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Hayden Hawks Interview: The Life of an Elite Ultra Marathoner

Hayden Hawks was an elite collegiate athlete that graduated from Southern Utah University. While in School he specialized in the 5k and 10k, running 13:51 and 28:53 for those events. He still lives in Southern Utah and trains as a professional ultra marathoner.


Run Utah:

You were obviously a stud on the track and had a lot of potential there, I feel like the general trend of elite collegiate athletes is to first start competing on the track or roads professional and then they find themselves transitioning later on down the road to the trails, what drew you to the trails and made you want to more or less bypass the professional road/track racing scene?



To answer this question, just know that I have not fully gotten away from the road/track racing scene. I still have a love for this, how could I not, after doing it for almost 10 years. I love running in all forms and really love going really fast on roads and track and chasing times. It is an adrenaline rush and really brings the best out of me. I plan on running a fast half and full marathon next year and some track races. I might even jump into Comrades Ultra road marathon in South Africa, sounds like a great time! I want to explore all avenues in running and be well rounded. I also think it helps my trail running a lot by being fast and having the leg speed and track training regimen, they all link together. My heart is definitely in the mountains and on the trails when it comes down to it. I have always loved being in the mountains and it’s a love that no one will really understand. I love spending long days in the mountains exploring new peaks and trails and find so much peace. I live in a wonderful place for it in Southern Utah and will never stop exploring! I want to build this sport by showing my love and inspiring others by running fast on trails that some people think are un-runnable and long distances that blow people’s minds. I am a trail runner at heart! 


Run Utah:

The transition obviously went very well, you have more or less exploded onto the world trail racing scene winning several big events and even qualifying for the world mountain running championships last year where you placed 4th overall.  It was fun to see you be the 2nd man on the world championship U.S.A. Team that beat the 2nd place team, Italy, by only one point. Tell me a little bit about that experience and what that race did for you in terms of confidence when racing against the best trail runners in the world?


US mountains running Champs was my first real trail race and to make the team gave me a lot of confidence. It fired me up and helped open a lot of doors. I fell in love with the racing style and trails! Then going to Bulgaria and representing my country for the first time was more than amazing. This had always been a dream of mine and then to win gold and place so high really humbled me and brought more confidence. As I stood and heard my national anthem played with my friends and a gold medal around my neck I told myself that I was going to try and be the best trail runner I could be and take this scene and the world by storm. I have always been a driven person and have  goals to be the best that God will enable me to be! I love what I do and I’m so fortunate and want to use all the talents I have been given to the best I can! 


Run Utah:

Do you have any other races that you would consider a highlight in the first few years of your career as a trail runner?



The World Championship was definitely a highlight. I would say the biggest races were my win at Speedgoat 50k in my first Ultra and TNF 50 mile, my first 50 mile race. Speedgoat opened many doors for sponsors and to make this a career and then to run one of the fastest 50 mile debuts ever and take 2nd was icing on the cake. They made a great video about this race and it opened up more doors. I have been very blessed and influenced by so many great men and women that have helped me as a newbie in this sport. Also the Zion Traverse FKT was great too!


Run Utah:

You just finished competing at the IAAF World Trail Running Championships in Europe; tell us a little about your preparation, your race, and your time in Europe?


Going into the championship I was a little tired from all the racing I had done. I had done the Zion Traverse 49 mile FKT and Transvulcania 50 mile race in Spain. Plus all the training and traveling, I didn’t have a lot of expectations and just wanted to do my best. I have to admit that I got a little greedy with my racing and have learned the concept of setting a focus race and not racing too much with Ultras. I was really hoping to see the team podium and hopefully win. We had a strong team and it was supposed to be a good course for us. The course ended up being a lot harder than we thought but we fought hard and came home with a bronze medal! I was happy about that and happy to learn about my toughness in the race and ability to fight. Every race is a learning experience and even though I didn’t have the result I wanted individually I learn from every race and was more excited about the team finish! My teammates did amazing and I am happy to have amazing examples around me. I loved Italy too and love traveling to beautiful places like these! Definitely a plus with the job Pass I have taken!  


