While Mark Hammond has had some previous strong results, he made sure you’ll now know who he is by taking third at the Western States 100. In the following interview, Mark talks about what his running background is, how his race went down, why he does treadmill workouts, and where you’ll see him race later this year. (You can watch his finish here.)
For more on what happened during the race, check out our 2017 Western States results article.
Mark Hammond Post-2017 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mark Hammond after his his third-place finish at the 2017 Western States 100. Congratulations, Mark!
Mark Hammond: Thank you.
iRunFar: How does that feel?
Hammond: Like a dream come true.
iRunFar: You were definitely fairly unknown coming into this race, I would day.
Hammond: Dark horse.
iRunFar: Did you kind of feel that way? Did it feel like you were under the radar or like you weren’t getting enough respect?
Hammond: For sure. Both.
iRunFar: Before this, walk us through what you’ve done on the running side.
Hammond: I’ve been competing in ultras for the past four years. I prefer 100s. I didn’t run at all in high school or college.
iRunFar: How did you pick it up after college?
Hammond: I got an office job, and I wanted to move around at lunch time. I started running on my lunch breaks and kind of went from there.
iRunFar: Did you participate in any other sports?
Hammond: No, I was a climber and a skier in high school. I got used to long days in the mountains.
iRunFar: You’re a mountain guy. You come from that side of things.
iRunFar: You worked your way into ultras for a couple years now. Where are you based at?
Hammond: Salt Lake City, Utah.
iRunFar: So you’ve got the Wasatch there.
Hammond: Yeah, it’s easy.
iRunFar: Probably your highlight previous to this weekend was running second at Run Rabbit Run last year. How did that race go?
Hammond: I thought it was my best performance, but I was still an hour and 20 back from Alex Nichols. I feel like I could have done a lot more. This year I came a lot closer.
iRunFar: Walk us through your race, this race.
Hammond: I started out with the main chase pack behind Jim [Walmsley] and stuck with them. I stuck behind Jeff Browning until about mile 30, and, then, just took off and picked my way through all the way until mile 76 when I passed Jim and was in third.
iRunFar: How did that feel? Was that a little surreal?
Hammond: I was stunned to see him. After that I was 15 minutes back from Alex, and I reeled him in. I came into the mile 85 aid station a minute behind him. He heard the cheering and just bolted. I didn’t see him, but he heard me and he bolted. I reeled him in again around mile 95, and he bolted again. Then again at No Hands Bridge, I saw his headlamp.
iRunFar: Is it exciting to be in a battle like that, or is it super frustrating to keep banging your head against Alex Nichols?
Hammond: I thought it was fun just to make him run scared for that long, 15 miles.
iRunFar: Play with him a little. Did you have any real tough patches during the race?
Hammond: I had a few rough patches, but they didn’t last too long—just a few miles at a time. The heat didn’t bother me too much. I did a good job getting ice in my sleeves and hat and scarf and stuff.
iRunFar: The snow was alright?
Hammond: That first 15 miles was just horrendous—sliding on snow, falling through snow bridges, deep mud, running through creeks. It was maddening and kind of energy draining to deal with all that.
iRunFar: Was it mentally draining? Just frustrating?
Hammond: Absolutely. Just frustrating.
iRunFar: Do you do a bunch of training in the Wasatch in the snow, or do you wait for the snow line to creep up and stay below it?
Hammond: I ski tour mostly. Not having skis and dealing with that snow is just…
iRunFar: You wished you had them.
Hammond: I should have sharpened my shoes. That’s what I should have done.
iRunFar: Get some edges on them.
iRunFar: What were you wearing shoe-wise?
Hammond: Hoka Challengers.
iRunFar: Why that one?
Hammond: Just the big lugs—I knew I’d be dealing with snow.
iRunFar: Worked out pretty well?
Hammond: Yeah, worked good.
iRunFar: This is such an iconic race with such a history, and you’re part of that history now. Is that still a little surreal?
Hammond: It is. It’s still sinking in. I look forward to coming back.
iRunFar: Yeah? Is that a definite?
iRunFar: What was a highlight out there? Was there one in particular?
Hammond: I’d say finishing on the track is just as good as it gets, I think.
iRunFar: What about that is awesome?
Hammond: All the fans lined up around the track high-fiving us all and coming into that wall of photographers and hearing the announcer and all that—it’s special.
iRunFar: That’s kind of cool. Your joy is centered on the mountains and being out in nature, but it’s still a cool experience.
Hammond: It is. I’ll never forget it.
iRunFar: Did you end up pairing up with anybody on the course at all and spending… once things sort of broke up in the high country?
Hammond: I ran with Ryan Kaiser for awhile. After that, no, not really. I just kind of picked my way through people.
iRunFar: Did you have a pacer out there?
Hammond: I did have a pacer from the river and about five miles after that, but then he dropped off. The heat kind of got to him.
iRunFar: You dropped your pacer. That’s kind of another feather in your cap.
Hammond: I guess. He doesn’t run a ton though.
iRunFar: Was it a buddy?
Hammond: Yeah, a buddy.
iRunFar: What else do you have lined up for this year, anything?
Hammond: Run Rabbit Run—I’ll rematch with Alex Nichols again.
iRunFar: Is he headed back? Do you know that already?
Hammond: Yeah, that and TNF 50 in San Francisco. I’m not sure what else.
iRunFar: Couple big races. What does your training look like—are you a big mileage guy with lots of vert? Do you do speed work?
Hammond: I do about 120 miles per week usually. I like to do speed work on the treadmill. I was putting the treadmill on decline and putting a weight vest on and really pound up the quads. I think it worked really well.
iRunFar: That’s interesting because where you live, Mill Creek, you have access to some pretty nice long descents.
Hammond: I do, but I feel like on the weekdays I don’t have a lot of time to even go in the mountains right near Mill Creek. The gym is just a really good environment to focus on workouts.
iRunFar: Get there. Get it done.
Hammond: Yeah, get it done. Yeah, it’s an efficient way to rack up miles.
iRunFar: It certainly worked out for you. Congratulations, Mark.
Hammond: Thank you.