Dylan Bowman, ultrarunner

Enjoy the silence

Words: Andreas Tzortzis
Photography: Cameron Baird/Red Bull Content Pool 

The champion ultrarunner doesn’t chase competitors or split times. When he runs 100 miles, he chases peace and quiet. 

An irrepressible athlete at a young age, Bowman made his name as the “hustle guy” during his collegiate lacrosse career. When that ended, he turned to running short distances in the high altitude of his home in Aspen, Colorado. Then he gradually ran longer and longer. Now considered one of the top long-distance runners in the world competing at distances of 50k, 50 miles, 100k and 100 miles, Bowman talks about why his worst attributes make him a good runner, and what goes on in his head during those long hours on the trail.

THE RED BULLETIN: So first, the pain: How do you feel after a 100-mile race? 

DYLAN BOWMAN: After the 100s, I’ve had a pretty serious need to lay down. The bouts of shaking and nausea, again make you question why you do it. But the next day when you look at it - all those questions seem pretty silly. 

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That runner’s high is delayed. That’s odd. 

Sometimes you think - what a lousy way to make a living - but those days are so powerful and important in my life. And have helped me other parts of my life.

How do those moments help you in other aspects of life?

It makes everything seem less hard and less important. It helps you to stress less about the little things. And obviously, the belief in yourself that you can get through things is greatly enhanced when you can prove to yourself that you can do it. 

Like your competitiveness? 

When I think about it I’m a very impatient person. And in running, that’s an asset. If I lollygag, if I’m in a tough spot or I’m at an aid station, that impatience forces me forward more. I’m also super stubborn. If I feel like a race isn’t going my way, I’ll usually be stubborn enough to keep banging my head against the wall until I get it done. Those are assets when it comes to racing and competition but certainly if you ask my fiancée about my impatience she’ll have a different perspective on it, just because it’s not the best character trait outside of running. 

What do you think about during those long hours on the trail?

A lot of the time, you think about nothing. Those are the moments you cherish. Other times, you can be lost in thought, thinking of something that’s stressed you out. But there really are moments when you achieve silence.

The Red Bulletin Podcast: Ultra Runner Dylan Bowman

The top ultra-runner doesn't chase competitors, or split times. He chases silence when he runs - The Red Bulletin, an active men's lifestyle magazine

Ultrarunners are afflicted with overtraining syndrome. A number of top names have been stricken down by it, like Olympian Ryan Hall. You blacked out on a race yourself, right? 

It was a freak accident. But it’s something I carry with me. What that incident taught me was to not take races lightly, to not get dehydrated, basically. You have to align your motivations with your physical capacity to do certain things. It’s been interesting to learn how to say no to certain opportunities. I want to have a long career and if I do, I’ll be able to get to all the races I’m motivated to get to it. 

People run because of the high they get. But how can a runner’s high last 100 miles? 

I have maybe a handful of runs a year that are those magical runs. And I run almost every day. That’s a very tiny fraction of your turns that are great, but when they happen at the right time they’re transcendental experience and it’s almost something you crave, addictively. 

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