Run Utah:

One thing I think that many people don’t understand is just how many miles and time it takes to train for these ultramarathon events, can you give us an inside look as to what a typical hard workout days schedule includes while training for a big race?


It does take a lot of time and work to run at the level we do as elite ultra marathon runners. On my tough weeks I run 150 mile weeks in 6 days. This will also include 3 hard workouts that could include 8-10 mile race pace runs, fast track intervals, fast mile repeats up 500 ft or more climbs and descents 5-6 reps, and 20-30 mile long runs. I also do 2-3 weight training sessions, daily stretching, mental training, and massage. I also work 30 hours a week, have a family, and other activities I am involved in. It can be tough but I love it and would not choose to have any different of a lifestyle. I find joy in this and it is worth it when the results are produced! 


Run Utah:

The theme for this trail edition of Run Utah magazine is “Tackling the Ultra Marathon”. I think even just thinking about the distance is very daunting, if you had some advice for a runner that was transitioning from half or full marathons to the ultramarathon scene what would it be?


I would say to make sure and have training blocks leading into your big race. Don’t get caught up in over racing or not having focus races. It is so easy to get wrapped up in this! You need to periodize your training if you really want to see your true potential and respect the distance, time, and recovery! You need to train and prepare yourself if you truly want to enjoy it and build a love for ultra running, it is hard. That being said, don’t fear it! Don’t ever fear but have confidence in the training you have done and enjoy and love it. It’s not worth doing it if you don’t love it! 


Run Utah:

How has your diet and nutrition patterns changed as you transitioned? And how do you handle fueling and nutrition in the middle of a long race?


I eat a lot healthier now and pay attention to what I am taking into my body because that is the fuel that will get me through the training and race. It is just like a car, you want to put good gas into it! Healthy Whole Foods that aid in recovery are what I focus on. I look at food as merely fuel, but still enjoy food as well! 


During a race I hydrate really well which is the most important and take in 200-300 calories per hour. This usually comes out to be 1 gel every 30 minutes and water and salt tablets for my electrolytes. I use Unived Sports products and really love them! For really long stuff I will eat some normal food as well! 


Run Utah:

Are there any stories or anything else you would like to add?


I would like to thank everyone that has supported me in this journey and am grateful for my sponsors HOKA ONE ONE, NATHAN, Unived Sports, Suunto, St George Running Center, and Drymax Socks. I would also like to thank my friends, family, and all my fans out there. Just make sure to enjoy the process and love what you do! 



Run Utah:

We are very excited to have you represent Utah and this country, you have had a lot of great success and we wish you the best of luck in the future and hope to see many more great races from you in the next few years.

This is one of several great articles from Run Utah Magazines 2017 Summer Edition Check out our other great articles below.

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Do you have excessive fatigue with your running? If you do, you should consider seeing a physician to have blood work done.  The most common causes of fatigue in athletes is poor nutrition, sleep problems, underlying medical problems, iron deficiency, and Vitamin D deficiency.  When seeing patients experiencing fatigue, I usually check a panel of labs to look for underlying causes as well…  READ MORE

The Top Ten Voted Trails in Utah

Summer is the perfect time of year to get out the door and run. Trail running is a favorite in Utah due to Utah’s incredible scenery and well maintained back country trails. With the vast number of trails throughout the state many runners find themselves constantly exploring new places to run trying to find the perfect trail. If you fit this description look no further…  READ MORE

Successfully Transition From Road Marathon To Trail Ultra

For many road runners finishing a marathon is the ultimate accomplishment. It can take months or years of dedicated training, sacrifice, and dietary discipline to reach the holy grail of 26.2. This is a big deal! You should be proud of yourself for finishing this daunting physical and mental event, right? Of course you should, but it’s likely you are already looking for another marathon so you can improve your time or you have a wall full of marathon medals…  READ MORE 

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 13th, 2017 at 9:10 am and is filed under Run Utah Magazine, Summer 2017 Edition, Utah Running. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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