AJW’s Taproom 2020 Lemonade Awards

AJW's TaproomFor the first nine years of this column, I penned a year-in-review article each December to honor the runners and performances of the year and to celebrate the year in ultrarunning. To jog your memory, here was last year’s. Given the year that we’ve all been through, I’ve decided to do something a little different. As the global COVID-19 pandemic impacted so many parts of life during 2020, running often took a backseat to more pressing concerns. Yet, many in our community persevered to make a difference and share parts of themselves that made this year just a little bit better.

So, to honor a few of those people, I am presenting the AJW’s Taproom 2020 Lemonade Awards. The people below all faced up to the challenges of 2020 and made lemonade out of lemons. And, along the way, they have made a lasting impact that will extend into 2021 and beyond.

James Varner, Abram Dickerson, and the Trail Running Film Festival

For the past several years, James Varner, Abram Dickerson, and their team have celebrated trail running and pulled the community together through a series of film festivals across the country. These events have routinely sold out and showcased the beauty and distinctiveness of our trail running tribe. When COVID-19 hit this past spring, James and Abram pivoted to a virtual format and produced several festivals which brought our community together in ways that were desperately needed.

James Varner (left) and Abram Dickerson. Photo: Katy Farrell

Abby Levene

After bursting onto the trail-ultrarunning scene in 2016 with wins at the Golden Gate Dirty 30 and The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships 50k, New Hampshire native Levene has established herself not only as an outstanding athlete but also as a tireless advocate for the rights of indigenous people. The graduate of both Princeton University and the University of Colorado Boulder has, over the past year and while many of us were forced to hunker down, actively shared her concerns with the trail and ultra community while creating a movement to more clearly understand what can be done to implement real change.

Abby Levene on Graton Rancheria and Me-Wuk lands during the 2019 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. Photo: Bryson Malone

Dylan Bowman

One listen to Dylan Bowman’s podcast “The Well” and you know that this is a guy who grew up watching hours and hours of ESPN’s SportsCenter. A passionate devotee of all things sports and a skilled interviewer, Bowman’s podcast has introduced new voices to the trail and ultra community and provided an entertaining and intelligent voice to the increasingly crowded podcast space. Throughout the pandemic, Bowman has hosted guests from many walks of life which have at once challenged listeners to ask hard questions and seek inspiration.

Dylan Bowman. Photo: Ryan Thrower

Caroline Gleich

Skier, mountaineer, and environmentalist activist, Caroline Gleich, while not exactly a household name in the trail and ultra community, raised almost $16,000 earlier this year for the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a group of tribal nations working to preserve the cultural landscape of the Bears Ears region in Utah. Challenging herself to run 50 miles for the first time in her life, Gleich used the challenge of the pandemic to inspire others in her run across Bears Ears National Monument. A veteran of Mount Everest as well as other iconic peaks, it is my hope that Caroline’s recent run in Bears Ears motivates her to find a home in our ultra community. We’d love to have her!

Caroline Gleich on her way to setting the Timpanogos Traverse fastest known time in Utah. Photo courtesy of Caroline Gleich and David Roche.

Coree Woltering

Few people I have ever met are as open and sincere about their identity as Coree Woltering. An openly gay, African American ultrarunner known for occasionally racing in a Speedo (and nothing else), Woltering has been a refreshing and thought-provoking voice in our sport over the last several years. And, in 2020, he took it to a whole new level with his supported fastest known time on the 1,200 mile Ice Age Trail. In doing so, he increased our community’s awareness of the rights of Black Americans and those who identify as LGBTQIA, and facilitated lasting change in our sport.

Coree Woltering en route to setting the Ice Age Trail men’s supported fastest known time. Photo: Kevin Youngblood

Liza Howard

Few have struggled more in the pandemic than working moms. With schools closed down and workplaces moved to the kitchen table, moms around the world have been forced to adapt and sacrifice. For those moms who are also endurance athletes, the adjustment has been even more difficult. Liza Howard, through it all, has been a strong voice for those moms. An indefatigable bundle of energy, Liza simply refuses to give in or give up and has served to inspire thousands who have navigated the challenges of the past 10 months.

Liza Howard. Photo courtesy of Liza Howard.

Meghan Hicks and Bryon Powell

[Author’s Note: I have always had editorial control over this column and the selection of Bryon and Meghan as one of my Lemonade Awards winners was solely mine.]

Shortly after quarantines and shutdowns were ordered around the world, I recall a phone conversation with Bryon and Meghan. As race coverage came screeching to a halt and advertising dollars dried up, they were seeking ways to keep iRunFar going. In the midst of all the craziness, they created two free virtual events, Operation Inspiration and To The Moon Relay. These non-competitive events were designed to bring the trail and ultra community together at a time when we had to stay apart. Along the way, Bryon and Meghan established a beachhead upon which we could all land.

And there you have it! The AJW’s Taproom 2020 Lemonade Awards. Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from one of the oldest craft breweries in the American Southwest, Santa Fe Brewing Company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their flagship beer, an IPA called 7K, pays homage to the elevation of their town but also pays tribute to the classic West Coast IPAs of the days of yore. Dry and citrusy, 7K is a delightful accompaniment to just about anything.

Call for Comments

  • Did one of these community members also inspire you in 2020 for the way they adapted and made lemonade from what was a most unusual, lemon-y year?
  • Who would you nominate for your own 2020 Lemonade Award and why?

There is one comment

  1. JG

    I consider myself fortunate to be one of Liza Howard’s Sharman Ultra coaching clients and I couldn’t agree more with your inclusion of her on this list, AJW. Since the pandemic began and she, like many parents, had to take a hands-on role with her kids’ distance-learning efforts, Liza has been starting her days as early as 4 AM. This personal sacrifice has allowed her to also maintain her daily coaching responsibilities, continue writing her popular Age Old Runners column on iRunFar, direct Band of Runners (a non-profit organization whose mission is to share the community of trail running with veterans and their surviving family members), occasionally teach Wilderness Medicine classes for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and still somehow squeeze in time to continue her own ultrarunning training and racing (she set a woman’s 100K course record earlier this year at Orange Curtain and qualified for the US National 100K team.) And during these challenging times, despite being sleep deprived, I never heard her complain about anything. Instead, Liza always had a smile on her face and laughter in her voice. In a community composed of many, many stars, Liza shines brightest amongst them.

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