Amelia Boone, AB ’06, is something of a superhero. By day, the 32-year-old works as a corporate lawyer for Apple in San Jose, California. But in her free time, she is an obstacle-course racing icon.
Boone came to prominence in 2012, when she won the World’s Toughest Mudder, a five-mile obstacle course that competitors run for 24 hours. Boone was the top female finisher and the second-place finisher overall.
“The male winner only beat me by like eight minutes,” Boone says. “Usually, you don’t see that. It caught a lot of people’s attention.”
She’s gone on to win the World’s Toughest Mudder two more times. She was also the Spartan Race (another obstacle-course race) World Champion in 2013. That win earned her a Reebok sponsorship and a place on the Spartan Race elite running team, where she’s paid to race.
In addition to Reebok, Boone has other endorsement deals, has appeared in commercials, has provided obstacle-course race commentary for ESPN, and has graced the cover of Runner’s World. She also stars in Spartan Race on NBC Sports, which follows the Spartan Race elite runners as they compete on grueling courses.
Growing up, Boone was an avid athlete and played soccer, basketball and softball on competitive traveling teams. She stopped playing these sports though as she got older.
“When I came to Washington University, I was happy to put the athletic part of [my life] behind me, because I think I kind of burned myself out after a while,” she says. She still ran for exercise, but instead of sports, she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, sang in the Greenleafs a cappella group and was an RA. She also double-majored in political science and anthropology.
After graduation in 2006, Boone enrolled in law school at the University of Washington in Seattle and eventually landed a job at a corporate law firm in Chicago. There, co-workers convinced her to sign up for her first Tough Mudder.
Today, obstacle-course racing is the fastest-growing sport in America, but in 2011, when Boone signed up for her first race, it was just starting. Boone remembers that the race, held at the appropriately named Devil’s Head, Wisconsin, was tough, but she enjoyed it.
“I didn’t realize [there were going to be] monkey bars, and I hadn’t done any strength training or upper-body training, and I was like, ‘These are really hard. We used to do these all the time as kids — why can’t I do monkey bars anymore?’ It was just a challenge for me, and I liked that,” she says.
After the race, Boone got an email that said she qualified for the first-ever World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour race. “I’d never run that far. I’d never competed in a 24-hour event. I had no reason to think I would be decent at it,” Boone says, “but something just possessed me.” She signed up.
The race took place in Englishtown, New Jersey, in the middle of December. Temperatures were below freezing, and for some of the water obstacles, competitors had to hack through ice before they could wade in.
“About 1,000 people started the race,” Boone says, “and the next morning, there were only 11 finishers. I was one of two women.”
She came in second but knew she wanted to try again. In 2012, she won.
Boone has become a legend in the field for doing things like competing in a World’s Toughest Mudder just eight weeks after knee surgery — and winning. Or competing with a broken tailbone — and winning. She thrives when others would capitulate.
“You figure out that there are things you can work through,” Boone says. “And in those low points, you learn how much you’re capable of.”
For Boone, the discipline and mental toughness she needs to win at obstacle-course racing began at WashU. “That is what got me through WashU and why I excelled at WashU, I think,” she says. “It was really that drive, that focus, that motivation that has carried [over] into my athletic career.”