Maggie Guterl: Surviving the Georgia Death Race

When we say that we live the brand here at Nathan, we truly mean it. Case in point is Maggie Guterl, our very own Marketing Coordinator, and in-house ultra running stud. When she’s not whipping our creative team into shape, she’s whipping through some of the baddest, gnarliest, and downright scary trails across the world. This past week, she toed the line at the horrifingly-named “Georgia Death Race” in search of a top two finish, which would earn her a “golden ticket” to compete in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run this summer. Spoiler alert – she crushed it! With a grueling 2nd place finish, she will now compete with the world’s best ultra runners this summer in Squaw Valley, CA.

We wanted to find out just what drives this amazing runner, so we cornered her in the break room for a quick Q&A. Maggie Guterl, in her own words…

“I won’t be able to do this forever. I love this sport!”

What compelled you to sign up for something so ominously titled as the “Georgia Death Race”?

The golden ticket of course… plus I can’t resist a race that boasts the threat of death.

Did the race live up to its name?

Well I am still alive but it certainly was one of the most challenging courses that I have ever run.

What was your favorite leg of the race?

I really enjoyed the long uphill jeep road in the forest just after sunset around 100k in. I felt strong and the moonlight was beaming through the trees, plus I was finally in second place at that time.

Least favorite section?

There was a short, downhill, very rocky technical section with about 2.5 miles to go. I was still wanted to be able to cruise at that point but it was too rocky for my clumsy feet to move very fast.

Any funny moments?

I have 3 because sometimes you just have to laugh:

  • Mile 35: I was running with Bethany Patterson and Jenn Benna and it started raining. We all wanted golden tickets and the first place woman was over 30 minutes ahead of us. Jenn suggested at this point we just take out our space blankest (which was part of the required gear) and just have a picnic instead.
  • Mile 70: I saw Dylan and Dr. Horton on my way to the last final section. Dylan yelled “Golden Ticket” and I turned around to raise my fist and yell, and went flying on the gravel trail. Bit it hard!
  • Mile 71: After climbing up 175 stairs thinking I was done, I come to another signed that said “425 stairs”. I stood there at the base of the stairs in the dark laughing out loud.

Terrifying moments?

At the pre-race briefing, a former army ranger whipped some giants snakes out of his back pack. This really happened.

Is it possible to ever “settle into a groove” during such a tough race?

Yeah for sure. I felt in a groove for most of the race despite some low moments because I just took the course as it came in little sections.

You had to track down a runner that shot out of the gate. What’s it like to know that you’re 40+ minutes behind someone that you intend to overtake?

You just have to be patient.

What occupies your mind during such a long race?

The end goal and what it took me to get to that point. I am at in the moment.

How clutch is your crew during a race like this?

Dylan Armajani was my one man crew and for a race like this he’s the difference between failure and success. With only two crew spots and drastic temperature changes, he got me in and out each time with what I needed to succeed… and not die.

What nutrients and fluids did you take with you?

Hammer gels, Tailwind, Fuel 100 Electrobytes, avocado sandwiches, almond butter sandwiches, all stored in my trusty Nathan VaporAiress. Although solid food in the second half was a no go so I resorted to coke and potato chips.

Now that it’s over, is there anything you would have liked to change with your training and race-day preparation?

No actually. I think my coach, Michele Yates, gave me a plan that fully prepared me physically. And Dylan and I were very organized in our race day prep. He has crewed me countless times before and each time we have learned something.

How does this race rank compared to other ultra’s that you’ve completed?

Georgia Death Race is in the top three of the most rewarding races that I have ever run. And I have run almost 70 ultras or marathons at this point. (Editor’s note – Holy Cow!)

Describe what it feels like to know that you’re going to be competing at Western States?

Pinch me.

What compels you to continue to compete at such a high level in this grueling sport?

I won’t be able to do this forever. I love this sport!

Words of advice for someone contemplating making the leap from marathon to ultra?

Don’t compare yourself to others. There are no limits to what you can accomplish.

Parting quote?


And if you want to SEE Maggie speak about this race, you should check out her video interview over at Ginger Runner Live.

Note: Header photo credit: Dominic Grossman