Margot Fleming’s father, Thomas J. Fleming, won the New York Marathon in 1973 and 1975, and was runner-up in the Boston Marathon in 1973 and 1974. His daughter Margot runs longer distances, like her mother, and has numerous 100-mile finishes under her belt. We sat down with her to find out more about her family’s history with running and her love of the sport.
URM: Where are you from, and where do you currently live?
Fleming: I grew up in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, just outside Manhattan.
URM: What do you do for a living?
Fleming: I work in brand experience marketing for Lululemon. I’ve spent my entire working career in sport and product.
URM: How many ultras have you done so far?
Fleming: 20+ ultras approximately, some on the road but mostly on trail—all varying distances from 6 days covering 302 miles to 100-milers and 100k.
URM: Did your dad ever mention that running ultras was a good idea?
Fleming: My dad was super competitive and loved to go fast so he didn’t really understand why anyone would want to go longer and “slower.” Before I ran my first 50k trail race he reminded me that he had the family record of 2:52. My mom was more of an ultramarathoner and she has placed amongst the top females at Comrades.
URM: I read your dad ran 140 to 150 miles a week, but for at least two weeks during his career, he ran 200 miles/week. He also could train up to four times a day. Have you ever tried matching his regimen?
Fleming: With friends, I’ve run a couple of 100-mile weeks for fun, but it was really hard to balance multiple runs a day while working a full-time job that had me on my feet for 8+ hours. When I ran from LA to Las Vegas that was 302 miles, and I had to take the whole week off to do it.
URM: The words that hung on your dad’s bedroom wall have become legendary: “Somewhere in the world, someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win.” What are your favorite words to live by?
Fleming: This is the toughest question. I love that quote my dad is given credit for, but maybe “run your own race” definitely applies to running, but also relates to life. I move to the beat of my own drum.
URM: What was the best and worst of running Marathon des Sables in the Sahara?
Fleming: Spending time with tent mates at the end of each day and meeting new people from interesting parts of the world was certainly the best part of MDS. The 90k “long” day was really daunting because of the heat, but not the worst part. No one could have prepared me for being as dirty as we were, and I really think that was the worst part of it all.
URM: What other countries have you traveled to for racing?
Fleming: I’ve been to South Africa, Germany, Morocco and Denmark. For work, I’ve been to Italy, France, Australia and Japan.
URM: What was your worst mistake ever in a race?
Fleming: The worst mistake I’ve ever made was taking advice from more advanced and experienced runners before my first marathon. I showed up super underdressed on a very cold day and wasn’t moving fast enough to get warm. That made for a very challenging day.
URM: The Speed Project (TSP) is a 340-mile unsanctioned race from the Santa Monica Pier to Las Vegas. Since you’ve run it, would you recommend it?
Fleming: I would definitely recommend running The Speed Project. I ran on relay teams of 9 and 12 runners twice, which was such a fun adventure, and then once by myself as a solo participant. Running solo was intense, but by the time I got to Las Vegas, I had finally found my 50-mile-a-day rhythm, so I could have kept going and maybe run to Utah.
URM: Your family roots are from the East Coast (your grandfather was a tackle for the Chicago Bears), but you currently live in LA. How do you like the West Coast for training and competing vs. the East Coast?
Fleming: The West Coast is so amazing, and I love it so much, but it has softened me. I can’t handle winters or summers on the East Coast anymore. It’s too cold or way too humid. As for training and racing, LA has made me a better trail runner. I live on the west side and I’ve been able to get in critical heat training and climbing that I wasn’t able to conveniently find in Portland or on the East Coast.
URM: I hear you have a celebrity crush. Who is he? Why him?
Fleming: Haha. It’s Harry Styles. I love his music and creativity as a visual artist, but he also has this incredible relationship with his fans and the ability to make people feel seen and accepted. He’s also an athlete and runs a bit so my dream is to train with him for a marathon.
URM: What are your favorite pre- and post-ultra meals?
Fleming: Pre-race meals kind of depend on the distance I’m running but after years of stomach troubles I keep things very simple. These days it’s usually rice pasta with Carbone tomato sauce. Morning of a race or long training run I must have coffee and I’ll force myself to eat oatmeal. Post-race I don’t typically crave anything because I’ve been forcing myself to eat aid station food for 24+ hours. After MDS I drank a liter of Coca-Cola in the taxi to the hotel. That was heaven.
URM: What are your next three tattoos going to be?
Fleming: Probably something to memorialize running the New York City Marathon, maybe an LA tattoo since I’ve been there almost three years and the third will be something silly, maybe Harry-related.
URM: Where will you be running in 10 years?
Fleming: I want to be healthy and running in Europe, preferably taking weekend trips to Chamonix.