Colorado’s Josh Arthur is relatively new to ultrarunning. In the following interview, Josh talks about his running history pre-ultrarunning, the fact that he’s running professionally in 2014, what his weekend racing goal is, and how he enjoys winter in his home of Crested Butte.
Josh Arthur Pre-2014 Sean O’Brien 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Josh Arthur before the inaugural Sean O’Brien 50 Mile. How are you doing?
Josh Arthur: Good.
iRunFar: I’d say it’s a beautiful day out here. It’s a beautiful day for a run—a little cloudy.
Arthur: Yeah, definitely cooler than yesterday for sure—85 [Fahrenheit] to 65 [Fahrenheit].
iRunFar: You’re coming down from Crested Butte, Colorado. If it’s a hot day out there, is it pretty much a shocker for you?
Arthur: Yeah, that’s why I came out a couple days early—to try to adjust as much as possible. Yeah, it’s a big, big difference.
iRunFar: You are relatively new to ultrarunning. I know you ran… was it your second ultra when you took secondat Cascade Crest?
Arthur: That was my third.
iRunFar: Third ultra—okay, so when was your first?
Arthur: 2011, the fall, the Devil Mountain Ultra in Pagosa Springs. It didn’t go so well.
iRunFar: No? What was your second?
Arthur: San Juan Solstice 50.
iRunFar: How did that go for you? A bit better?
Arthur: A little better—top 10. I still went out and ran with Jason [Schlarb] early and was not fit for it.
iRunFar: Jason Schlarb.
Arthur: Yeah, that was the year he won it. So the first two ultras were a little bit painful.
iRunFar: Then you decided to jump it up to 100 miles anyway. Why?
Arthur: Just wanted to see what it was like; 50 didn’t scare me.
iRunFar: You have been running for an awfully long time. Tell us a little about your running history. When did you start running?
Arthur: I started running in junior high and did fairly well. I ran throughout high school and went to multiple state championships and placed top five and top 10 in a lot of them. Then I had a scholarship in college and ran for Edinboro University and was All American there in Division II cross country. I didn’t have the greatest career in terms of times in track—a lot of little injuries and issues and stuff. Yeah, I’m kind of over all that now and into the mountains which is a lot more enjoyable.
iRunFar: So you ran through high school and college. Did you take any break? I know a lot of people, especially running at a really high level, who…
Arthur: Yeah, I took three months off after… well, I still continued to run after college during that summer, but that following winter when I moved to Colorado I took three months completely off. I lived the ski-bum life and worked up in Steamboat and skied almost every day and snowboarded and just kind of enjoyed it.
iRunFar: Then once you got through mud season, did the urge come back or was it your plan all along?
Arthur: Well, the plan was all along that I took three months off and then I wanted to run ultras.
Arthur: I actually wanted to run a 50 before, but I was working a lot that summer after college and didn’t quite get the chance to.
iRunFar: So that brings up the question—how did you find out or what piqued your interest in ultras? You had to have been interested in college?
Arthur: Yeah, a little bit. I didn’t know a ton about ultrarunning at all. All I knew was I enjoyed longer runs in the mountains and trail running. So I just wanted to try it out just for fun. I spent a summer in college in Flagstaff, Arizona, and another summer in Mammoth Lakes, California, training at altitude and in the mountains and trail running a bunch on the side. I kind of got my hook there and ended up wanting to move out to Colorado.
iRunFar: So that’s what drew you to Colorado?
Arthur: Yeah, I was going to move somewhere in the mountains; it wasn’t particularly in Colorado. I Google searched that Crested Butte was one of the nicest places, so… the images at least.
iRunFar: Is that where you moved after Steamboat?
Arthur: Yeah, I lived up in Steamboat—that was kind of a last-minute move up to there—and then down to Crested Butte right after the season. I signed a lease without even seeing the place.
iRunFar: And you’ve been there ever since?
iRunFar: Four-plus years?
Arthur: Three years. This is the beginning of my fourth.
iRunFar: Out on a run a few minutes ago you told me you almost opened a specialty running store up there.
Arthur: Yeah, I tried. That was the plan. I was trying to figure out what I could do to live in cool mountain town like that and still make a living and not always be stuck doing the minimum wage seasonal work. So I attempted that and had investor issues, so it didn’t work out.
iRunFar: Didn’t work out.
Arthur: Didn’t work out, but in a way it did. I’m here now.
iRunFar: Now you’re running for Altra.
Arthur: Yeah, I just signed officially with Altra last month.
iRunFar: Really. So you were working with them a little bit last fall.
