This Is Why I Run – Luke Nelson

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This Is Why I Run – Luke Nelson

My name is Luke Nelson and I am an endurance runner. I thrive on being in the mountains. When I am not running I can be found spending time with my wife and  three kids, being an activist for the environment, or sometimes working my day job as a Physician Assistant. 




The idea of balance in life is a myth, at least I think so. For nearly a decade I’ve chased balance as I juggle being a professional endurance runner, Physician Assistant, race director, activist, husband, and father. There are a thousand things that request my attention and a hundred that demand it at any given moment. Years ago, through the lens of youthful optimism, I went as far as starting a blog called the Challenge of Balance, as if it were something I had mastered. The more I claimed to have balance the more I realized that I lacked it. The reality was that true perfect balance doesn’t exist, and it isn’t what I actually wanted.


“True perfect balance doesn’t exist.”


With so many things going on, life can quickly turn into managing one dumpster fire after another. Frantically going from one major problem to the next, while everything else is neglected until it bursts into flames. This is no way to live life, yet I think many of us are at that point. As we juggle the demands of work, family, and fitness (at whatever level), there is a constant shifting of focus. Frankly there are times when training for a big event will demand time, and this will take from family or affect work. Then that big project at work comes along and there’s no time to train; and the family greets a weary father right before bed. There are also times when all that matters is the family and work and training suffer. The struggle, even battle, for equilibrium rages on.


While I feel like I still have much to learn about balancing life, I do feel that I have gained some insight and experience that is worth sharing and may help others find a way to manage life a little better.


Make A Schedule

First, make a schedule and stick to it. There are simply far too many things to be done that can easily be forgotten. The schedule needs to be written out and left in a centralized place. Include one for work: complete with meetings, deadlines, trainings etc.. Family events need to be on that schedule too, along with time set aside for family. Last but not least is training. It’s best when planned out with time blocked for it. With all of this information written down and scheduled it’s easier to stay on top of it. It is also incredibly useful to share this schedule with your family and, if appropriate, with work. Having others aware of the demands on your time can create an atmosphere of respect for your time at work and at home.


“Life needs spontaneity, which seems to be opposed to scheduling.”


Be Flexible

There will be times when the schedule is thrown out the window and that’s ok. It leads us to my next recommendation: be flexible. Even with best intentions, there are times when something unexpected pops up, and the schedule will be scrapped. Occasionally life needs spontaneity, which seems to be opposed to scheduling. Strict rigidity to the plan leaves no room for impromptu play dates, micro-adventure, or a something urgent at work. A word of caution though, if you find you are always breaking from the schedule the plan needs revisited. Spontaneity should be the spice of life, not the primary ingredient.



“We aren’t perfect, and shouldn’t demand that of ourselves.”


Be Kind

My next piece of advice is to be kind. Be kind to the amazing people you work with, and let them know how amazing they are. Often, we spend more time with the people we work with than with our families and they should be able to feel joy when you are around. I firmly believe kindness and gratitude lead to efficiency at work, so try it out. Remember to be nice to your body. As athletes, we’re constantly pushing our body to stay strong or to get faster. Listen to your body, and be kind when it starts to let you know it needs something. You won’t instantly become unfit if you skip a workout or two because you’re tired or feel the twinges of injury. Finally, be kind to yourself. We are often our own worst enemies placing high demands on ourselves and time. We can be terribly brutal to ourselves if we come up short or aren’t meeting our goals. We aren’t perfect, and shouldn’t demand that of ourselves.



“Take time for yourself.”


Putting this all together can help, but there is one missing piece. Something I have found to be a critical skill in trying to balance life is to take time for yourself. Everything up to this point has been about managing the external factors of life. But we need to take some time that’s focused just on us. Fortunately for me, I can kill two birds with one stone since my “me time” is often done while running. I can slip in my Jaybird Freedoms, crank the tunes, and leave the madness behind.



