If you ask Paula Maresh what her biggest accomplishment is, the reigning XTERRA USA/Pan Am Champion doesn’t mention her athletic prowess. Instead, she says that she’s a teacher, first and foremost.
“I fit in training as best as I can with the time I have,” says Maresh, who lives in Littleton, Colorado. “But I refuse to tap into my teaching and planning time to workout.”
Instead, Maresh trains after school, fitting in about eight to ten hours a week of quality work at altitude.
“Whenever I get over 10 hours, I’m so tired I can’t even teach, so eight hours of training a week is probably a more accurate number. I do about two bikes, two swims, two runs, and two lifting sessions.”
Like everything Maresh does, she gives it her all, which accounts for her winning her age group at the XTERRA USA / Pan Am Championship in 2017, 2014, and 2012. Last year, she narrowly edged out friend and rival Margo Pitts by less than a minute with the seconds she earned on the swim and the run. Additionally, she has been the XTERRA Regional Mountain Champ eight times.
But Maresh maintains that she doesn’t compete for the medals or the climb to the top step of the podium.
“Why does anyone race?” she asks. “We do it to see how much better we can be. No matter how often you race, something will humble you. That’s what’s so good about sports. It’s practice for real life.”
Real life for Maresh means volunteer work on top of teaching and training. She and her husband are active in their church, and in the past year, Maresh has gotten involved with The 2xtreme Foundation, which was founded by the 2017 XTERRA Warrior, John Davis.
"My husband and I like to give for the sake of giving. It's in my heart and it's important to make time for groups that make a difference."
Ask any XTERRA athlete and they will agree that Maresh is one of the most gracious athletes you will meet. Not only will she give you the jersey off her back, but she’ll also give you the gel that’s in the pocket. It’s difficult to determine whether or not her attitude on the dirt translates to the classroom or her work in the classroom has led to her leadership on the trails, but Maresh works with as much integrity as she plays.
She teaches marine science, which is an interesting choice for someone who is landlocked, but her passion for the oceans comes through in her teaching. Or maybe that is just her passion, period, full stop. Because Maresh doesn’t do anything half-heartedly, she is also known for helping challenging students succeed.
“I think the first thing you have to know with kids is that you can’t judge them. They need to know they are entering your classroom with a clean slate. You gotta keep them engaged and keep them interested. I get students who will never take another science class again so I try to make it interesting and fun and relevant. You don’t have to use what you learn for the rest of your life. You get to choose what you take away from any experience.”
While Maresh is clearly talented, what she hopes to take away from this XTERRA season is what she always hopes to get from racing and training. First, is a sense of peace that comes from being in nature. And second is the experience of living and playing wholeheartedly.
“Racing on the trails is really just a way to practice showing up for life,” she says. “XTERRA for me is a metaphor for what I can overcome as well as how I treat people and situations in real life. It’s how you value the people you are with that makes anything worthwhile.”
You can race alongside Maresh this year at XTERRA Beaver Creek on July 21 in Avon, Colorado, and again in Utah at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship on September 15, 2018.
Learn more at www.xterraplanet.com.