Meet the Adventure Seeker Who Works 50 Hours and Still Has Time to Ski Volcanoes
Christy Mahon doesn't considers herself a professional athlete, but her epic list of accomplishments would say otherwise.
At 42, Christy Mahon calls herself "just another average woman." She works a 50+ hour job as the development director for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, comes home exhausted, and tries to make time for getting active outdoors-usually running, skiing, or hiking. But that's just half of her story.
Mahon is also the first woman ever to climb and ski all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains, a feat she crossed off her epic to-do list in 2010. Since then, she and two ski buddies have sliced through the powder of Colorado's highest 100 peaks (and she's now moving on to the highest 200, something else that's never been done).
Apart from her backyard adventures in the Centennial State, Mahon climbs mountains in Nepal and volcanoes in Equador, Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest. And has completed five ultramarathons, each a gnarly 100 miles. Plus a slew of marathons and 50-mile races all with a great big smile on her face. She and her husband often chart her wild adventures in their Instagrams, @aspenchristy and @tedmahon.
Yeah, this "average" badass is nothing short of extraordinary, although she's quick to say "I'm not an athlete."
While Mahon is an ambassador for the outdoor apparel brand Stio, she tells Shape exclusively, "I don't get paid to do this. I do it because it challenges me and it's the quickest way I've come to learn about myself and what really makes me tick-what my strengths are and my weaknesses, and come face-to-face with both to come out the other end a stronger person ... but like I said, I'm no professional athlete. There are plenty of people finishing ahead of me in those ultra races."
Mahon's introduction to extreme outdoor adventures came after college when she worked summers at Olympic National Park as a ranger. Her roommate would run 7 miles to work, and Mahon found she too could jog that distance before clocking in. Then Mahon met another ranger at the park who ran 50 miles across the Olympic Peninsula before beginning the workday-a distance Mahon didn't know was humanly possible, not to mention before work. Surrounded by these amazing recreational runners, Mahon eventually set a stride that took her to 5K races, then up to 10K, marathons, 50-mile ultras, and finally 100-mile races across the wilderness and backcountry, like the iconic Hardrock 100, Leadville, Steamboat, and more. (Check out these 10 Races Perfect for People Just Beginning to Run OR these 10 Insane Ultras That Are Worth the Hurt.)
Running such long distances is "the best metaphor for taking one step at a time and always keep moving," says Mahon. "Then whether it's in a job or relationship-something outside of running-you learn to keep moving forward when you want to quit. Plus, I was surprised to find that I was so much stronger than I thought I was."
Even today, as she sets her sight on her next big goal this fall-a PR at the Philadelphia Marathon, skiing volcanoes in Chile, or running ultras in Spain-her mantra is still the same: I got this. "I say it whenever I'm doubting myself, either on a trail or ski run," she tells us. "I got this, I can do this."
Right now she's taking a look at her list of what's next-what peak, what place, what goal. "I always have a list. It allows me to see clearly what I want, who I want to train to become, and where I want to visit," she says.
Mahon adds that she doesn't believe in luck, but in hard work. "Growing up it was instilled in me that you get lucky with hard work. I feel I've had to work so hard for everything I have, and I think many women feel the same way. Transferring that grit to my adventure goals has allowed me to do things I never believed were possible."
Case in point: Completing many of the insanely high Colorado mountains she hiked and skied down required waking up at 11 p.m. to get to the base camp at 2 a.m. and hike difficult terrain to the summit by early morning.
Mahon's accomplishments multiplied when she moved to Aspen-a town that she describes as being populated by normal people, not paid athletes, who make it a way of life to get out and do amazing things. (So you could say she's where she belongs.) "That's why being surrounded by motivated people makes all the difference," says Mahon. "If you set a goal to run a half marathon but your partner is a couch potato, you won't get all the benefits of real, authentic motivation."
It was this local community of outdoor explorers that Mahon turned to for advice on how to reach the highest peaks in the state. (Check out the Healthy Travel Guide to Aspen if you're suddenly itching for a cold-weather vacation.) She learned how to hike to the summits by skinning (the act of skiing up a hill using special bindings, which is quicker than hiking through snow) and using ice picks. "You don't jump into skiing the most difficult mountain, you start with the easiest," she says. "And yes, often you fail. But then you just go try again."