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Ultras, faith and family define Hayden Hawks

Hayden Hawks dreamed of playing under the lights at iconic Fenway Park. Instead, he gets to run in some of the most scenic places on the planet.

And he is more than OK with that.

“I am so glad that I went through this experience as it helped build a lot of confidence in me and helped me find myself,” he says of getting cut from his high school baseball team. “It has taught me that I can prevail through hard times and has helped me have an amazing life through running and being involved in this community. It also taught me to live a more simple life and realize that life isn’t about how big or small you are, how you look, or what things you have. It’s about so much more than all of that.”

Baseball was the first passion for Hawks. He made all-star team after all-star team. But when his high school coach though he was “too small and skinny,” Hawks was shut out. But only temporarily.

“It was really hard for me and I dealt with a lot of insecurities getting cut from the team,” he recalls. “I had a friend that invited me out to run cross country and at first I didn’t want to do it. I finally decided to give it a shot and it changed my life. I found out that there were other skinny guys and girls in this world and that I was built to run fast for long distances.”

Hawks quickly ascended to being among the fastest kids on the team, and won a couple of state titles in Utah.

“Running helped me with my insecurities, it helped me accept myself for who I was and how I was made and I loved it even more.”

Reconnecting with the trails

After college, Hawks felt the sting of burnout after chasing the Olympic Qualifying Standard for 10Ks. He sought out new adventures. He returned to trails where he had spent a lot of time as a youth.

“I had some friends who were into trail running and I had grown up spending a lot of time on the trails and mountains,” he reflects. “My dad had been taking me camping, hunting, and fishing for years and I had always gravitated to the trails on my easy days. It’s hard not to run trails when you live in Southern Utah right next to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and so many other amazing landscapes and mountains. I decided to join my friends and they started inviting me to do races.”

Soon Hawks got the desire to try an ultra some day. Some day turned into sometime soon.

“I decided to try it out to see how it felt and saw no harm in spending the day exploring the mountains,” he says. “It actually sounded really fun. Me and friends like Matt Daniels and Andy Wacker had talked about trying this out anyways. I fell in love with it and it combined all that I loved. A love for the mountains, trails and running! I was instantly hooked and knew this was the route that I needed to take.

Daniels, Wacker and Hawks met when he visited Boulder, Colo., to learn about a road running group he was thinking of joining. Daniels was already part of that group.

“When we were running together it seemed like we would always make our way toward the trails,” Hawks says. “We started talking about running trail races and doing what we really wanted to do. By the time I was done with the trip we had both signed up for the U.S. Mountain Running National Championships and had dreams of qualifying for the worlds team and winning a gold medal for the USA.”

Training buddies

As their friendship has grown, so has their progression in the sport.

“We have encouraged each other through hard times and given advice to each other in this trail running journey,” says Hawks, who like me is also an advocate of Coros Global watches. “It has been great to have a friend to do this with and it has helped us build a brotherhood. This community is amazing and this is what trail running is about! I made the switch to ultra running earlier than he did but we are both having success with it now with help of one another.”

After recently toying with the idea to move to Boulder to train with Daniels and others, Hawks says that he will live in Salt Lake City but will train when he can in Boulder.

“I love training in Utah and being so close to family is very important to me,” he says of the state where he was born and raised. “I will be doing long training camps in Boulder with Matt and the group, but will hanging out in Utah for a while more. We will be going from Southern to Northern Utah and now have the opportunity to train in the amazing Wasatch and Uintah Mountain ranges and go after some cool FKTs.”

The 500 miles separating Boulder and Salt Lake won’t prevent them from training together.

“This will help me become a better mountain runner and I am excited to be involved in the amazing Salt Lake City running community,” Hawks says. “There are so many people to train with there and many mountains to explore. I plan on doing a training camp with Matt next year before Western States. I think training together will only make us better! Matt is an incredible athlete and has more speed than me. He can push me in certain types of workouts and I can push him in others. We can really get the best out of each other and do amazing things in the sport of ultra running. I am excited to be involved in both communities and believe that really is what this sport is about, community!”

Runner, believer, husband, father

Hawks also relishes his religious community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon Church.

“It doesn’t matter if you are in Utah, Colorado or Iceland. The members will all have similar beliefs and we are all connected,” he says. “It is a worldwide church. My family travels a lot and we are able to practice our faith everywhere we go. This is very important to us and something we cherish. We believe in Jesus Christ and it brings balance to our lives. It gives us something else to live for and brings a strength to our family. I love worshipping with my fellow saints and love having more to my life than running.

Hawks credits his relationship with God as a boon to his running. “I try to be the best person I can be and just a genuine guy and I hope that reflects in my day-to-day living. Life is more than about you and all about what you can do for others, this world, and having an open mindset.”

Hayden and Ashley Hawks have a young son, too. So how does he balance duties as runner, husband and father?

“Balancing a young family has not been as bad as people might think,” he says. “My wife is also a runner and understands my lifestyle and we have a lot of similar interests. We love doing the same things and we involve our son in all of this as well. I try to travel as much with my family and give them the same opportunities that I have. Life is not good unless enjoyed with the people you love. I love my family and we try to stay balanced in all that we do.”

Family man

The Hawks have introduced their son to running, hiking and more.

“I try to give my son the opportunity to see this world,” he says. “I let him play in the dirt, run, climb mountains, play with bugs and move freely. He has learned so much and has built a great love for being outside and other cultures, foods and travel. He is a good kid and I enjoy playing with him and being his dad more than anything. He is so smart and has already run a few kids races and is constantly dragging us around the trails on family hikes. There is nothing better than being a dad and seeing him learn new things every day. I hope to teach him well like my parents taught me and give me opportunities to fall in love with this world that we live in.”

Hawks has come a long way in his own journey that began with a desire to succeed after his baseball letdown. He has certainly found his passion.

“I run ultra marathons because of the lifestyle it allows me to live,” he says. “I have made so many friends around the world, have ran in the most incredible places, and have had amazing experiences and opportunities because of running ultras. I am a soul runner and really do love running as long and far as I can. I love exploring in the mountains and I love living this lifestyle. I feel so fortunate and will forever be grateful for this decision that I made and the many people who have helped me along the way. The trail running community is amazing and it is like one big family that is always there to help you and lift you up.”

Speed drill

Name: Hayden Hawks

Hometown: St. George, Utah

Number of years running: 14 years

How many miles a week do you typically run: 100 miles a week, depends on the time of year and elevation gain as well though.

Point of pride: Victory at CCC 100K

Favorite race distance: 50K

Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Watermelon and oatmeal

Favorite piece of gear: Altra King MT 2

Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Against The Wind by Bob Seger

Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Let your running take flight

Where can other runners connect or follow you:

  • Instagram: hawks_hayden11

  • Facebook: Hayden Hawks

  • Strava: Hayden Hawks

  • Coaching: Hawks Running

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