As an athlete and a burgeoning freelance adventure sports writer, I’m always up for hearing a story of success from someone with a similar personality to myself. So when I got a chance to catch up with Jax Mariash, long distance runner and entrepreneur, I couldn’t wait to pick her brain. Mariash is endurance athlete extraordinaire who has completed the 4 Desert Race Series Grand Slam and in 2016 was awarded as the 4 Deserts Female World Champion. The race crosses four major deserts across the world using non-designated trails and requires you to run carrying all the food, water and gear you need to survive. She is also the founder of Park City, Utah and Hood River, Oregon based coffee roaster and shop Stoked Roasters. Here I asked her a range of questions about running, life and coffee.
Q: Tell us about yourself? How did you become an endurance athlete?
A: I started running when I was a little girl at 5 years old. I did a 5k with my mother for my grade school and won my age category of 8 and under and I was hooked. I would do runs on the weekends with my mom, uncle and a family friend and loved it. It was my biggest passion growing up. I always dreamed that someday I was going to do something so big that it would inspire the masses to get outside and explore. I figured that if I inspired individuals to move their bodies and exercise that in some fashion I was healing the world.
Q: So you really loved running? That is the sport that just felt best?
A: I loved running more than anything. Feeling the wind on my face and exploring was one of my favorite things to do and it felt so simple and free. It was like a meditation on the roads and trails. As I grew up I was an elite triathlete for a decade and then went back to road racing. From there I started going longer and on to the trails and into the ultra-scene. One day I stumbled upon a self-supported ultra-race and my entire world changed. I was 2nd overall in my first one and now I am taking on the ultimate world record of stage racing by being the first human to win a stage race on every continent. It will make me one of the most decorated self-supported stage racers in the world.
Q: What has been your most memorable race experience?
My favorite place to run in the world so far is the Atacama Desert. It is truly magical and you feel like you are running on a different planet. It felt like the Moon or Mars. It is the driest desert in the world so the terrain is really unique with crusty mud, volcanos all over and salt flats. The air is crisp and very hot as the altitude is an average of 9k feet in the valley floor. Antarctica was also extremely memorable. One day we had to do a track that was 1.5k loops up and down a section of a little island right off of the main land. I did it 46 times! As you ran along, you could hear chunks of ice falling into the water, and avalanches rumbling as you watched penguins play and seals bask in the sun. It was remarkable and it also made you think about climate issues as it was 10-20 degrees warmer than it should be that time of year. And those ice chunks falling into the sea were not really a positive climate feature either.
Q: What races do you have coming up this year?
This is one of my largest years yet! And I thought the Grand Slam Plus was huge. This year, I am trying to complete my 2nd world record of becoming the first to win a self-supported stage race on all 7 continents. Europe (The Ice Ultra) and Australia (The Track) are left. I’ve already completed Asia (4 Deserts – Gobi March 2016), North America (Grand To Grand Ultra 2018), Africa (4 Deserts Sahara (Namibia) 2016) and Antarctica (4 Deserts – The Last Desert – 2016 (also crowned the 2016 Female World Champion) and South America – (4 Deserts – The Atacama Crossing).
Q: Wow, that is a lot!
A: Actually that isn’t all. In addition, my last and 11th self-supported ultra stage race will be the Cloud City Multi Stage in Leadville, CO in September. I am participating in this to help promote self-supported stage races in the USA and also to promote female equality. If a woman wins the entire race, she will get an extra $1,000. If that wasn’t enough, I am also doing the entire Leadville race series which is called the Leadman/Leadwoman. I hope to lead the woman’s field. Lastly, I will dip into some road racing in the Boston Marathon, Rock And Roll Marathon, Utah Valley Half Marathon and others. I will also run alongside an athlete named Hannah Lutzker in late October to help her run the Javalina Jundred 100 miler. This will break a record for her to be the youngest female to do so in a sanctioned race in the world at the young age of 14.
Q: What does your training schedule look like now?
A: In a perfect world where business isn’t stepping in the way…
A typical week is dialed with a mixture of quality work, endurance work, strength and mental training. It would look something like this in a perfect world.
- Monday: off / strength / drills / core
- Tuesday: am speed / pm easy run / core
- Wednesday: Medium long run 12-16 miles / strength / core
- Thursday: am speed / pm easy run / core
- Friday: easy run / strength / drills / core
- Saturday: Long 18-32 miles / core
- Sunday: Long 8-18 miles / core
- Meditate daily!
Q: And on top of this you also started a coffee business? Tell me how did Stoked Roasters come to be?
A: STOKED ROASTERS® has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. My first “job” ever was technically a summer camp with the City of Denver where I worked for the Mayor’s Office of Art Culture, and Film. I was responsible for the coffee run, among other activities, for my $4.50 per hour wage. I was given funds to pick up everyone’s drinks and they gave extra for me. I started with loving an iced mocha, that lead to blended drinks, lattes and then to straight up coffee. I loved the atmosphere, sense of community and the daily ritual that it had for people. At that young age, I decided when I grew up, I wanted to start a coffee business. This lead to a degree in business management with an emphasis on small business and entrepreneurship. I worked at STARBUCKS for 5 years to figure out what to do and what not to do.
I then went on a Corporate America track in the field of marketing for 13 years and then popped out of the other side starting a boutique marketing agency for small outdoor clients and with a tool kit and launch pad to start STOKED ROASTERS + COFFEEHOUSE®. This began in September of 2013 with a rapid movement of creating a business plan and dialing in a private investor by the winter. I began an apprenticeship immediately in Jackson Hole for 6 months with Jackson Hole Roasters to learn everything one on one with a roast master named Stephan. In tandem branding took place, blend recipes and construction. By June 9th, the roastery and tasting room opened at the waterfront in Hood River, OR. Today, we now have an additional coffee bar in Park City, UT and we also launched our 100% organic instant coffee program to rest alongside our 100% organic craft coffee.
Q: What makes this coffee perfect for the outdoor enthusiast?
A: As a professional athlete and lover of adventure since I was a little kid, STOKED ROASTERS® is the Official Coffee Of The Outdoors™. There is a huge synergy between coffee and the love of the outdoors. Individuals often start or stop their adventure with a cup of coffee. It is also a meeting place for adventures to begin. With this in mind, I wanted to create a coffee company that was providing the outdoor enthusiast with a premium cup of craft coffee.
Q: What is new in the product line up? Is there anything else in the mix you are working on product wise for 2019?
A: Our product lineup always features our 6 signature series blends. These are DAWN PATROL, SOUL SESSION, BLUEBIRD, FIRST TRACKS, DOUBLEOVERHEAD and a decaf called WHITEOUT. We rotate through single origin coffee as well that follows the coffee season and is currently featuring Colombia, Sumatra and Guatemala. Each season we love to experiment with a seasonal roast that is always something unique and different. In the coffee industry, something new that we are working on is always these seasonal blends.