A hunger for trails, ultras and cheese curds
You might think that someone who grew up disliking running would not be a runner. You might think that someone whose training meals often consist of cheese curds and IPAs would not be a running podcast host who inspires others
But that’s just who Aric Manning is — ultramarathoner and co-host of the popular TrailManners podcast, which focuses largely on races, trails and runners in Utah and the Mountain West region.
While Manning, along with co-host Joel Hatch, frequently conducts podcast interviews out of his VW Bus at a Utah trailhead, their reach and interest goes well beyond the Mountain Time Zone. Listeners, myself included, come from throughout the United States as well as some foreign countries.
That trailhead is a long way from the pitch where unbeknownst to Manning at the time, he developed his endurance and confidence in accomplishing difficult tasks.
Inspired at Wasatch 100
Manning admits he only ran as a youth because he was chasing a ball. He played soccer in high school and college. In fact, Manning and his high school teammates just celebrates the 30th anniversary of making the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest soccer game ever played, a record that still stands.
“In 1988, 22 of us from Roy High School in Roy, Utah, set out and broke the world record by playing 75.5 hours of non-stop soccer,” he says. “Being 17, it really taught me early that you can do hard things.”
Years later, his best friend and college soccer teammate, Scott Jaime, got Manning into running — without chasing a soccer ball.
“He had ran some marathons and transitioned into trail running,” Manning says. “I went to a few of his races to support/watch him and see why he would put his body through this type of abuse.”
Everything changed one year when Jaime did the Wasatch 100.
“I showed up at Big Mountain aid station to see him,” Manning recalls. “The vibe in the aid station was incredible and then seeing him run and finish a 100-mile race was beyond inspiring. I committed to pacing him at the same race the following year just to be a part of it. In order to do it, I started running on trails — I was never a runner and had never run a race of any kind.”
Manning’s first race was the debut of the Buffalo Run 25K on Antelope Island in Utah. “About a month later, I ran my first ultra, Greenland 50K in Colorado,” he says. “After he 50K, I swore I would never run again. Fast-forward to now and I am still running.”
A difficult but memorable first ultra
All runners remember their first ultra. Many, like Manning, may prefer to shed it from their memories.
“The Greenland 50K was horrible,” he says. “It was run on a four-loop course. So basically you ran the same loop four times. Now remember, I was not a runner and only had a trail 25K under my belt. This loop thing sucked. There was one climb (it was actually pretty small compared to what I know now) on the course and we did it four times. I remember after my fourth loop I turned around and flashed my middle finger to the climb cause I was so done with it.”
When Manning got to the end, volunteers were taking down the finish line. The food was gone. There was one beer left.
“I was in the last 10 people to come across,” he recalls. “I was tired and a little embarrassed. I was so slow and not nearly prepared enough. I swore I would never do something this stupid again.”
But something transpired in that final stretch that set Manning’s life on a new course.
“My friend Scott was there and ran the last little bit across the finish and he was all smiles,” Manning says. “He looked me straight in the face and told me how proud he was of me. I was dumbfounded. I just basically ‘closed down’ the race and he was proud. I sure wasn’t. It took a little time but I soon realized that what I did was more than just about the finish time.”
A passion for trails, podcasting
As Manning evolved into a runner, he embraced the community and his new set of friends, including Hatch.
“Joel and I had run together for several years and always came up with fun and crazy ideas during our runs,” Manning says. “We had both listened to podcasts but were not really connecting with the few (at the time) that were out there. Joel said, ‘Listen, let’s do a podcast from your 1978 VW Bus and hit some races and talk to people.’ It made sense. We had been around the community for quite some time, had lots of friends in the industry and so we starting planning.”
They let their passion guide them, which clearly shows in every episode. That’s among the reasons why I listed TrailManners among my “Top 8 podcasts for runners.”
“Our idea was to be authentic and be ourselves,” Manning explains. “Add some humor, not take ourselves too seriously and have fun. We are no means experts on anything but we have a passion for trail running and are always inspired by the people we meet.”
There were early hiccups, starting with the first episode.
“The first problem we had was the technology side,” Manning says. “Joel is comfortable with technology — me … not so much. I spent a better part of four months researching podcasts — the Do’s and Don’ts, best practices, etc. After months of this we finally decided to give it a try.”
They recorded the first episode four different times until they felt comfortable with the audio and conversation. “It was pretty uncomfortable for both of us but we have always been able to laugh at ourselves so we recorded our first three shows and the rest is history.”
‘I really don’t want to stop anytime soon’
TrailManners recently launched its 100th episode of the Single Track session, which focus on ultra news, trending topics and some regular features like a weekly photo contest. In addition, the main show — 120 episodes and counting — each week is frequently an interview with an ultra runner.
“I can’t speak entirely for Joel but I am a bit surprised,” Manning admits. “We never hit this with a long-term plan. We went at it from an angle of having fun and maybe contributing to the trail community. Two hundred and twenty shows is A LOT of work.”
As they approach the show’s third anniversary in October, it’s hard to believe for Manning.
“We have missed a few weeks for sure since we started but as we approach year number three, we still haven’t talked much about longevity,” Manning says. “Joel is getting busier with work and I have had some changes this year as well so being constant has been an issue but with the emails, messages and conversations we have with listeners, I really don’t want to stop anytime soon.”
Not only has Manning learned about technology during his podcasting journey, he has learned some things about himself.
“I have learned I am still uncomfortable initially around people,” he says. “Being behind a microphone is much easier for me than meeting people in person. I am still awkward and I am still trying to get better. I have learned that there are so many amazing people out there with incredible stories and I feel so very lucky to get a chance not only to talk to them but share their experiences.”
Just like his listeners, Manning sees TrailManners as a way to escape the harshness and divisiveness of the modern world.
“With all the negativity in the world I use TrailManners selfishly to hear positive, uplifting stories and create new friendships,” he says. “I have learned to never take myself to seriously. I have learned that TrailManners is bigger than any one or two people. It is more about the community and that the listeners make it what it is. Joel and I just get to be a part of something so big and amazing.”
Name: Aric W. Manning
Hometown: Ogden, Utah
Number of years running: 12
How many miles a week do you typically run: Not enough
Point of pride: My daughters
Favorite race distance: 50K
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Poke’ and rice, the night before when possible. Training food: Cheese curds and IPAs.
Favorite piece of gear: My Pearl Izumi Trail Shoes (RIP). I still have a few stock piled
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: OK, no judging — This is Me: The Greatest Showman Soundtrack
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Now Go Get It
Where can other runners connect or follow you: