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!