pushed in races. Best wishes for a great race, you can do it!

Kalyn Cline
Kalyn Cline

April 21, 2021

Congratulations on your win!! Good luck in your next race!

Ryan Funkhouser
Ryan Funkhouser

April 21, 2021

Amazing story, thanks for sharing! As someone currently training for my first 100 miler, I still can’t even begin to wrap my mind around 200+ mile races. Major kudos!

Alyssa Mago
Alyssa Mago

April 21, 2021

Impressive and inspiring ❤

Rosalind Gutierrez
Rosalind Gutierrez

April 21, 2021

Being from Arizona I know the Red Rocks of Sedona are beautiful for a run and genius to have a saloon for an aid station.

perry edinger
perry edinger

April 21, 2021

Such a cool experience for you to think of your family and allow that to drive you to the finish. ROCK IT at Cocodona

B.J. Bernal
B.J. Bernal

April 21, 2021

Good music always helps! Congratulations on your win!

kenneth Roe
kenneth Roe

April 21, 2021

Loved the article

Mona Gutierrez
Mona Gutierrez

April 21, 2021

I definitely would have picked up the rock. And definitely not doing a 250…. 😂

Evan Rich
Evan Rich

April 21, 2021

Impressive! What an inspiring article.

Ronald L. Jackson
Ronald L. Jackson

April 21, 2021

This is an incredible and interesting article. Best of luck to all participants.

Robert Jackson
Robert Jackson

April 21, 2021

Unbelievable and amazing! I’m tired from reading about this ADVENTURE.😀

Kandi Rasmussen
Kandi Rasmussen

April 21, 2021

First , I cannot even imagine, second , I love the part about the rock , and third … I would imagine that John Maack could lift anyone’s spirits. Great article! 💪🏻

Dinorah B
Dinorah B

April 21, 2021

What an incredible story of perseverance!

Taylor Verville
Taylor Verville

April 21, 2021

Can’t wait to see how buddy Mark L does this race, looks beautiful!

Brad Whitson
Brad Whitson

April 21, 2021

Great write up …..have fun at Cocodona 250!

Victor Titone
Victor Titone

April 21, 2021

Wow! Incredible accomplishment, Good luck to Jessi in the next race!! @victortitone

Bradley Mott
Bradley Mott

April 21, 2021

Such an inspiring story!

Ryan kennedy
Ryan kennedy

April 21, 2021

Keep pushing! Great read!

Abigail Teichert
Abigail Teichert

April 21, 2021

Amazing and inspiring someday an ultra will be in my wheelhouse!

Mandie Danielle Holmes
Mandie Danielle Holmes

April 21, 2021

I’ll be at Cocodona pacing and crewing. Can’t wait to cheer you and all the other runners on!

Betty
Betty

April 21, 2021

Congratulations!

Mary T Anderson
Mary T Anderson

April 21, 2021

Inspiration!

Karla R.
Karla R.

April 21, 2021

The scenery looks amazing! This is so inspiring! I hope Olive keeps her rock to remind her of mother’s achievements!

Karla R.
Karla R.

April 21, 2021

The scenery looks amazing! This is so inspiring! I hope Olive keeps her rock to remind her of mother’s achievements!

Dale Krambier
Dale Krambier

April 21, 2021

Amazing effort!!

Julio
Julio

April 21, 2021

Very inspirational—looking forward to hearing more about this event…and wish all the best to the participating runners.

Alejandra Santos
Alejandra Santos

April 21, 2021

I am inspired and impressed by the article. Congratulations JESSI!!!

Wendy Browne
Wendy Browne

April 21, 2021

What an incredible story of perseverance!

Jack Wilson
Jack Wilson

April 21, 2021

Amazing!!!!!

John Wells Jr.
John Wells Jr.

April 21, 2021

Boy does that look like fun!

