Wonder Woman Jax is what recent Park City transplant Jax Mariash goes by on both her social media channels and her website. And once you consider her accomplishments, you’ll realize the moniker is far from tongue-in-cheek.
In 2016, Mariash became the first woman to complete and be crowned the female world champion of the 4 Deserts Race Series Grand Slam Plus, a series of five grueling ultrarunning races held on four different continents in some of the earth’s harshest environments. In 2016, the Grand Slam Plus races began in February with the Roving Race (Sri Lanka) and were followed by the Sahara Race (Namibia) in May, the Gobi March (China) in June, the Atacama Crossing (Chile) in October, and the Last Desert Race (Antarctica) in November. Each of the week-long competitions consisted of around four marathons run back-to-back over four days, followed by a 50-mile run (called a Long March) on the fifth day, a rest day on day six, and a 10K on the seventh day for a total of 155 miles. What’s more, these sufferfests are completely self-supported, meaning runners carry everything they need to survive on their backs. Not surprisingly, the 4 Deserts Race Series Grand Slam Plus is known worldwide as one of the most grueling and difficult ultrarunning race series on the planet.
Mariash, 37, is an affable, authentic force of nature who began running at age five when her mother coaxed her into doing a 5K with her. She crossed the finish line well ahead of mom, won the race in her age class, and was immediately hooked. “When I run, I feel free; it ignites my soul,” says the willowy, 5' 10" runner.
Expanding into duathlons and triathlons in her 20s, Mariash garnered the bronze medal at the 2008 duathlon long-course world championships in her division. Three years ago, she signed up for a 50K endurance run in Oregon and finished in second place. That sparked her transition to running long, which has been her passion ever since.
Mariash believes distance running is her way to inspire people to get outside.
“I want them to get into health and fitness and just move their bodies,” she says. “I hope winning the 4 Deserts Race Series and becoming the first woman to do the Grand Slam Plus empowers other women.”
For years, Mariash alternated between living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Hood River, Oregon, where she acted on her other passion—coffee—by opening her first Stoked Roasters + Coffeehouse in Hood River in 2014. But since stepping onto the world stage of international endurance racing, she began looking for a new, less-isolated home base. After visiting Utah many times, Mariash relocated to Park City in late 2016, drawn by the prospect of running out her door to train at altitude on Park City’s robust trail system. “Park City is bigger than Jackson and close to an international airport,” she explains. “I love the whole scene here, the hundreds of miles of trails, as well as the easy access to skiing in the winter. This is my favorite place I have ever lived! A lot of elite athletes train here, and the whole community has been so welcoming. The dating scene is also better here,” grins the single woman.
Mariash admits, however, that the epic Grand Slam Plus took a toll. “My body was absolutely destroyed after all those long races. ‘Wonder Woman Jax’ lost her armor for a while. It was frustrating and humbling,” she confesses. True to form, she took the seven-month setback she suffered following her Grand Slam feat in stride, choosing to use it as a teachable moment. “I want people to know I’m human,” she says. “Sometimes you have to change your perspective and be OK with it. You can’t always win. Be ready to finish fourth or tenth or one-hundredth, and it’s OK. Be patient with yourself, listen to your body, and let it work itself out. Just don’t quit.”
Now fully recovered, Mariash has already knocked off many of the 19 races she plans to compete in over the 2017–18 ultrarunning season, including the 50K, 10,000-foot-elevation-gain Skyrunning race in Flagstaff, Arizona, and The North Face Endurance Series National Championships, a 50-mile event in San Francisco that winds through the spectacular Marin Highlands before finishing with a sprint across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lately Mariash has been dividing her time between training (her goal is to average 8,000 to 12,000 feet of elevation gain per week) and running Stoked Roasters + Coffeehouse’s newest location (268 Main St), a dream that came true for Mariash last November. “I always said to myself, ‘someday I’m going to open up a coffee establishment in a mountain town,’” she says. “I want everyone to stop by, take a sip, and step outside for an adventure.” Take a peek at the new premises here.
Another of her dreams is to run in as many places in the world as she can. She’s now run on five continents; only Europe and Australia remain. “I’ll get to them, too,” she says. And we have every reason to believe that this Wonder Woman will do just that.