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The Heart of Mountain Marathon Queen Stevie Kremer

How one of the world’s most iconic sprint-to-stardom trail runners balances a life of extremes

Morgan Tilton

December 4th, 2023

12 min read


On June 13, 2008, Stevie Kremer shimmied across the finish line of her first-ever trail race. She was wearing PEARL iZUMi trail shoes she’d snagged on clearance and her statement pearl earrings—the ones her grandmother gives her every few years for Christmas or her birthday. She was also dead last. But the 5-foot 1-inch-tall woman’s bright smile shone like the rare jewels on her ears. The day was an eye-opener for Kremer: She’d spent more than a few hours running and hiking the 11-mile Camp 4 Cart to Cart Trail Run from the Crested Butte South neighborhood into the Elk Mountains via singletrack. Surrounded by steep slopes dotted with larkspur, paintbrush, sunflowers and aspens, the then 24-year-old German-American from Darien, Connecticut, fell in love with moving through the mountains, and catalyzed an athletic career. In the years ahead, she’d hold trail-running achievements on a global stage while pushing forward her other life dreams—though not without sacrifice. 

Kremer moved from Germany to the United States around the age of 1 when her dad, who still has a German accent, was transferred by the bank of employment. Kremer, who says she’s never been able to sit still, filled her teenage years at Darien High School with soccer, doubles tennis, and golf. She also ran indoor track, including the 4×800, 1600-, and 3200-meter distances, which she detested slightly less than the seasonal alternative: basketball. She was “not a runner.” On winter weekends, Kremer traveled with her family to ski at Vermont’s Killington or Okemo Mountain Resorts. “I wasn’t competitive. We were not a bell-to-bell family. Skiing was fun, but I never thought I’d move to a mountain town and love winter sports as much as I do,” Kremer says. 

Not as academically motivated as her two siblings, Kremer applied to a handful of colleges in the South and two in Colorado, where her family had traveled a few times on ski trips. In the winter of 2002, she moved to Colorado Springs to attend Colorado College (CC), studying sociology and journalism and landing a summer internship at SKI Magazine in Boulder in 2004. “That summer, I was living alone and signed up for the Boulder Backroads Marathon to pass the time,” says Kremer, who prepped for the race by running up-and-down Barr Trail from Manitou Springs to the summit of 14,115-foot Pikes Peak: The route was 13 miles one-way with 7,400 feet of vertical gain. It was her first stint running on a trail. 

Photo top of page and above by Chris Segal

After earning her master’s in education at CC, Kremer moved to Crested Butte, in 2006. A friend introduced her to the small ski town (population just over 1,500) at 8,885 feet, surrounded by 12- and 13,000-foot peaks. She secured a group sales position at Crested Butte Mountain Resort and ran on the dirt roads. “I didn’t know much about trail running, and I like to know the miles I run everyday—I’m not adventurous in that respect,” says Kremer, who still sets her alarm at either 4:52 or 5:52 a.m., depending on the season, to run or skin at the ski area before work, followed by an occasional evening double. 

Within a year, she joined Crested Butte Elementary School as a third grade teacher, worked summers at the local golf club, and met her then boyfriend J. Marshall Thomson, who became her avid run and ski training partner. By the time Kremer crossed the finish line of the Cart to Cart, she’d adapted to remote mountain life and was excited by the welcoming community. “At the race’s end, a neighbor asked if I’d run with her and we’re still great friends. I found friends who would hike fourteeners and run the flats, which goes way faster—that’s how I really got into trail running,” Kremer says. Soon, her regional race results became “decent,” recalls the humble athlete who won Gunnison’s 25K Sage Burner Trail Race in 2009. She then took second at the 17.1-mile Imogene Pass Run from Ouray to Telluride, followed by a sweep of first place finishes over the following two years including the Sage Burner, Leadville Trail Marathon, and Aspen Backcountry Marathon. A friend and professional athlete, Jari Kirkland, took notice. “I didn’t feel good enough for sponsorship. She reached out to Salomon, her sponsor for adventure racing, on my behalf in April 2012. I became one of the U.S. ambassadors,” says Kremer, who simultaneously landed an overseas teaching exchange in Italy at the International School of Trieste. 

Before moving to Europe, Kremer’s racing success hit a new level. She set the women’s course record at the 14.5-mile Mt. Evans Ascent in June, then took fourth at July’s Loon Mountain Race in New Hampshire—despite going off course—qualifying for the U.S. Mountain Running Team and the World Championships in Ponte di Legno, Italy, on September 2. When U.S. trail-running legend Pablo Vigil invited her to represent the U.S. at the Sierre-Zinal, she anxiously agreed: The 19-mile route in Switzerland’s Valais Alps is among the world’s most competitive sub-ultramarathons. “No one else could go do it—that’s the only reason I was invited. I was definitely the unknown soldier,” says Kremer self-deprecatingly. She placed second, “shocking everyone,” followed by taking the first U.S. win at Switzerland’s Jungfrau Marathon in two decades—the race also happened to be the World’s Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Under a global spotlight, Kremer’s name caught like wildfire in the European scene. She was invited to race on the Italian Salomon Team while teaching abroad, competing in mountain running and ski mountaineering races on the weekends. 

