Interview with The North Face Athlete Diane Van Deren


The 2013 North Face Speaker Series will be making a stop in New Haven, CT on October 23. This year ultrarunner Diane Van Deren will be our guest speaker. Diane overcame 12 years of seizures and brain surgery to be one of the top ultrarunners in the world. When she comes into town Diane will be talking about what it takes to be an ultrarunner and how her brain injury applies to running. Recently, Diane was kind enough to take some time from her training to do an interview with us.

Trailblazer: You were an elite tennis player when you were younger. What led you to change over to running?

Diane: At 17 years old I was a professional tennis player, traveling around the world, and living out of a suitcase. Over time I realized I wasn’t going to make it into the World Top 10 so I decided to try my hands at triathlons. I loved running on trails while training and decided one day to do a 50 mile race. I love running in the mountains, the trails are quiet and still.

Trailblazer: When did you start to realize that there was something wrong and you needed to see a doctor with your seizures?

Diane: I had my first seizure when I was 16 months old. After that I didn’t have any more. Then when I was in high school I started to have auras all of the time. My seizures didn’t start coming on until I was pregnant with my third child. I went to the doctor and tried every medicine out there but was still having seizures 3-5 times a week.

Trailblazer: You knew that surgery was the only option to possibly stop the seizures. What were your concerns of having a portion of your brain removed?

Diane: I just wanted to be normal. There was more of a risk of me dying from a seizure than having the surgery. The surgery was giving me the opportunity to have a normal life. I was hoping for fewer seizures and less medicine. Now I am seizure free. I am so much more grateful for everything.

Trailblazer: How did you have to change as a runner after your surgery?

Diane: Right after my surgery I was in unbearable pain. The headaches were just terrible. Once I recovered from those I was able to use that post surgery pain as motivation when I am running. Without the surgery I might not be alive today. When my body hurts or is fatigued from running I just remember that it isn’t as bad as the surgery.

A big relief after my surgery was that my family didn’t have to worry about me as much. I would go out on a run and they didn’t have to be concerned that I was laying somewhere having a seizure.

Trailblazer: Why is running so important to you?

Diane: A few days after I had just finished 3rd in a 100 mile race I went to speak to some kids with the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado. I wanted to let them know that they shouldn’t let epilepsy ruin their lives that they could do anything, but just might have to do it differently. One of the kids asked if I would run another race for them. I agreed to and promised myself I would continue to run and get better so that one day I could tell their story on a national stage.

Trailblazer: Where in the world would you like to go running that you haven’t gone yet?

Diane: I have been lucky enough to race all around the world. I really like South America and haven’t done any races in Brazil.

Trailblazer: Do you have a race that was the most memorable?

Diane: Beating the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail record by 2 days was the most memorable. It was 1000+ miles of the most emotional, physical, and demanding running I have done. Runners from all over North Carolina came together to help me reach my goal. I don’t want to say too much about this now because I will be talking more about it when I come to New Haven.

Trailblazer: What is your favorite piece of gear or clothing from The North Face?

Diane: I really like The North Face’s Women’s Performance Running line. The pieces are reliable and durable. The Women’s Enduro Pack is great for running, it’s light, quick and I’m not even aware it is on me.

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