#SharedSecrets: Episode 18

The Secret to Feeling Alive with Nikki Kimball


I was scrolling through movies on Netflix one night, looking for a documentary that might capture my attention, when I discovered “Finding Traction.” The film tells the story of professional ultramarathoner Nikki Kimball and her successful quest to become the fastest person in history to run Vermont’s grueling 273-mile Long Trail. I found myself riveted by this petite 45-year-old woman’s attempt to break a world record, but was even more fascinated in her motivation to run.

Kimball began her career in endurance sports at an early age as an aspiring cross-country ski racer with Olympic dreams. In retrospect, she says her symptoms of depression started at an early age, too, but she wasn’t diagnosed and treated until she was 22. In the episode, she explains how her depression has since become her “secret weapon” in her ultrarunning career, and describes how running has helped her to feel alive again after the numbness that can accompany depression.

Nikki and I also discuss the mental health benefits of aerobic exercise and the unfortunate stigma surrounding mental illness. In addition, Nikki serves up some tips for non-pro athletes looking to reap the rewards of physical activity.

More about Nikki: Nikki Kimball is one of the most accomplished ultrarunners in the sport. She won the first ultramarathon she entered, the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race, and is the only person in history to place top 10 in the race in her first 10 attempts. The documentary “Finding Traction” chronicles her successful journey to become the fastest person in history to run Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail. She is a physical therapist based in Bozeman, Montana.