Deborah C Stinson
Deborah C Stinson

April 21, 2021

It’s unbelievable she traveled that far and won. To me a five mile walk is daunting. The scenery was certainly beautiful.

Michael Li
Michael Li

April 21, 2021

Can’t wait to follow you and see you at Cocodona!

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.

April 21, 2021

Wow! It is impressive that it was a 240 mile trek in the Moab desert! The photos are great!

Hannah
Hannah

April 21, 2021

You’ve got this 💪🏼

Matt Romocki
Matt Romocki

April 21, 2021

Wonderful achievement. Take care of those feet.

Thomas P
Thomas P

April 21, 2021

That’s quite an accomplishment … for me 50 would be more than enough.

Darlkene Comeaux
Darlkene Comeaux

April 21, 2021

Wish I could be there!

Marilyn Gunn
Marilyn Gunn

April 21, 2021

Great coverage of a great example of spirited tenacity.

Scott Daniel
Scott Daniel

April 21, 2021

Good article

Melissa Savage
Melissa Savage

April 21, 2021

so awesome!!! good luck on the next race!!

lisa
lisa

April 21, 2021

very impressive! way to go!

Meg Arts
Meg Arts

April 21, 2021

Great article about an inspirational mother! Congrats on Moab and good luck on the next challenge!

Tammy Fox
Tammy Fox

April 21, 2021

My girlfriend is an ultramarathon runner and will be running Moab in 2022. It is so amazing to me that people can achieve such amazing feats. You are such and inspiration.

Sherry Lambing
Sherry Lambing

April 21, 2021

Good luck! Great article!

Melissa
Melissa

April 21, 2021

Not only are you an inspiration to other runners, but probably to your daughter as well, showing her from a young age that through hard work and discipline, even during hard times, that there can be something magical at the end (or the finish in this case)! Congratulations and good luck at Cocodona.

Vicki Davis
Vicki Davis

April 21, 2021

Just wonderful❣️Loved it❣️Made me feel all warm & fuzzy❣️🤗

Raven
Raven

April 21, 2021

I’m so impressed. Pain IS TEMPORARY- just finished my first 100 and still recovering 1.5 weeks later.

Katie
Katie

April 21, 2021

So inspiring! Cocodona is on my bucket list! But for now I’ll be volunteering in Sedona to soak up the race vibes! I hope it’s a fantastic experience for you!

Andre Lee
Andre Lee

April 21, 2021

Great article. Sending Jessi good racing vibes! See you on the course! It’s going to be an epic journey with Kogalla lighting the way! 🤙🏾😎🤙🏾

Justin
Justin

April 21, 2021

I enjoy a great hike but no way I’m racing anyone any more. But way to ROCK it out on the trail!

Marta
Marta

April 21, 2021

“Pain is temporary. I am strong.” Great mantra!

Danyeall Williams
Danyeall Williams

April 21, 2021

Wow, Just amazing <3

Deb Clawson
Deb Clawson

April 21, 2021

Incredible effort! Good luck on the Cocodona 250 and may the force be with you! I’ll be following on IG.

Andrienne Filleaudeau
Andrienne Filleaudeau

April 21, 2021

Alrighty!!!Let’s take it to the finish line!!!!Number 1, We Are!!!!

Deb Hamberlin
Deb Hamberlin

April 21, 2021

Great article and pictures. Please note that the cacti in the AZ picture are Saguaros not Barrel cactus.

Steven Cummins
Steven Cummins

April 21, 2021

I have been to the Moab area rafting and camping it is great . Watch your water intake and enjoy the views . Good Luck !

John Hubbard
John Hubbard

April 21, 2021

Amazing

Kayla Glenn
Kayla Glenn

April 21, 2021

Such an inspiring athlete and story! Can wait to watch the next race unfold!

Andy Shifman
Andy Shifman

April 21, 2021

Great article! We can overcome any physical limitations with a determined mind

K Z
K Z

April 21, 2021

What a triumph!

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