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Lorna (Richey) Michael

(December 2018)


Lorna (Richey) Michael’s running career began with Cross-Country and Track in high school in the early 1970’s. Like many schools of that era, hers had no women’s running teams. So she ran on the boys teams. By her senior year girls teams had been formed, and she graduated Clay High School in Oregon, Ohio as the school recordholder in the mile and half-mile. Also upon graduation she received the school’s “Most Valuable Senior Athlete” award. Many years later, her high school would induct her into its Athletic Hall of Fame.

Following high school graduation she became a marathon runner, achieving a best of 3:16:57 in the 1978 Boston Marathon. She soon moved up to ultramarathons. Her ultra career began at the tender age of 23 in 1982, just when the 3 legends of American (and global) women’s ultrarunning (Sandra Kiddy, Marcy Schwam, Sue Ellen Trapp) were putting distaff ultrarunning on the world map. Within a year, as Lorna Richey, she had become a veteran at ultra events from 50 miles to 24 hours.

In only her second year of ultrarunning, Richey entered what would become the global signature race of the newly-emerging sport of multi-day ultrarunning, the inaugural New York 6-Day Race in July 1983. Running remarkably even daily splits, and capping her race by finishing with her highest daily mileage (76) on the final day, she won the women’s division with 401 miles, 919 yards, becoming the first woman to break 400 miles for 6 days. The following year she stunned the global ultra establishment with a new American Record of 130 miles, 975 yards in Ottawa, Canada. Suddenly this young unknown had surpassed two of the sport’s giants, Schwam and Trapp, at the all-day, all-night event. It was the first time an American woman had broken 130 miles for 24 hours. It put her at #4 on the all-time world list for 24 hours. Only 2 months later came her return to the New York 6-Day Race, where she would face, head-to-yead, Schwam, the new World 100 mile recordholder American Donna Hudson, and the World 6-Day recordholder Eleanor Adams of Great Britain. She was not considered to be among the favorites. She started out way back in the pack, almost last among the half-dozen women in the field for the first two days. But then she steadily moved up, edging into 2nd place behind Adams by day 4. She spent the final 2 days closing in on the Brit’s huge lead, running more miles in the final 3 days than she had in the first 3, and coming up only 5 miles shy of Adams at the finish. Both women had demolished the world record by almost 40 miles. Richey’s 457 miles, 345 yards was a new American Record. It remains today, 34 years later, the 5th best all-time 6-day by an American woman. Only 2 months later, Richey ran the second annual Spartathlon (154 miles from Athens to Sparta in Greece), tying for second place with Schwam.

Marriage and children followed (she gave birth to 3 children in five years), and, now as Lorna Michael, she took a hiatus from ultrarunning of almost a decade. But her return to ultra racing was even more spectacular than anything she had done previously. In 1992 the Trans-USA footrace (2900+ miles) was revived, 63 years after it had last been run. Out of a field of 28 men and no women, 13 finished. The following year, 1993, there was one female entrant in the field of 13: Lorna Michael. The race was run in 64 consecutive daily stages averaging 45.5 miles each. In other words, 64 consecutive, daily 45.5 mile competitively timed races, with no rest days. Michael finished 3rd overall in the field, finishing in a cumulative, aggregate time of 585+ hours for the 2,912 mile distance. She became the first woman to complete a trans-USA race. Remarkably, she also bettered the fastest known female solo trans-USA crossing (which had been accomplished on a much more flexible, round-the-clock, 24-hours/day forward motion option) by 4 miles per day.

In 2010 Lorna returned to ultrarunning. In recent years she has completed a few 100 mile races, and she recently ran 178 miles in 48 hours.

We welcome Lorna (Richey) Michael into the American Ultra Hall of Fame.

(Note: In order to become eligible for induction into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, an athlete must have been retired from ultramarathon competition for 10 years or have reached the age of 60)

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