“I’m committed to seek improvement,”


I’ve structured training that often requires additional focus, but there is international unfocused running time when I can focus on me. This time for self-reflection allows me to check in and see how I am holding up and to honestly review what is demanding more attention so I can swing life back closer to balance. Like my other recommendations, this has a place, but cannot be the norm. If all the focus is spent on self, all else falls apart. I do know that if I get my run time and my me time, I’m more engaged and focused on whatever else is front of me (family or work), and I’m a better human for it. Admittedly, I constantly strive to achieve better balance in life, and there is much to learn, but I’m committed to seek improvement and hope that you can be too.



We also want to hear your stories. Share your motivation for running in a short story and hashtag #whyirunjaybird on Instagram for a chance to win weekly prizes including earbuds and a chance to be featured on our social channels. We’re inspired by every type of runner, so don’t hesitate to share your passion with us. To the parent that wakes up early before sending their kids off to school, the beginner seeking to finish their first 5k, and the marathoner looking to set a new PR, your passion inspires more people than you’ll ever know. Share your stories with us and #runwild. Find more info about the This Is Why I Run series here.


Keep in touch with Luke!


This Is Why I Run – Timothy Olson

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This Is Why I Run – Timothy Olson

My name is Timothy Olson and I am the two-time winner and record holder of Western States 100 Mile race. I enjoy long runs up mountains, challenging my body, mind and spirit. I find inspiration in the land, trees, mountains and wildlife, connecting with them on the run, feeling their energy, allowing me to run wild and free. I believe that by being connected to our earth and living consciously and mindfully, we can create vibrations to inspire individual and collective steps to heal, care and nurture our environment and ourselves. I use a daily meditation practice and have found the value of this practice to motivate, inspire and balance my passions of family, running, nutrition and mindful lifestyle. I reside in Boulder, CO with my wife, Krista, and sons Tristan & Kai.  



“I can be at ease with how life flows”


I run to be free and to appreciate life. With each step I feel at peace and grateful for air to breathe, a body that moves, and the connection with our magnificent earth. When I run, worries melt away and I know no matter what, I can be at ease with how life flows. Nature offers an endless network of inspiration and healing that anyone can engage with. My medicine of choice is running. There’s something so primitive and freeing about taking in a three hundred and sixty degree mountain landscape. It brings my awareness into the present, which is always right there but can be missed in the hustle, bustle, and “to do” list of life . I run to enter each present moment with a sense of appreciation and a sense of gratitude.

Photo: Greg Snyder

“Once that switch flipped, and running became meditative…”


My entrance into trail running came from a somewhat darker place. I ran as an escape from my insecurities of the past instead of as a medium into the present moment. Now, this is my aim everyday, every moment, and a continuous practice; to rip off the blindfold of anxiety, insecurities, and depression that ruled my life for too long. Once that switch flipped, and running became meditative, the true energy of it awoke within and around me. I felt a ripple effect of balance flowing into all areas of my life. This balance is what I hinge my livelihood on, what grounds me even on the busier or more stressful of days. Whether it be a difficult training day, playing with my two dapper boys, or waiting in a busy security line on the way to the next great place, I lean on the balance and presence running has introduced to me.

“my family always comes first”


I have two young, wild boys, Tristan (5) and Kai (1.5). No matter where running takes us, or what race I’m focusing on, my family always comes first. If we’re traveling the world or at our home in Boulder, life is usually a whirlwind of chaos. Through this chaos, my two wild boys and beautiful wife, Krista remain the fiber of my ethos. Running gives me the patience and presence to be a better father, husband, friend, and person.


