Jax Mariash: Ultrarunning's Wonder Woman

By Jenny Willden

A typical day for Jax Mariash starts at 4:45 a.m. She rises early to fit in 45-100 miles of running a week, while building her growing coffee empire, STOKED Roasters. As the owner and operator of a STOKED roastery and coffeehouse in Hood River, Oregon, as well as a coffeehouse in Park City, Utah, she spends her free time from racing traveling back and forth between both locations.

Known as Wonder Woman Jax for her ability to do it all, Mariash juggles these intense workweeks (ranging wildly from 20 to 80 hours) with her ultrarunning career by meticulously managing her time. "Every day on my calendar is booked to the half-hour," she says.

And whenever she's not roasting STOKED's signature blends, 39-year-old Mariash is running and breaking records along the way.

She specializes in stage racing, long-distance runs divided into specific distances, or stages, where all participants must stop and camp after completing that day's stage. In 2016 she became the first woman in the world to complete the 4 Deserts Race Series Grand Slam Plus, a set of five self-supported, six-stage, 155-mile ultra runs in the planet's harshest environments: Namib Race in Namibia, the Gobi March in Mongolia, the Atacama Crossing in Chile, The Last Desert in Antarctica, and a roving race that changes every year.

Not only did she finish the 4 Deserts, Mariash achieved a podium place at all five races and was the first place female at the Sahara Race (Namibia) 2016, Gobi March (China) 2016, the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2016, and The Last Desert (Antarctica). More recently, Mariash ranked as the 6th female at the 2018 Marathon Des Sables and the Female Champion at the 2018 Grand To Grand Ultra.

But Mariash believes 2020 will be her busiest year yet. "I'm trying to break a World Record by being the first human to win a stage race on every single continent," she says, "and I only have two left."

Mariash had hoped to break the record this year but had to push her plans to next year after illness forced her to withdraw from the Ice Ultra marathon in Sweden on day one in February.

Her quest to break running records while managing a burgeoning coffee business comes at a cost. "You don't have vacations; you don't have weekends," says Mariash. "You just have running, work, and work, work. It's either one or the other all day long,"

After breaking the world record, Mariash plans to step back from stage racing as one of the most decorated athletes in the sport with 12 self-supported stage races, (hopefully) two world records, and the 2016 Female 4 Deserts World Championship under her belt. With the reduced training load she's setting her sights on one-day ultra runs in 2021, hoping to gain some free time to focus on her growing coffee empire, motivational speaking, coaching, and writing a book.



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Achieving a Lifelong Coffee Dream

The idea of owning a coffee business began for Mariash in 1991 at age 11 when she
interned for the Mayor's Office Of Art, Culture and Film in Denver. While serving as the coffee runner, the staff gave her extra money for her own, and she became addicted to the flavor and buzz early on.

But it took until 2013 for her dreams of owning a coffee business to take shape. As she launched her ultrarunning career, Mariash found the perfect coffee roasting and tasting room location where she lived in Hood River, Oregon. After completing an intense eight month internship with roastmaster Stefan Grainda of Jackson Hole Roasters, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, her own STOKED Roasters + Coffeehouse was born. She opened its doors on June 9, 2014.

By 2017, STOKED Roaster's success prompted Mariash to open a second location in Park City, Utah, a new home base where she trains for ultra runs at altitude. Today, she travels back and forth between the two cities to keep a close eye on her coffee operations.

She maintains it all with a tough daily schedule starting with early wake ups, long runs, email and work sessions without changing out of her running wear, stopping by the coffeeshop, hitting the gym again, and working until 11:00 p.m. At 4:45 a.m. the next day she starts the cycle again.

"The business has been intense the last few weeks working for Sundance Film Festival, slinging 500 drinks a day and trying to muster the energy to run," she says. "Then I went straight to Outdoor Retailer, was home for one day, and now I'm in Hood River in a storage room having this call." At the time, she was taking a short break from roasting 12 batches of her signature brews.

For your average human, operating two coffeeshops and an intense professional ultra running career would be overwhelming, but Mariash didn't stop there. She took STOKED Roasters to the next level by launching a line of premium, organic instant coffee, mostly sold online, to grow her bottom line and fuel on-the-go outdoor adventurers like herself.

Mariash calls STOKED coffee, "The Official Coffee of the Outdoors," and it may be the only coffee brand to sponsor athletes. Its Team STOKED ambassadors use the brews while training and competing in the sports of running, cycling, climbing, snow sports, kiteboarding, and more. And the instant varieties are ideal for adventuring, because all you need is eight ounces of hot water to enjoy a cup of coffee anywhere.

As STOKED Roasters grows, so do its profits, "This year we'll go into the green and be a 100 percent profit company," says Mariash. "The goal is to do a million in sales between two locations and sell out of all our instant coffee."

Tips for Doing it all

"To pull off a successful coffee roasting company at STOKED ROASTERS® and two locations, plus a world class running career takes a lot of grit, determination, stamina and hard work," she says. "The good thing is that the same principles of managing your time, goal setting, facing adversity, and so on are present on both sides. This help to toggle the day and stay on track."

On her Instagram account (@jaxmariash), Mariash works to share this balance, honestly documenting her life, from running to coffee to romance. She shares the ups and downs of business ownership and her hectic schedule, crediting her boyfriend, Basit Mustafa, for supporting her through the chaos.

Both ultrarunners, she and Mustafa make time for each other by running, lifting weights, and cooking together. Soon they'll share an office right next to STOKED ROASTERS® in Hood River so they can at least work side by side.

While Mariash feels lucky to be living her running and coffee dreams, she is most grateful for the people in her life. Despite all the sacrifice and time away from them, she believes her support system is vital to her success. So, while she is often overcommitted, Mariash always makes time for those who matter most.

"I have learned from my past how important it is to nurture your love life and make time for it daily, to appreciate it and never take it for granted," she says. For everyone, she believes it's important to find your five closest friends and make time to connect weekly, no matter how busy you get.

Whether you're a runner, entrepreneur, or both, she says balancing your relationships
while making time for self care, is her best tip for succeeding in business and in life.