Kremer didn’t slow her pace upon returning to Crested Butte. For three years, she’d hop on international red-eyes to China, South Africa, South America, or Europe for an end-of-the-week race and return home by Sunday for school, never missing more than a couple days of work. In 2013, she became the SkyRunning Sky Series World Champion. In 2014, she returned to Sierre-Zinal and took first place beside Kilian Jornet: To date, only five U.S. runners have won in the race’s 49-year span (Pablo Vigil himself won four consecutive races, from 1979 to 1982). “When I got to races jet-lagged, I hated that the other runners had been there five days. But if I got injured, I wanted the balance in my life—I didn’t want to put all my eggs in a running basket,” says Kremer, who refused to take a leave of absence from her job at Crested Butte Elementary. 

For three years, she’d hop on international red-eyes to China, South Africa, South America, or Europe for an end-of-the-week race and return home by Sunday for school, never missing more than a couple days of work. In 2013, she became the SkyRunning Sky Series World Champion. In 2014, she returned to Sierre-Zinal and took first place beside Kilian Jornet: To date, only five U.S. runners have won in the race’s 49-year span (Pablo Vigil himself won four consecutive races, from 1979 to 1982).

Kremer’s other dream was to start a family. After a few years, she tapered back her endurance miles to try for pregnancy. Eventually she and Thomson married and sought in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 2015. In two two-week rounds to fetch embryos, Kremer woke at 3 a.m. every other day to drive four hours each way for doctor’s appointments. A single healthy embryo was secured: her “one little hope.” After the year-long process, Kremer received “the best news” that she was pregnant with her now 5-year-old son, Hans. While pregnant, she walked 5 to 7 miles daily and began jogging again at the twelve-week mark. On cloud nine, she ran 8.5 miles the morning Hans was born. From there, she followed a 32-degrees Fahrenheit rule: Above, she’d run with Hans in a stroller on dirt roads before or after work. If colder, she’d do treadmill speedwork while Hans played. “I loved and wanted to be with him,” says Kremer. Once monthly, she’d hire a babysitter and go trail run. By 2019, she was eager to have another child, started another IVF treatment and became pregnant, hearing a heartbeat by December. 

Photo credit Stevie Kremer

Less than two months passed. In January, Kremer experienced a miscarriage, followed closely by Gunnison County’s abrupt shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. While visiting family in Connecticut and working remotely that April, she sensed distance in her 13-year partnership. In the months that followed, she and Thomson ended their marriage. Kremer returned to Crested Butte to face the heartache later that year. “It was hard to come back, but I’d been here 14 years, and [this] is where my people are. I want my kid to grow up with this environment and in these mountains. The community support I continue to receive three years later has allowed me to get back into running and racing as a single parent—I’m so lucky,” says Kremer, who took four falls on the descent and placed first at the June 2021 Pikes Peak Marathon, finishing in 4:34:47, seventeen minutes slower than her 2013 win. The following autumn, in true Kremer style, she traveled 42 hours from Crested Butte to Chiang Mai, Thailand, the day before the November 2022 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships. Despite dehydration and nausea from the humidity and heat, she placed thirteenth in the short trail race for Team USA, helping the team capture the silver medal. 

Kremer demonstrates the same resilience on snow. In April 2023, she and Kristin Layne won the Grand Traverse point-to-point 40-mile backcountry ski mountaineering race from Crested Butte to Aspen—despite the fact that Kremer lost one soft flask in a ski fall and the other froze, forcing her to again face dehydration. More important than winning, Kremer fundraised upwards of $10,000 for Crested Butte State of Mind, a nonprofit that provides community mental health support including therapy scholarships for all ages. Kremer is on the board of directors. After teaching elementary school for a decade, Kremer became a middle school counselor in 2018 before transitioning to elementary school counselor in 2022. She also continues to work part-time at The Club at Crested Butte golf course.

“As a teacher, I wanted to spend more time with each kid and be a listening ear—they have a lot going on and that’s often what they need—but it’s hard working one-on-one when you have 25 kids. Seeking therapy, even just once, can benefit and change your life for the good,” says Kremer, whose choice antidote for a tough day is fresh air. She adds, “I love helping people, seeing Hans happy, and getting kids at school to smile—it’s good to know you can make a difference. I hope my son grows up to be healthy, kind, respectful, and happy: That’s what drives me.”

Photo credit Stevie Kremer

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