“I couple my running with a sitting meditation practice”


While ideally every moment during every run would feel zen-esque and enlightening, even in the midst of a grueling adventure, freezing, in the middle of the night with precipitation slapping you in the face at mile 80 – this isn’t always the case. So, I couple my running with a sitting meditation practice. This builds a sort-of repertoire of mental fitness I can later tap into while I’m digging deep on the next crazy adventure, like last month as I ran the Bear 100 mile run. Being present forces you to recognize your weaknesses, front and center, and acknowledge them. You can then investigate what you can do and eventually accept that moment, no matter how grim. In transcending this, you are able to embrace the freedom in surrendering to the moment. Big mountain adventures, just like many moments in life, can really rock you to your knees. I’ve taken these moments, like in both of my Hardrock 100 scenarios and applied my meditation practice. Once I accepted the weather, pain, and nausea, flipped my attitude from “poor me” to “wow, I’m grateful to be alive”, the scenario in my head changed, and I was able to make the most of being out of my comfort zone. I embrace the journey and feel what it means to truly live.


“It can be as simple as breath and body awareness”

Photo: Emma Hussey

Now you don’t need some intense experience or mile 80 breakdown to trigger the thought that “maybe I should train/nurture my mind, too.” It can be as simple as breath and body awareness just one, five or ten minutes anytime during the day. I’m a firm believer that a simple meditation (try attaching it to a normal part of your daily routine like running, showering, or brushing your teeth) a few times a week can help you not only run happier and possibly farther, but it can also bring a sense of joy to simple, ordinary everyday life. While running/exercise is great, in the times when that’s not an option for a plethora of reasons, a daily dose of mindfulness with a sprinkle of gratitude seems to ground me and balance life out.


“It takes me back to my high school days with my friends and cross-country team blasting MMMbop by Hanson on a cassette deck.”


When I’m meditating routinely, my running feels at its peak. Some runs the only muse I need is the all encompassing beauty around me. Other days I need a catalyst to enter the moment and embrace the unknown, that’s when I put in my headphones and allow a good jam to amplify my run. It’s silly how something as simple as putting in a pair of headphones and one great song can create a zone for me to focus, embrace the detours, and push through wherever the path takes me. It takes me back to my high school days with my friends and cross-country team blasting MMMbop by Hanson on a cassette deck. That nostalgia reminds me why I run and why I love running. When you run, at its essence, you’re totally present and you’re totally free.

Running has allowed me to see the world and share these incredible experiences with my family. And you following and cheering me on, I appreciate it all immensely. So why I run, I can think of countless answers, but in the end, it’s simple – I run to be free, to be the best damn human I can be and not take a single moment or stride for granted. My hope is that you go and do the same. Peace world.



We also want to hear your stories. Share your motivation for running in a short story and hashtag #whyirunjaybird on Instagram for a chance to win weekly prizes including earbuds and a chance to be featured on our social channels. We’re inspired by every type of runner, so don’t hesitate to share your passion with us. To the parent that wakes up early before sending their kids off to school, the beginner seeking to finish their first 5k, and the marathoner looking to set a new PR, your passion inspires more people than you’ll ever know. Share your stories with us and #runwild. Find more info about the This Is Why I Run series here.


Keep in touch with Timothy!


This Is Why I Run – Meredith Edwards

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This Is Why I Run – Meredith Edwards

My name is Meredith June Edwards and I am a mountain endurance athlete based in Jackson, Wyoming. I am a lover of mountains, adventures and my dog Moe. Aside from being a professional athlete, I’ve spent the last 9 years working as a residential counselor for kids with disabilities.



UTMB is unlike any other race I have ever seen or heard about. The level of competition, the excitement of the supporters, and the terrain is one of a kind. For years I’ve worked my butt off just to qualify and get to the starting line, and it’s been an unbelievable journey. Years of crewing points and racing in the UTMB series has proved to be beneficial. Finishing 10th at CCC in 2015, and landing 2nd place on the podium last year in TDS, set me up for what I thought would be a great UTMB in 2017. Here’s how it went down – real and raw like a journal entry for each painstaking and amazing day:


August 21 2017 –
I don’t feel good. I work at residential school for kids with special needs, and all of my clients are sick. I’m nervous knowing I leave the 24th for Europe. I drink lots of lemon water and eat garlic.


