Opelika resident, Auburn University assistant professor records fastest known time on a Colorado trail last month

Photo by Kristopher Cargile/Special to the Opelika Observer

Looks to continue trend on the El Camino de Costa Rica

By Morgan Bryce

Fresh off her record-setting run on the 161-mile Collegiate Peaks Loop Trail in Colorado last month, Opelika resident and Auburn University assistant professor Dr. Laura Parson is looking to continue that trend later this year on the El Camino de Costa Rica.
Parson broke the trail’s fastest known time (more commonly known as an FKT) for a supported female, posting a final run time of 3 days, 16 hours and 32 minutes. With support and aid from friend Kristopher Cargile, she was able to overcome the trail’s challenging topography, but not without some struggle.
The fourth and final day of Parson’s run was arguably the toughest, with hot, summer-like conditions to endure and lacking a variety of food to help propel her through the remaining 45 miles.
“I came to one of the trailheads, and everything was just sort of weighing on me. I was emotional, but (Kris) fed me, sat me down and told me all the right things that I needed to hear … things that came off as tough at first but ultimately what he needed to say to me to keep me going,” Parson said.
Instead of a jubilant celebration at the run’s conclusion, Parson said she chose to eat and rest, all the while planning her next run.
Parson’s love for running sprouted during her later college years while pursuing her postgraduate and doctorate degrees at Westminster College and the University of North Dakota, respectively, though she has been running for more than a decade.
Besides scratching that competitive itch and maintaining solid physical shape, Parson said she wants her platform as a runner to “hopefully help and empower people.” During her run in Colorado, she was raising funds for Girls on the Run, an organization that seeks to inspire girls between the ages of 8 and 13 “to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”
“For me, at the end of the day, this is what I love and this is what I love to do and that’s important to me. But, I hope that what I’m doing helps inspire people to achieve their dreams,” Parson said. “Not everyone needs to be a runner, but everyone can achieve their dreams, no matter how impossible they think it may be.”
Parson is currently spending the majority of her spare time preparing for her December speed-record attempt in Costa Rica, training and obtaining helpful advice and tips from others who have traversed the 280-kilometer-long trail. In March 2020, she is planning a speed-record attempt of the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, a 339-mile trail that snakes across Northeast Alabama into Northwest Georgia as well as a “Run Across the USA” in 2021.
At Auburn, Parson is an educator within the university’s Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology department. In addition to running in her spare time, she said she enjoys reading and paddle boarding and is looking forward to coaching members of Opelika’s Girls on the Run chapter at the Opelika SportsPlex.
Those interested in keeping up with Parson’s journey can read her blogs online at www.lauraparson.com/ultrarunning.
Individuals wanting to help Parson can donate to Girls on the Run via https://www.gotrsouthcentralal.org/fundraiser/Laura-Parson-Run-Across-USA, and local businesses who would like to corporately sponsor her speed-record attempts can contact her through her personal website, www.lauraparson.com.


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