Years running, years running trails, years running ultras
I began running in 7th grade (16 years ago) to keep in shape for basketball, but got serious about running after a fun trail (more like creek) run in 9th grade. My high school cross country team tried to stay off roads as much as possible and this is when I fell for trails. So I guess I could say I have been running trails ever since I was a runner and have never left them, except by force (weather or travel).
I ran my first ultra in Virginia in 2011 for fun and to train for a marathon and instantly could not wait to move from the roads to the ultra scene.
Race plans for this year
Ironically, my goal race for this spring is the MadCity 100k (serving as the 100k National Championship) and has nothing to do with trails, although it is as ultra as I have done. It is really more about my desire to represent the U.S. in a World Championship, and this would be my best chance to do so. After that I plan to get back to the trails, especially since the snow will be clearing up on our mountains around that time. I am still figuring out my summer and fall, but plan on running the Flagstaff Endurance Run (USA Sky Running Series) and would like to get into the North Face Challenge San Francisco.
What does “Run Steep Get High” mean to you?
Run Steep Get High is all about getting to the most beautiful places you can, which means taking the tougher steeper path. To me it is using running as a means to value creation over self. It is an aid for me to look outside of myself, who likes to find value in itself by focusing on what I can achieve in times and places, and instead to look at creation and be pointed to the glory and value of the Creator.
How did you get into running?
I began running in 7th grade because I thought it would keep me in shape for basketball. I got more serious about running when I thought I would have a better chance as a runner to go to UNC Chapel Hill, my dream school at the time, than as a basketball player.
What drives you to compete in running?
I think the best part of competition is that it motivates me to push my limits further than I would without it. Therefore, as I test my limits, I learn more about who I am as a person, which isn’t always pretty. The good news, however, is that when I see my weaknesses I get to fight them and am moved to compete with them (myself) even more than other competitors.
What is your favorite race?
My all time favorite race is the Boston Marathon. I have had the privilege of running it three times. On the Ultra Scene is tough because two of my roughest days came at two of the most beautiful courses: Promise Land 50k and White River 50 Miler. At Promise Land, a 34 mile run in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia I was on course record pace at 26 and fell apart up the last big climb, cramping in my calves and spending some time laying in the dirt. Still, it was a gorgeous course and put on by wonderful people. White River was maybe the most beautiful course I have run, as it gives you many views of Mt. Rainer. It also has sentimental values as it takes place where I use to ski with my dad and siblings as a little kid. This past summer I raced there, however, and I will just say it did not go near how I imagined. So although those were my favorite courses, my overall most fun ultras were probably JFK, Terrapin Mountain (Virginia), and the Crown King Scramble.
What is your most epic running experience?
It’s a very tough choice, but it is probably between doing the Great Ocean Road (Australia) Half Marathon on a whim, winning the Gran Canaria Marathon, (Spain), or getting lost on a training run in the heals surrounding Kigali, Rwanda. In the first, my friend and I rented a camper van in Australia and were driving all around. We found out that the Great Ocean Road was going to be closed due to a race once we got there. After a night in the van by the beach, I woke up about an hour before the start of the race, found the race director, and begged to be let in (I was a poor college student and they had pretty good prize money and the previous year’s results made me think I could win it). After much pleading, she let me in, I ran to the van, changed, and told my friend I would be back in a few hours. I rushed to the starting line without having eaten or drank anything and got ready to race. During this process I found out that it was 23k (not 21k like a normal half) and that this would not be so easy. Long story short, I came in 2nd, won $1000, and then had enough money to upgrade our trip and drive through the Outback (another epic story in itself). When I won the Gran Canaria Marathon I was representing Athletes in Action and was blessed to be able to represent their ministry from the race champion platform, which I found out is MUCH more celebrated in Europe than in the States. Getting lost in Rwanda was a thrill in its own, but I also got to see so much beauty in the process, both in the amazing hilly landscape and to see rural, non-tourist Africa. When I finally realized I was back on the right road back home I was so relieved and filled with Joy, and the school children running beside me laughing all the way made it all the more joy filled.
What is your favorite trail or place to run?
I am fairly new to Flagstaff, but so far my favorite place to run here is an 18 mile loop that starts at snow bowl and goes almost to the summit of Mt. Humphreys before looping on a ridgeline overlooking Locket Meadows back down to Snow Bowl. I think I could do this run every weekend this summer and still be captivated by all the beauty.
How has running impacted your life?
Running has been a gift to me in so many ways. Through running, I have made a good deal of friends, helped me go to and get through college, stay healthy, and been used as a main tool of processing and distressing in my life, so much that if I am struggling being stressed out, for instance, my wife tells me I should go run because usually I can take a deep breath and work it all out on the trails. When I get back I feel a lot better and am generally more pleasant to be around. It also has given me time with my God. I try to see my time running as an opportunity to make the trails or roads a sanctuary where I can pray to and worship my Lord and hear from Him as well. So again, running has been a holistic gift to my health (emotionally, socially, physically, and spiritually).
Favorite beer or other non-running indulgence?
Although I like many different types of beer, and feel that I am still learning so much, my favorite is cider ( Hornsbys, Woochucks, and the like). I understand some would not call this beer, but it is the most enjoyable beverage on draft to me. I feel it is important to mention that I value drinking moderately (not to get drunk). I believe that is the best way to enjoy the gift of beer, wine, ect.
What are your other hobbies?
Hands down, my co-favorite hobby is traveling. I also really like photography, but am quite an amateur. Still, my favorite things to do are to spend time with my wife and play with my two little boys. They would top the list, but I don’t normally call them hobbies.
What is your profession?
I serve my church, North Point Fellowship, as their counseling pastor. I spend a lot of time walking beside hurting people and marriages to seek the healing and satisfaction of Jesus.
Top running performances (personal bests) or recent race results?
2:19:43 at 2011 Boston Marathon
4th at 2011 JFK 50 Miler
4th at 2012 USATF Trail Marathon Champs (Moab)
1st at 2013 Crown King Scramble
1st at 2014 Sean O’Brien 50k
3rd at 2014 Phoenix Marathon (2:27:16)