Wild Ideas Worth Living: Diane Van Deren

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Diane Van Deren on how to run ultramarathons and set records at 58 after surviving brain surgery.

Running 100 miles is remarkable. Running and winning 100+ mile races as a 58-year old who-has had part of their brain removed is a different level. Diane was a professional tennis player before she had epilepsy, but when she started having seizures, running helped stave them off.

Ten years into her disease, she decided to have a risky, radical surgery where doctors removed a part of her brain. Once she healed she started running, this time much longer distances than before. While the epilepsy went away, Diane lost some things with the surgery. Today, she struggles with her sense of time and sense of direction, both integral to long distance trail running.

Diane’s wild idea: To run great distances and do what she loves while raising awareness about epilepsy and other great causes.

Running has become her ultimate medicine, and she’s set some incredible records on her journey. She won the infamous Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 430-mile footrace pulling a 50-pound sled through temperatures below 50 degrees for eight days. She climbed South America’s tallest peak. She completed the worlds’ hardest 100-mile race, running for 45 hours straight. She also ran and set record for the 1,000-mile Mountains to Sea Trail, where she traversed the state of North Carolina in just over 22 days for a cause.

In addition to being an athletic force, Diane is a long-time athlete for The North Face. She is also a speaker at events like REI’s Outessa series, which is how I found out about her amazing journey. I love how endlessly positive she is, and how she relates to everyone on and off the trail. Diane is a true survivor, an amazing performer, and she has a wonderful perspective on reaching your own potential.

Listen to this episode if:

  • You’ve ever wanted to run an ultramarathon or a long-distance trail race.
  • You or someone you know suffers from epilepsy.
  • You’re not one to let health issues keep you from the outdoors.
  • You want to reach your full potential.
  • You are curious what it’d be like to miss your sense of time and direction.
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