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Poland native becomes 1 of 7 women in US to complete tough set of 100-mile races

The races take place in Virginia, California, Vermont, Colorado and Utah

(WKBN) - Last weekend, a Poland native became one of only seven women in the United States this year to complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning -- a set of 100-mile trail races over some of America's toughest terrains.

Ultrarunning is the sport of competing in ultramarathons, which are races that are longer than the typical marathon of about 42 kilometers.

On Sunday afternoon, Val Zajac, with her father at her side, finished her fourth ultrarunning race of the summer -- 100 miles through the Wasatch Mountains.

Her boyfriend greeted her with a hug.

"This is trail -- dirt roads with a little bit of road in between, like checkpoints -- but mostly trail and dirt road," Zajac said.

But, it's 100 miles worth of trail and dirt roads.

To complete the Grand Slam, participants must finish three of the four 100-mile races -- one in Virginia, California, Vermont and Colorado -- plus the race through the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, all in the same year.

Along with finishing the Wasatch Mountains race this summer, Zajac also ran through the Sierra Nevadas of California, the Rockies of Colorado and the Green Mountains of Vermont to complete the Grand Slam.

It was up and down mountains and through rivers.

"There are people actually in the water with wetsuits with glow sticks telling you where to put your feet cause you're doing it in the middle of the night," Zajac said.

She had to complete the races in under 30 hours -- one under 36 hours -- to actually say she finished. That meant running at night with headlamps and not resting.

Thankfully, there were aid stations along the way.

"Yep, just kind of restocking. I had to pop some blisters, ate a little food, put on some more warm clothes and went back out there," she said.

Zajac ran at Cardinal Mooney and was fifth in the state in cross country as a sophomore.

She also ran in Nebraska and after taking a couple years off, was lured into ultrarunning.

"I was like, 'I want to get back in shape anyway, so I guess I'll give it a try.' Big, rude awakening," she said.

Before ultrarunning, Zajac had never run more than 15 miles and had never carried water. Now, her training involves workouts of anywhere between 30 and 50 miles at a time.

But now that the Grand Slam is complete, what's next?

"I want to get some speed back, actually get back into some shorter stuff as well. I haven't done a marathon just to do a marathon, so I would like to," Zajac said.

Zajac did not win any of the races, but her goal was to just finish. The people who did win finished 12 hours in front of her.

She says she comes back to Poland a couple times a year because her father still lives there. Now, Zajac lives in Colorado.


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