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Meet Kara Wilson, Jennifer McMahon and Brandy Johnston in Redondo Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kara Wilson, Jennifer McMahon and Brandy Johnston.

Kara, Jennifer and Brandy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
They say it takes a village… last year, I completed my first marathon and I was chatting about it with someone who said, “What’s next? An Ultra?” That got me thinking.

So, it started out that I was going to run a 50 mile race alone, but then I somehow convinced my buddy, running machine Jennifer McMahon, (a running coach) to join me. Our families were fully committed.

Then my friend, the most talented Brandy Johnston found out, she asked us if she could document our journey (I think we thought she meant a slide show, but it’s anything but…). However, it became too overwhelming to just do it by herself so she recruited her friend, Ms. Awesomesauce Jill Reisman, to help assist in video production. And there’s more!

Jen convinced her fast and furious running group to help be in our race crew and pace us during part of the race (Ann, Alexis and Colleen), not to mention all the training runs and preparation. And if that wasn’t enough, Brandy somehow convinced Ms. Confident in Motion herself, Aga ChenFu, to become our sponsor/social media manager.

We are capturing all this and what it takes (balance, inspiration, training) for everyday women, mothers, athletes to train for and ultimately complete an ultra marathon. Our goal is to RAISE AWARENESS about ultra marathons and show that ANYONE can do this or anything else they set their mind to.

Through Jen and my aspiration and our journey we have accomplished something even more beautiful – this amazing community of women who’ve come together using their talents to give the story a voice – an Instagram handle documenting our journey, a documentary page and ultimately this documentary. Brandy said, “I think in the end, I want people to walk away saying, “I can do that” and start to work on something they’ve always wanted to do. I want it to linger with them until they try what they want to do.”

Now, I don’t know the outcome of this race or the documentary, but I can tell you that if you try to pursue your wildest dreams that people will become inspired and do the most mind blowing things as well. A chain reaction… believe in yourself and good things will follow. Follow those dreams! See what becomes of it! Like us on 12point5hours or follow us on Instagram @ultratrainingwheels.

From the producer, Brandy – this documentary started out as an amazing story of two friends who decided to run an ultra marathon together. I quickly realized that no one understood what an Ultra was, including myself. 50 miles… in one day… the thought of that sounded crazy, but the more I thought about it the more I became inspired by their drive and determination. I thought, we should really try and capture this story. In my former life before kids, I was a producer in the entertainment world and I thought this was a great story. We began meeting every Wednesday after school while our kids played on the playground. I watched as other moms sat down and offered help and gave their input. Soon, a story of two became more about a tribe of women who wanted to help Jen and Kara achieve their goal of running 50 miles. They’ve inspired an entire community of women and men.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Kara: Time. Time, has been a struggle for both filming and training. It takes many hours to become an ultramarathoner and dedication. It takes a lot of time to just figure out how to get everyone on a similar schedule so we can discuss where to shoot, interrupt runs for interviews, plan our runs so they coincide with the documentary and it takes time to edit and agree on film covered. It’s not as easy as just taking a camera around town it all needs to be planed out. We try to meet weekly (usually every Wednesday) to discuss what our running goals, crew’s goals and film & social media crews goals are. This is all voluntary and yet everyone involved is passionate in helping this idea succeed and their generosity with their time has been abundant that we are able to jump pass this issue.

Jen: Some of the road has been smoother than I expected, actually. I’m enjoying my shorter runs with my running group during the week and long runs with Alexis on weekends and it has been fun to experiment with different fueling regimens and running gear along the way. The toughest part has really been the time it has taken to train. Some Saturdays, I’m running for 5 or more hours just to get my long runs in and then I have another long run on Sunday to complete my mileage. This leaves my husband to do a lot more of the heavy lifting at home on the weekend, which has been a huge help. It really feels like it is taking a village just to get me ready to train for this. It has really shown me how many amazing people I have in my life that are willing to step in and help out. Scheduling is another obstacle. Sometimes, I just can’t seem to manage fitting all my miles in with my work schedule, my kids’ practice schedules and other commitments on the weekends. It is just a lot to keep up with, so there are some weeks where I just do the best I can even if it isn’t exactly what the training plan called for.

From the Documentary perspective – it has most certainly been a bumpy but beautiful road! We are obviously a no budget production, we are all doing this in our spare time with the best equipment that we have, giving it all we’ve got. We have no expectations, but are also shooting for the stars. Getting all of the crew in the same room at the same time hasn’t been easy logistically, but we certainly know how to have fun together once we get there!

From the producer: My previous experience was focused on producing. Now I have to wear all kinds of hats none of which are my specialty – production and technology has changed so much in the last decade and we all have to figure it out as we go along.

Also, the story keeps evolving and that has been the greatest challenge. What is the story… we’ll know when we finally get there, to the end…. but isn’t that what makes a documentary so fascinating?!

Please tell us about @ultratrainingwheels and @12point5hours.
Kara: I think what sets us apart is that we are creating a tribe. It started with an idea and snowballed to an amazing support system. It’s infectious that one person wants to create a large challenge for themselves and another person wants to partner up with them. Then another person inspired by all that wants to add their talents and help you as well (and so on and so on). I’m finding that when you’re competing with yourself that people want to make sure you get there and it’s incredible to feeling to know you have a village there to make sure it happens.

Jen: This has grown into such a beautiful group. It is really impressive how many people with hidden talents have come together to make this happen. It really started with Kara wanting to run this race and then she brought me on board. When Brandy told us she wanted to do a documentary on our race, we really had no idea how much experience she had and she and Jill have really gone above and beyond to make this documentary amazing. Our crew is also so talented; they have been taking notes on what we need for the race and keeping tabs on what is working and what isn’t. They’re researching how to take care of potential race injuries that can happen on the course and making sure they’re prepared. The group of ours really is a multi-talented, multi-faceted, inspiring group of women!

From the documentary perspective – our goal is to raise awareness about ultra marathons and show that anyone can do what they aspire to. We are just a group of women who have come together to tell this story. We are most proud of Kara and Jen continuing to push through their training, we are proud of all the people we are inspiring along the way and the actual work we are doing.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Kara: For a few lucky years as a child, I lived in the countryside with ten acres as my backyard. When I reflect on my favorite running memory from my childhood it has to be running barefoot through the fields and the woods. The freedom that I could go anywhere I wanted with just my two feet was amazing. I loved the wind in my hair, the mist of the rain on my face, scratches on my legs and the dirt on my ankles. It made me feel like a warrior and it was the one time that being a girl meant just having fun and getting dirty and not worrying about makeup or clothes. I loved that escape!

Jen: When I was a kid, I really jumped around in a variety of sports and activities. I was a dancer for a while, a soccer player for a minute, a gymnast, then a cheerleader. I ran track and even threw shot-put for a bit. At the time, I really felt like I was never the best at any one thing, but now that I look back, I realize that having a little experience in all of these areas has really set me up to be a good, well-rounded endurance athlete. I still love to play and try a variety of sports and all of these things help me listen to my body and push myself on our long runs.

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: @ultratrainingwheels
  • Facebook: @12point5hours

Image Credit:
Brandy Johnston

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Debbie

    April 4, 2018 at 19:46

    That’s our girl Kara !! Xxx

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