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.

Interview with Nick Halliday Transcript

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!

There are 16 comments

  1. Frenchy

    Read about him in Trail Runner and cool to hear him speak about running with the passion he has. Last October I ran Palo Duro and this 15 year-old was on my heels and I had to keep the pace up so he wouldn't pass me (I'm 33). I stopped at one of the final aid stations to refuel. He stopped as well and blasted down the trail. I tried to catch him but I couldn't. The sport has some really cool grizzled veterans, but it's really cool to see the kids start running and see how well they are doing. Kaytlynn Welsch (11) comes to mind down here in Texas.

  2. Tony Mollica

    Way cool! As an Elementary Health and Physical Education teacher I love seeing young people living a healthy lifestyle! Keep up the good work Nick!

    A tip of the cap to Kilian for his kindness also!

  3. James Bonnett

    Great interview always good to see the youth inspired. Keep up the great running Nick! really like the way you take the sport in always having fun while doing it. I know it has been fun for me since I was a young kid like you. I hope you have many years of great runs and adventures.

  4. CraigR

    Great story in all, but I really think kids under the age of 18 have no business running anything beyond the half marathon distance. This has burnout written all over it. A few kids come to mind that I wonder if they are even in the sport any longer. Michael Hayden who started when he was 15-16. As far as I know he hasn't posted a result since 2009.

    http://ultrasignup.com/results_participant.aspx?f

    Another is Jimmy Wrublik:

    http://ultrasignup.com/results_participant.aspx?f

    I love this kids enthusiasm, but stick to the shorter trail races and burn them up. I mean Dakota Jones waited until he was 18 and took off. Don't mean to be a downer, but Race Directors really need to rethink the age limits on some of these 50K/50M/100M events.

    1. Bryon Powell

      One of the great things about Nick is that he doesn't overdo it. Yeah, he ran a marathon and a 50k last year, but his weekly mileage was certainly no more than his fellow 9th graders would be doing during their cross country season. Probably less than it, in fact. I know where you're coming from, but having run with Nick enough times, he's definitely a kid having fun on the trails rather than diving headfirst into oblivion. :-)

      1. CraigR

        That's great to hear Bryon! Really love the kids enthusiasm. Who knows really what can become of it. My guess is that he will mix things up, including girl friends :) and keep his love for running at the same time. Certainly not against young kids running. More should really. Maybe he'll kickstart some more on to the trails.

    2. Meghan Hicks

      Hi CraigR,

      With all due respect, I think a blanket judgement statement about kids is unfair and unproductive (You said, "…I really think kids under the age of 18 have no business running anything beyond the half marathon distance."). Every kid is different and, while you may be right about some kids running too much, I think it should be up to a child's parents and physicians to guide them safely through an activity.

      I also think that it's especially unfair for you to tell this teenager, Nick Halliday, what he should or shouldn't do (You said, "…stick to the shorter trail races and burn them up."). As someone who's spent a bunch of time coaching high school cross country and as someone who knows Nick Halliday well, I know he has a healthy relationship with running. He ran a conservative weekly mileage while training for his summer and fall races. He is involved with lots of other things besides running. He took a long break from running after his summer and fall of activity. His parents closely monitor and guide the amount of running he does. His doctor was aware of and provided advice to Nick's family on his running.

      There's a terrible problem with a lack of physical activity among kids today. I think that blanket statements like yours are potentially harmful to kids who are actually doing good, healthy things.

      Your comment has made me think that perhaps this story (and the one I wrote for Trail Runner) could have done a better job in outlining Nick Halliday as a healthy example of a teenager doing a bang-up job with trail running. Thanks for making me/us think harder about the better telling of stories like his.

      Thanks also for reading my thoughts.

  5. Martin Stacy

    Great interview. I've had Nick's blog bookmarked and still ejoy re-reading the Kilian story. A very mature head on young shoulders. Ultrarunning has a bright future with people like Nick as ambassadors.

  6. Tina

    I've been following Nick's accomplishments via yours and Meghan's postings about him. Wonderful to see this awesome interview! Made me smile!! Will be sharing this interview with my two young nephews who just this year joined the cross country team for their school in Bend, Oregon. Here's to Nick inspiring other young people to get out there and enjoy the trails! And, a huge congratulations to Nick for finishing the Antelope 50K. Woot!!!!

  7. Ellie

    Great interview Bryon, looking forward to reading your article Meghan. And awesome running and attitude Nick, hope you carry on having fun running so we see you at WS100 and UTMB in 10 years time!

  8. the other "geof

    Put simply: Thanks Bryon. Both Bryon and Meghan have great points about younger runners. The max I did in the 10-12 year old range was 10k, but I was still heckled during races by those around me at times mid-race. Best part is smoking those older folks. Nick is going long AND strong. Great work Nick and enjoy yourself!

  9. Lisa

    Nick is a doll!! I love it that he runs- what a great role model he is for other young kids. Meghan is right- children do NOT get enough exercise. What's more, Nick has something he can own for himself. It is refreshing to hear how passionate he is about running. You know he will strive to do things in his life that he enjoys and not worry about what others may think.

    Great post!

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