August 22,2017 –
I’m sick. I have a low grade fever, and my ear is blocked after running a quick workout up the local ski hill here in Jackson, Snow King. I leave work early due to my fever and head to the doctor. They tell me I have a sinus infection that has moved into my ear. They place me on antibiotics that will last for 10 days. Not stoked on this issue, I have no choice but to try and get better.



August 24 2017 –
I feel a little better, but I’m just excited to get to France.


August 31, 2017 –
I set off on my last run before UTMB and feel excited. My legs feel great. It’s a bittersweet moment to know after 5 years the time has come. “Am I ready?,” I ask myself. It doesn’t matter because no matter what, at this time tomorrow I’ll be toeing the line.


September 1, 2017 –
It’s weird to wake up around 9:30am for a race. I get up, eat, and go back to laying in bed because I don’t have to be ready till 5:30pm. I lay in bed reading a book, trying to not to think about what’s to come. I take a shower and slowly start to get myself ready. The time has come! I look at myself in the mirror and notice how far I’ve come from the CCC 100k. I’m not the same from when I started this goal, and I don’t think I’ll be the same person I am now when this race is done.


I get to Chamonix and make my way towards the start. Crowds and crowds of people are everywhere. Music is playing and my senses become heightened. As I enter the coral, I have Jason Schlarb to the right of me and both of us go down towards the start. With people lining the whole way, everyone is cheering. I hear my name being yelled and I wave. It is the moment I will never forget. I find a close running friend Amanda Basham. We met in China during an FKT project and became close. It was comforting to stand next to her in a sea of amazing athletes. We talk and make sure our backpacks are ok and wait for the countdown.


photo: Ugo Richard

September 31, 2017 6:30pm –
The race starts. It’s intense. Everyone is yelling, and I can’t stop high fiving everyone. The first 8k is pretty flat and I catch myself going out way too fast. My legs start to feel awful, and I notice I’m achy. On the first climb, my legs don’t want to move. I become scared because this is not how I want to feel. I make an effort to slow down, but I’m still not happy, and of course my ear is blocked and won’t pop. It makes me feel off balance and just plain annoyed.


On the first descent, my legs cramp and I’ve already gone through 1 liter of water. I remember not liking the 19 miles to the first aid station at Les Contamaines. Unlike CCC and TDS, UTMB had a lot of rough terrain in the beginning and with my legs and even my arms cramping, my body was not happy. In Les Contamaines, I meet my Jax crew. I was already crying because of the way I feel. She looks at me and says “no, you just keep going”. We switch out my bottles and she puts food in my backpack. As I leave the aid station, I get a hug from Celia(GU Manager) and I’m on my way.



For whatever reason, I feel better and my legs want to work. I start up a huge ascent to Bonhomme. On my way up, the weather gets intense, and I need to put on another layer to help with the high winds. Somewhere in that transition, my food to get me to Courmayeur falls out of my backpack. I’m not sure when I notice this, but when I do, I try not to freak out and work with what I’ve got: one Gu chocolate Waffle – dang!!! My nutrition is pretty specific: one gel every 30 minutes, one waffle every 3 hours.


So there I was, just pushing through for almost 3 hours on little bites of my waffle. With no aid station anytime soon, I just tried to keep my cool. Fortunately, I came across Sally McRae – I was so happy. She tossed me two small snickers, and I couldn’t be more thankful. It lifted my spirits, and I finally made it to an aid station and stuffed my backpack with cookies, bananas, and downed a ton of soup.


I knew the descent into Courmayeur was steep, long, and technical. I slowed down to save my legs, but I was feeling great. Coming into Courmayeur, I was feeling strong and determined, which is way different than when I started. But, this is where my first big mistake happened. I had picked up quite a bit of spots, and feeling excited, I didn’t take a long enough break and came out of Courmayeur way too fast.


