Seth Swanson climbed into the international trail ultrarunning scene with his second place at the 2014 Western States 100. In the following interview, Seth talks about running in his Missoula, Montana home, his history with the sport, and some challenges and successes he’s experienced in his training build-up to this race.
Be sure to check out our results article for the whole race story including links to the rest of iRunFar’s post-race coverage.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Seth Swanson Post-2014 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Seth Swanson after his second-place finish at the Western States 100. How are you doing, Seth?
Seth Swanson: I’m doing great, thanks.
iRunFar: Nice to meet you.
Swanson: Nice to meet you too, man.
iRunFar: There are some people who are sort of long shots to perform well. We didn’t know how Max King was going to perform, somebody like that. You were so far off the radar you could have been on another planet.
Swanson: Yeah, it felt good. I had a great day. It just kind of came together.
iRunFar: Tell us a little bit about your running history up in Montana.
Swanson: I’ve been kind of going at it for a few years now. Missoula, Montana, where I’m at, is a great place to do it. Miles and miles of singletrack really from our front doors. It’s hard not to be involved here. Great running community. It’s a blast.
iRunFar: I know Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe kept writing me before the race telling me, “Keep an eye on that Seth guy.” “Alright, he’s got some good results up in Montana.”
Swanson: Obscure. Obscure. These small, small races tucked away…
iRunFar: Was there any particular reason you… you’re quite a talented runner, obviously, was there any reason you hadn’t stepped into these more widely competitive races in the past?
Swanson: I’m just kind of getting into it really. Like I said, I’ve just been at it for three or four years now. I don’t know. I’ve just kind of always chosen races just whether it’s logistical ease being nearby or probably more so cool places to explore—new races that will take me to somewhere I haven’t ever been before. That’s kind of always been a driving factor as well. Some of those are totally obscure races on islands or tucked away in small corners.
iRunFar: You’ve run LeGrizz 50, right?
Swanson: Yeah, I have. That was my first one.
iRunFar: When was that? Was that 2010?
Swanson: No, 2011.
iRunFar: 2011. So you enjoy those small Montana races, too?
Swanson: Yeah, they’re classics. The LeGrizz, the RD is smoothing cigs as he’s checking you in. There’s chocolate milk and no water at the aid stations and fried chicken and PBR at the end.
iRunFar: There is literally fried chicken, and what do you call those little potato wedges?
iRunFar: That’s what’s so great about this sport is they have races like this where there are a lot of competitors from around the world and a lot of hype, and you can still go and get your jojos and PBR at the finish line.
Swanson: That’s right. That’s a good feeling.
iRunFar: Do you come from an athletic background prior to getting into running three or four years ago or did you just jump right in and find this is your calling?
Swanson: You know, I’m still trying to see if it is my calling. Nothing formal by any means. I never ran before.
iRunFar: What got you out the door that first time then?
Swanson: I think—I don’t know what it was—a boss of mine or a colleague convinced me to do go for a run off the couch. I did it and it was a pretty good start. I kind of just realized I liked running and it’s fun and it just went from there.
iRunFar: So yesterday, you’re at the line, you probably at least know some of the guys standing around you.
iRunFar: There are some studs.
Swanson: Montana is not that tucked away.
iRunFar: Rob Krar—pretty identifiable. Max King. Then you go out with them. You’re sitting in second or third and what not. What’s going through your head there?
Swanson: Well, you know, I was feeling good. I wasn’t feeling like I was working too hard at that point. I was just trying to be really cognizant about what I had. I was just trying to save enough for the day and have some reserves for later on which is what everyone tells me makes or breaks this race is kind of that fast, rolling terrain at the end and that I really needed to save some for that. That was just what I was trying to do all day. But I was feeling good, so I just kept going.
iRunFar: Did you have any low points during the race?
Swanson: Oh, of course. That’s a long day. I’m sure everybody has some low points, but yeah, I was able to just put my head down and keep on going.
iRunFar: Were there any points later in the race where you found yourself, This is like… I’m having an amazing race, because you did?
Swanson: Yeah, I was feeling good but still, all the way until that downhill going into Auburn I was, you still have to be a little bit on edge and run a little bit scared. You never know. You never know.
iRunFar: What does your training look like? May, sometime, what does a week look like for you?
Swanson: May was kind of a down time. I had some glitches.
iRunFar: When you’re sort of peaking for a 100-mile race?
Swanson: I thought my peaking was a little bit soft. I probably didn’t have as much in my legs as I had hoped to because I had a little bit of a down time.
iRunFar: That’s scary.
Swanson: It’s great because like I said we have miles and miles of great terrain right from town. There’s 2,000 to 3,000 vertical feet right from downtown Missoula. It’s great. It’s hard not to get up the trails.
iRunFar: Got any races you’re excited about this summer or fall?
Swanson: The only thing I’m signed up for now is Cascade Crest in western Washington. That’s in August. It’s beautiful country up there and, yeah, I’m pretty excited about that.
iRunFar: That’s pretty crazy coincidence. Larisa Dannis, the second woman, is also going out and running the Cascade Crest Classic.
Swanson: Oh, is that right? That’s cool.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well, great job out there, Seth. Great meeting you, and take care.
Swanson: Thanks. Thanks.
iRunFar: And before this award ceremony starts, one last bonus question for all the Missoulans out there. What is your favorite flavor of Big Dipper Ice Cream? What are you going home and getting?
Swanson: I’m a big fan of Espresso Heath. It’s classic.
iRunFar: It’s a good flavor? Gonna get a big pint of that sometime next week?
Swanson: Yeah, I probably will. We live just a few blocks away.
iRunFar: Alright, well, enjoy it.
Swanson: Thanks. I will.