She Who Adventures: Charissa Rujavanech

Oregon Coast 50k. 2016. Glenn Tachiyama photo.

 {Our teammate Charissa lives her life as an authentic adventure. She’s a socially conscious game changer by passion and profession. And she takes her love of movement all over the world. She brings a down-to-earth cheerful spirit to the team and contagious warmth as she continues to add speed to her ultramarathon training schedule. We’re glad she shared a little bit of everything with us and now we can’t help but get curious about ultrarunning because she makes everything look epic.  Thanks for taking us along for the ride, Charissa!}

Catching up with Arete Teammate Charissa Rujanavech

Nicholas Weighall photo.

Thanks so much for catching up with us. We’ve enjoyed having you on the team and are excited to learn more about your life and how running adds to the mix.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? How’d you end up in Santa Cruz?

I was born and raised in Missouri and lived in a slew of places (CO, HI, NE, CT) before moving to California in 2013. I originally moved to San Francisco, but after 2 years I realized that I’m not much of a city person. I moved to Santa Cruz in January 2016 to be closer to the surf and trails and I absolutely love it here!

Maldives. 2016. Kenneth de Souza-Bingham photo.

We know you do some top secret work for your day job. Without divulging too many secrets, can you tell us a little about your work?

I design recycling technologies at Apple to improve the diversity and purity of materials recovered from end-of-life electronic products. We announced my biggest project, Liam, in March 2016 which is an automated disassembly system to recycle iPhones. I’m stoked to keep innovating in the recycling space!

Rad! We love smart girls doing innovative stuff in the world.

Tell us your background with running. How did you come to ultra running?

For majority of my life, rock climbing was my biggest passion (16+ years), but in the winter of 2015 I shattered my wrist and partially severed my EPL tendon in a snowboarding accident. I spent 100+ days of 2015 in a cast and while I was mildly depressed to be sidelined from climbing, a good friend (hi, Jeff!) introduced me to trail running. Our first trail run was in Marin and I ran my first trail race that same weekend while still in a cast. I was totally hooked. Trail running quickly became a way for me to harness a lot of my stoke and energy, and I think the natural desire to explore new places coupled with my semi-competitive spirit, naturally progressed into running further distances. I ran my first ultra 4 months after that first trail race and have been running trails of all distances ever since.

Shuteye Ridge, CA. 2014. Adam Sheer photo

How’d you find Arete and what does it mean to you to be on the team?

When I moved to Santa Cruz, I searched for rad communities and events to join. I somehow stumbled across the Arete page and attended one of the early season track practices. While I was a Santa Cruz newbie and measurably slower in speed work, I felt instantly welcomed by the generosity and enthusiasm of the Arete team members. To me, the Arete team is about sharing a beautiful love for running, staying heathy, working hard, and prioritizing loved ones that makes it so special. I looked forward to every Wednesday night track practice because regardless of the other externalities happening around me, our team’s compassion and positivity was contagious; I always felt better after running sprints with my teammates 🙂

What’s your favorite ultra race and why?

My favorite ultra so far wasn’t actually a race — it was the 60K Kepler Track in New Zealand. It’s typically a 3-4 day backpacking trip, but permits to hike the Kepler were sold out, so I decided to run it as a 60K in a day instead. I ran it solo and unsupported in November 2015, and it is literally the most beautiful trail I have ever seen. It’s a super well maintained single track that snakes up mountains, across an alpine ridge line, and through rolling hills in grasslands and forests. It was extremely special to experience such a wild and beautiful place for my first ultra, and it really proved to me that we are stronger than we know when we get our mind and body to work together.

Breaking into the ultra scene sounds kind of daunting, but people (like you!) with full lives actually do it! So, if you were to give someone advice who’d like to transition into the ultra world, what would it be? Where do we even start?!

First off, follow a training plan! I originally jumped in thinking adding more mileage the better, but I’ve accumulated a short list of injuries that could have likely been prevented had I been smarter about my training plan. Having a plan is key to doing it right and staying healthy. Second, it’s also important to get over “the number” and instead of focusing on how long a 50K or 100K sounds, view it more as an adventure — the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard in a trail race was “if you have a bad day, you’re just going for a nice hike.” And lastly, running with friends is the best. I’ve met some rad people through trail running and the camaraderie from finding other ultra runners makes this sport so wonderful (hi Creedence, Graham and Alex!). At the end of the day, it’s about prioritizing what’s important to you, and trail running speaks to my soul, so I make time for it because I know my life is infinitely better with it.

Chamonix, France. 2016. Charissa Rujanavech photo.

2017 goals–running and otherwise?

Stay injury free 🙂 and to train more wisely to finish my first 100k this year! Otherwise: Be a strong, ambitious, compassionate human to the people and issues I care about.

What’s your vision of an awesome day?

Wake up, drink a cup of coffee and head out on an awesome trail run with friends on a new, winding single track trail. Grab some vegan lunch and then hit the ocean for an afternoon surf session – tropical water (sans wetsuit) would be ideal. Finish the day cooking up some tasty food and chatting about the intricacies of life with good friends.

What’s your vision of an awesome life?

Pretty much an extension of the above awesome day — making the most of life with people you love. I am also a bit type A, so it’s really important to me to be contributing in some way and adding value to the world / society for something bigger than myself. In my current world, it’s about making meaningful contributions against the environmental crisis through effective and scalable change. The underwriting of it all is about finding a balance between personal life and work, and ensuring I don’t get caught up in unconscious inertia of the latter, and being grateful for a healthy mind, body, and life.

Quick takes:

When I’m not running or at work, you’ll find me…


Running fuel:

Skratch Raspberry Fruit Drops – incredibly addicting. And coffee, let’s be real.

Favorite tune:

Kings of Summer – Quinn XCII — reminds me of trail running in the alps last summer!

Favorite city:

Santa Cruz

Best destination run:


I don’t leave the house without…

A reusable water bottle — if I were to have a phobia in life, it is dehydration. I probably over-consume water on a daily basis, thereby creating a slightly neurotic need to have water within reach at all times.

Best running gear…

HOKA ONE ONE shoes, compression socks, and a trucker hat

I’m always thinking…

about efficiency

Worries me…

The environmental crisis and the future of the world

Calms me…

Surrounding myself and engaging with people who want to make effective change


Sets me free

Anything else to add?

I am beyond stoked and grateful to have found the Arete running team. Not only is it wonderful to be around such inspirational, passionate, fit ladies, the team has really given me a sense of community that has added so much positivity to my life.


Thanks, Charissa. We think you’re pretty awesome.

Kepler Track, New Zealand. 2015. Charissa Rujanavech photo.

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