Interview with Teenage Ultrarunner Nick Halliday
Few things are as contagious as the enthusiasm of youth. That’s why it’s an honor and pleasure for me to call Nick Halliday a friend. You see, I “met” Nick as a long-distance friend on Facebook when I lived in California’s Sierra Foothills and he in Park City, Utah. It was only in the weeks before I moved to Park City that I learned that Nick was a 13-year-old trail running enthusiast who had the presence of someone my own age.
In the year plus that I’ve lived in Park City, I’ve come to know Nick. I’ve seen him jury rig together his own trail shoes and sew his own custom running packs. I’ve seen him gush about the latest trail running shoe and beam when Kilian Jornet asked him to join the Catalan speedster on a trail run the day before last year’s Western States 100. I’ve also seen Nick mature as a runner and joined him as he finished his first marathon – a trail marathon at elevation, at that – as a 14-year-old last September. It was after that race that we shot this interview. I’ve held off on sharing it out of professional courtesy to my girlfriend, Meghan Hicks, and Trail Runner magazine, as they’ve had a story in the works since shortly after I recorded this interview (and which now appears in the March issue of the magazine). In the interim, Nick ran his first ultramarathon at the Antelope Island 50k last November and turned 15.
iRunFar: Nick is just 14 years old and he just ran his first marathon, a trail marathon at that, the Mid-Mountain Marathon in 5:16:42. How did it go out there?
Nick Halliday: It was a pretty good race actually. We were doing a walk/run program for the whole thing so I couldn’t really get into my rhythm, I wasn’t really used to it. Once I started getting in there I felt really good. It went really well.
iRF: You stuck to that run/walk program for awhile, but I joined you for the last 5 miles or so and you were just straight running. When do you think you switched over?
Halliday: I think about mile 18-20. That’s when we both said we weren’t going to do this (walk/run) anymore.
iRF: You were with Chris, your pacer?
Halliday: Yes, one of my partners-in-crime in the Triple Trail Challenge.
iRF: What got you involved in trail running?
Halliday: Well, it started out as dry-land training for Nordic skiing and then ended up seeing a few videos of Killian’s Quest. That kind of got me hooked on running and I said, “You know what, I love trail running.” I saw my mom do a couple of these races up in the mountains and I decided I want to do that.
iRF: What do you enjoy about trail running?
Halliday: I enjoy the scenery, the camaraderie with all the runners. It’s not really about winning, it’s just about having fun out there.
iRF: What would you say to other runners your age? Why should other young runners get out there on the trails?
Halliday: Just go out there and have fun. It’s good exercise and it’s lots of fun. You might find out you really love it and could be great at it someday.
iRF: Any tips for getting involved in it? It can be intimidating getting out on the trails for the first time. This is relevant because you’ve been coaching a kids’ running team. How old are the kids you’re coaching?
Halliday: They’re 12 years old. I’d say start out slow and with an easy distance, maybe around 3 miles or so. See how you’re good with that and if you’re comfortable. Then go from there.
iRF: What inspires you when you’re trail running?
Halliday: Some of the ultrarunners like yourself, Geoff Roes, Killian. It’s just really inspiring to see them powering up a hill at mile 56 and still going strong. It’s really cool to see that.
iRF: I guess that’s part of the camaraderie aspect because you’ve met some of these top runners. How have they treated you?
Halliday: It’s really interesting. You’d think that they’d be really cocky but they’re super nice and humble and they just love to see people that love the sport that they love, too.
iRF: Killian even sent you some emails before this race, right?
Halliday: Yeah, it’s kind of cool that he did that. It’s really inspiring and gives you a boost when you do the run. He just tweeted me a few days ago and I’m like, “WOW! That’s amazing! I have to do this now!”
iRF: You’re also doing some training with your high school cross country team?
Halliday: Yes, I am. I’ve been reading a lot about how fast speedwork really helps you in the long run. It gives your legs a little more, I don’t know, a little more “store” and helps you develop a better breathing capacity.
iRF: Are you going to jump into any shorter races this fall? Are you going to join the team?
Halliday: Yeah, I think there’s a race next week so I’m thinking I’ll join in on that depending on how I feel. I definitely will participate.
iRF: Got anything longer than a 5k cross country race on the horizon or that you’re dreaming about for the next year?
Halliday: In the next year, I want to do the Antelope 50k (November). Then, I think I want to do the RAGNAR, because that’s a fun race. I think I want to do the Triple Trail Challenge again. It’s just fun.
iRF: You’ve seen a lot of videos and websites about ultras and trail running. Are there any races you want to do in the next 10 years?
Halliday: In 10 years I want to do the Western States 100 and the UTMB.
iRF: Best of luck doing those races in the next decade and your cross country races in the near future! Congratulations on your first marathon!
Halliday: Thank you!