CHRISTA HAYES

CHRISTA HAYES

Tell us about yourself! What you do for a living, how you chose Bozeman as your home, what you enjoy doing in your free time, etc. 

For a living I work as math professor at Montana State University – but to be honest I’m trying really hard not to let my work define who I am as a human.  I’m a mom, an explorer, world traveler, activist, wilderness lover, aspiring athlete, and humanist, and a fun and kind human being who happens to be a mathematician.  I first moved to Bozeman to attend grad school and ended up building my life here.  My partner and I have a yours, mine and ours family with four kids ranging in ages from 7 to 15; there’s always something happening at our house.  My free time is often spent outside with friends and family on photography, traveling, and my new found loves are cross country skiing, hiking, and as of this last weekend, backpacking.

What first brought you to train at The Mountain Project?

Last year I decided to focus on a goal that for my entire life has felt unattainable: to be fit.  Along those lines, I set a goal of backpacking The Beaten Path and was looking for help in how to make that a reality (a couch to Beaten Path program).  Always the fat kid, I’ve never been fit (by almost any measure) – and the word ‘athlete’ used all over The Mountain Project website nearly led me to simply look elsewhere (I’m not a part of that crowd!)– but then I saw the words below and it gave me the courage to reach out to you (and I’m so glad I did)!  

We are open and inclusive to all athletes, whether novice or elite. Whoever you are, our mission is to help you do that which might seem unattainable” 

You recently achieved a huge goal and backpacked The Beaten Path trail! In fact, it’s what you’ve been training for since you started coming to TMP. Congrats! Tell us about your experience on the trail. 

My son and two dear intrepid friends adventured with me on my first ever backpacking trip.  On the first night I awoke to a seriously foul smelling animal heavily breathing close to my ear and moments later it was moving the pack by my feet. Clutching my bear spray, I thought “here it is, death. I guess this is how I’m going out.” Turned out we were surrounded by a herd of mountain goats…  Two days in Emily (my TMP coach) ran the entire 26 miles in one day and hiked with us for part of the trip.  I adored Emily before that, but now she’ll definitely never shake me.  She’s an absolutely amazing badass athlete with a heart as big as her strength.  Aside from our mountain goat close call, it was physically terribly anti-climactic since I was so very well prepared!    

How did training at TMP impact your trip?

When I first started training at TMP I was an out of shape, overweight, middle-aged woman clutching a serious self-limiting belief system. I wasn’t physically strong and even just last year could barely look at myself in the mirror, never mind go on a hard hike. Training at TMP helped me shift my mindset and become strong enough physically to make hiking The Beaten Path a reality.  Most of my life, I didn’t ski or kayak or climb or backpack because, well, fit people do that, and so somehow I’m not allowed (despite having a heart longing to join in).  I now have tried and love all those things, and working with Emily has been life changing not just for me, but for my entire family.  

Any future trips or goals on the horizon? 

Someday I’d like to do be able to hike The Beaten Path (or trails like it), in a day.  I’m a little worried it may be emotionally overwhelming to try to process that much beauty in a day, but I think that being able to do so would open up even more of the world to me and my family.  My son Reece wants to do it too!

 If you could describe TMP – it’s coaches, athletes, and community – in three words, they would be… 

Gonna break the rules here…3 words doesn’t even come close.  What I found at TMP is an astounding community of incredible, supportive, inspiring, awesomely hard working, reach for the sky, badass humans. Not once have they questioned my body’s ability to work hard to realize my dream. Never am I treated as lesser than or out of place. To the contrary: I am welcomed, included, inspired, and encouraged. Emily, Colleen, and Mike are heroes to me because of how they approach life and training and teaching.  I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of TMP community and recognize how deeply they have touched both my and my family’s lives.