I picked up 2 more girls on the ascent and started to feel a little dizzy. This is when I think my energy bonk from the previous incident kicked in. I was down over 400 calories and could not catch back up. I lost my down hill legs and this is when things started to get real. From what I remember, I felt really dizzy and was not quite with it. At the Bonatti aid station, they asked me if I was ok after swaying around trying to drink soup. Of course I said yes and just carried on my way. By the time I got to the aid station at Arnouvaz, I fell apart. When I saw how people were looking at me, I got scared – apparently I was very pale. The medics would not let me leave until color returned to my face. So I ate a bunch of food, I changed into warmer clothes, and eventually just started to cry knowing I lost all my momentum. The medics comforted me along with Magda Boulet, Amy Sproston, and Major Srnik. As I watched everyone leave with me still sitting there, I wanted to quit. I just kept crying. Finally, after sometime, they let me go.


The weather was horrible. It was -9°C(15°F) at the top of Col Ferret, and the wind was blowing hard. It was such a struggle, and all that food they made me eat decided to come back up. On the 30k descent into La Fouly I threw everything up. In my mind, I had decided to drop when I saw my crew next at Champex.



I cried so hard. Even on the little downhills I couldn’t move. It was mentally derailing, and I hated it. When I arrived at Champex, I was so happy to see Jax. I sat down while she ripped off my socks to change. I tried eating but kept dry heaving. I was snappy but I realized I couldn’t stop. I wanted to but I’m 100% sure Jax was not going to let that happen. Getting up was hard but on I went. I decided I could run for 20 steps and walk for another 20. I kept throwing up my food every time I ate, but I kept moving. The weather was so hard to deal with. One minute it’s raining, another minute you’re sweating, and then it’s freezing. Like the weather, my emotional state was just as unpredictable. One minute I’m crying, laughing, then singing out loud. I had lost it. I was convinced at one point I had a fever and I was going to pass out. I had to call Jax on the second to last climb just to keep me going.


After running CCC two years ago and knowing the terrain, I was so upset at how I could not run anything at this point . Who have I become? This is not me. I looked for the muddiest part of the trail to run in, so I could just slide a little bit with each step. It was purely survival mode and saving face at its finest. I was in a dark head space on the last climb and had so much anger towards myself for allowing this to happen. I cursed every step and fell completely apart. These were the hardest final hours of any race I’ve ever been in. When I got to the top of the last climb there was a sign saying 8k. I couldn’t believe it. Really? 8k!!!!!! ehhhhhhhhh. I told myself I have to run. Get it over. I was angry, then embarrassed, but I finished. As I made my way into Chamonix, my dad was there smiling. He grabbed me by the hand and ran me in. It was over. I was mad but didn’t have enough energy to keep it up. But it was over, and I had finished.


September 15, 2017 –
I’ve had some time to process this experience. It’s been hard, but I realize so much good has come out of it.


1. This was my first 100 mile race. Can’t expect to go out and kill it.
2. It’s easy to run a race when everything is going well, but how about when everything goes wrong? I finished and for now, it’s good enough.
3. I need to work on my positive self-talk. However, for the next race I can look back and tell myself that I finished UTMB against all odds. What a great experience to have to build off of. I can do hard things.
4. The passion is still there and growing. I can’t wait to come back and do it all over again. I love this sport, my competitors, and the life the spectators give to this event.
5. One race does not own me. This isn’t the end-all. Instead, this is just the start.
6. I have an amazing best friend, Jax, who will always keep me going.
7. I finished a 5 year goal and that is called winning!!!!


You are always stronger than you think. Don’t ever give up and remember things worth achieving are always worth the fight. I will be back stronger, wiser, and ready to test my limits again.


Happy Training.



We also want to hear your stories. Share your motivation for running in a short story and hashtag #whyirunjaybird on Instagram for a chance to win weekly prizes including earbuds and a chance to be featured on our social channels. We’re inspired by every type of runner, so don’t hesitate to share your passion with us. To the parent that wakes up early before sending their kids off to school, the beginner seeking to finish their first 5k, and the marathoner looking to set a new PR, your passion inspires more people than you’ll ever know. Share your stories with us and #runwild. Find more info about the This Is Why I Run series here.


Keep in touch with Mere!