Arthur: Last year I was an ambassador for them, so I have been in it for a little while but officially as a signed athlete this year.
iRunFar: So you’re running this year. This is your focus.
Arthur: I’m running this year. This is my ‘job.’
iRunFar: Not a bad job to have.
Arthur: No, not at all.
iRunFar: So this is your first performance evaluation of your new job. What are you shooting for? Are you trying to get your foot in [Western] States?
Arthur: That’s everyone’s goal who’s coming here pretty much probably, but yeah, that’s the reason why I signed up for this race. Fitness-wise, we’ll see if that’s a possibility, but yeah.
iRunFar: You’ve done really well. Your third race in you were secondat Cascade Crest 100; you’ve won Quadrock 50; you’ve done well at San Juan Solstice—last year you were third behind Dakota Jones and Jason Schlarb. So you’re really good at mountainous, technical terrain.
Arthur: Yeah, I am.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of climbing here, but it’s sea level and it’s fast trails.
Arthur: Other than JFK , I haven’t raced at sea level. That was everything you could do wrong before a race.
iRunFar: Before the race?
Arthur: Yeah, I checked it. Well, a little bit during the race, too.
iRunFar: You were aggressive during that race, if I remember correctly as I wasn’t there.
Arthur: Yeah, I felt comfortable running at the front and leading a little bit of it, but once Rob [Krar] caught up my whole goal with that race was to hang on as long as I can and see what happens.
iRunFar: What happened?
Arthur: I did a video shoot with Altra the week of the race for three days. Jumping off rocks and running up and down ridges is a little bit much. Then getting sick as well—at mile 20-something I was coughing and didn’t stop coughing and by mile 30 I was coughing blood. Then I couldn’t really run faster than a nine or 10 minute/mile at one point because of it.
iRunFar: Wow. So did you take any time off after JFK? That was your last race.
Arthur: I took two full weeks. That was planned whether I ran good or not, I was going to take two weeks there. Then as a last-minute entry I was trying to decide between Bandera 100k or this. Bandera was a little bit sooner, so I decided this one. I jumped back into training pretty quick. Here I am. I had a few hiccups along the way, but…
iRunFar: You also live in Crested Butte in the winter and you’ve professed to be a ski bum in the past. Are you doing a lot of skiing up there?
Arthur: Nordic skiing. Yeah, financially I don’t have the money to buy all the other toys I want. I’ve been on the resort once on a snowboard; that was it. Other than that, I’ve just been Nordic skiing—skate skiing.
iRunFar: Skate skiing is a real intense sport.
Arthur: Yeah, so it’s good. I’ve got a couple friends who I go skiing with who are usually pushing me quite a bit.
iRunFar: Are you going fast or are you just sort of touring skate skiing?
Arthur: Some of both. When I ski with my buddy, Sean, we’re usually hammering pretty hard and doing some workouts. So it’s more workouts that I’ve done on skis than ever before.
iRunFar: Much running? So you’re in good fitness but…?
Arthur: Yeah, at the end of December I was hitting 100-mile weeks. January, I had a little flare-up with some tendonitis or bursitis in my Achilles, so I backed the running off and focused more on skate skiing. So the running hasn’t been the big volume that I’d want, but I feel good. So we’ll see how it goes.
iRunFar: Do you have a good season lined up?
Arthur: Yeah, a real good season.
iRunFar: What else? What are the highlights?
Arthur: The highlights will be hopefully Transvulcania, then Western States depending on this one or I’ll find something else. Then Run Rabbit Run will be a big focus. Then in December I’ll do The North Face 50. There are a few other small races in between.
iRunFar: Nice. Well we’ll definitely be seeing a lot of you this year. Good luck.
Arthur: Definitely. Thank you.
iRunFar: Quick bonus question for you. You are wearing Altras. What are you racing in?
Arthur: I’m racing in the ‘1 Squared.’ They’re kind of dirty here; they’ve been through some miles already. It’s a sample of the new shoe that’s going to come out in April or May for Altra. It’s the new version of the ‘1’ which is their lightweight trainer/road flat. It’s got a little softer midsole and is definitely lighter weight. I think it rolls in at about seven ounces.
iRunFar: And it’s got enough midfoot to provide protection?
Arthur: Yeah, there are a couple extra millimeters in there. Personally since the sample is a little bit big, I threw an extra foot bed in there, and I also threw in a Superior StoneGuard in there. So I added a couple ounces or an ounce/ounce-and-a-half and took up a little more volume, but it gave it a bit more underfoot.
iRunFar: So you sort of made a trail shoe out of a road shoe.
Arthur: I made a softer road shoe out of a road shoe.
iRunFar: Alright. Enjoy that.
Arthur: Thank you.