Meet Karina Ray: All-Terrain Runner and Hope Fiend

Meet Karina Ray: All-Terrain Runner and Hope Fiend

Karina Ray is an incredibly humble, all-terrain runner who excels at high intensity mountain solo runs. Most runners would need several months of training before attempting their daily distances. Take, for instance, the day she decided to run 28 miles in 90-degree heat because she had always wanted to see a particular mountain range! 

Whether she is summiting a Pacific Northwest volcano, running a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, running in ultras, bagging a local peak, or serving as a pacer for over 50 miles of the Bighorn 100 Trail Run, she says, “I always have on my SKINS. I fell in love with how they help me reach my goals in mountains and beyond.” 

The first time Karina wore SKINS, she ran her fastest half marathon in a training run. She laughs when telling the story. She was so shocked at her time; she thought something must have been wrong with her watch. 

Because she enjoys running on the less-traveled, gnarly terrain, she was beyond thrilled to find running gear that decreases her chances of getting injured. “Wearing SKINS is like having a tighter chassis on the trail. It’s like you tightened up the suspension on your Jeep, and you’re not going to have as much damage on the undercarriage.” 

Karina’s running journey began when she was 12 years old after a rather short and humorous stint playing basketball. “I was so bad,” she said, “that I scored baskets for the other team!” However, her mom recognized how fast she was getting down the court and suggested that she might be better suited for track. And so began her exuberant passion for running.  

High achievement is nothing new for this lifetime athlete. In high school, she was the 8th fastest 1600-meter runner in the state of Washington, served as co-captain of her cross-country team ranked 7th in the nation, and maintained an A average in AP classes. She became a collegiate student athlete on scholarship and specialized in the 800/1500 meters and ran cross country. She was also the youngest to be accepted into her graduate program.  

Her brother, an Olympic level rower nicknamed “Animal,” was her athletic inspiration.  When she was 18, he began sending her workouts, particularly pull-ups, and challenged her by saying, “I bet you can’t do this.” To say she couldn’t do something was like throwing gasoline on an already burning fire. She always, always proved him wrong.  

To this day, body weight exercises, especially pull-ups, are part of Karina’s daily training maintenance. Anytime she has been down from an injury, she’ll continue to do pull ups. It is her way of keeping connected to fitness. Her trail name is “Karina Bird.” Her back muscles are so strong from so many years of pull-ups, she likes to say, “they built her wings to keep going.” 

It’s easy to think of this high performing, lifetime athlete as a superhuman with extraordinary strength, but that is only part of her story. She’s also an extraordinarily superhuman first, and an athlete second.  

It’s been said that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. Karina has had her share of difficult roads and says that her whole athletic journey has been a spirit quest.  She shares openly about the life traumas she has experienced including losing her home to a volcano eruption at 7 years old, parental divorce, living with undiagnosed celiac disease for three decades, and domestic violence by her first husband. 

She is also beautifully transparent about how her time spent altitude training in the South Island of New Zealand allowed her to reconnect with herself and open her heart to forgive those who had caused her pain. “Running in the mountains is the most peace I’ve ever felt in my life.” She loves the head space and soul space that exists there and appreciates that it’s severed from the constant daily grind. It has been Karina’s passageway to rediscovering herself and to personal healing. “Moving in mountains has given me the power to move more confidently in my life outside of mountains.” 

Karina describes herself as a hope fiend. “It is not Pollyanna’ish. It’s more that I can sit with what is and still have belief no matter how dark it gets that there is a way.” This belief is reflected in her life’s work where she is devoted to helping others. Karina is a licensed mental health therapist and art psychotherapist where she uses art therapy as a way for people to create expression that will foster healing and mental wellbeing. In addition, she is a run specialist at REI where she expertly outfits runners as well as others in order to help them reach their goals. 

Not only does Karina have two jobs, but she is also the mother of an incredible teenage son, and because of her celiac disease, she thrives when cooking her own meals. Throw in a few 100 mile per week mountain runs and that’s quite a balancing act! Because every minute counts, Karina often wears her SKINS garments under her work clothing and has even been known to sleep in her SKINS. That way, she can seamlessly go from work or sleep to training. 

“When I wear SKINS, I feel bad for everybody else. I seriously do.” Because of that, Karina is always sharing her love of SKINS products with other athletes. “It’s hard NOT to talk about it. I LOVE SKINS compression. It is sun protective, lowers my heart rate, and I can wet it and it will cool me down. That’s not clothing, it’s a training tool!” 

We couldn’t have said it better. Thanks for being such a positive advocate of SKINS, Karina! We admire you! You are an amazing athlete and an even more amazing human.  Here’s to setting and reaching more goals in beautiful destinations!

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