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Arlen Glick: From ‘hobby jogger’ to elite 100-miler

Arlen Glick is a favorite to win Western States.

By Henry Howard

Arlen Glick, a one-time “hobby jogger,” is taking on two of America’s most prestigious 100-mile races within a few weeks this summer. What would the novice runner of just a few years ago think about the professional runner’s epic summer plans?

“Back in my hobby jogging days, I don't even know,” says Glick, who is sponsored by Craft and lives with his Mennonite family in Massillon, Ohio. “I wish our sport could do better at communicating. I was in the dark as to actually what's going on in the sport of ultra running. But whatever. I'm probably living the dream, even though I'm still trying to figure this out as a professional athlete. It's been super challenging figuring this thing out and what life is supposed to look like as a professional athlete, but it's also very exciting and adventurous and I am loving it to death. It's really cool.”

Glick, who placed third at Western States in 2022 with a sub-16 hour finish, is among the favorites in this year’s race. (Glick is among Andy Jones-Wilkins’ favorites. Read AJW’s race preview here.) His running accomplishments have included winning his first 100-miler, the Eagle Up Ultra in 2018; taking both the Mohican and Canal Corridor 100-milers within a month the next year; and also claiming the top spot at other 100s since then including Javelina, Umstead (twice), Mohican, Burning River (twice) and the Jackpot Ultras.

It’s a stout resume for any ultra runner. But for 30-year-old Glick, he is only getting started.

Community support

Arlen Glick is supported by his Mennonite family who live in Ohio.

Glick and his family have attended a Mennonite Church for years. While there are theological differences between Mennonites and the Amish, there is an easy way to spot the most noticeable distinction.

Mennonites have vehicles and drive, while the Amish still use their horse buggies.

Both groups are very committed to community. It’s neighbor helping neighbor. “They are very good when disasters come around, showing up and giving their support,” Glick says.

The ultra running community also is all about helping out each other in dark times.

“Of course my family is usually the backbone of my crew,” Glick says. “They know me best and know my needs specifically at a race. We have some of the local people from Mennonite-ish backgrounds that have helped out with some. Like at Western States last year, we had a group of guys from the local community that decided to help out with that one. In fact, Derek Miller paced me at Western States. He'll be out there with me this year as well.”

Glick doesn’t take the support for granted.

“It's very special, especially my family when they're involved, just because it's really easy to lose touch with the rest of the culture or whatever when you get stuck in the ultra running community,” he explains. “We have a lot of love and respect for each other and sometimes it's easy to get disconnected. So that really helps a lot, it just helps you to feel connected with normal people when you have a good relationship with your family and they can be a part of that.”

It took some time for Glick’s family to wrap their minds around the idea of running 100 miles.

“At first they were like, ‘This is crazy, why are you doing this?’” he recalls. “But they have grown to be very supportive of it. They give me a lot of encouragement and they definitely support it.”

Arlen Glick has won Umstead, Eagle Up Ultra, Javelina, Burning River and other races.

‘Stupidly far distances’

Glick didn’t transition from hobby jogger to ultra champion overnight. Like other runners, he started out with 5Ks and then realized he might have some talent for running.

The entirety of my career has been extremely uncertain,” says Glick, noting he won the first 10K he entered. “That was really weird. I can remember it was a small event, maybe 400 people. I remember them saying at the start of the race, ‘Hey, if you're slow, get to the back and if you're fast, get to the front.’ And I just like, I'm probably average, so I just lined up in the middle of the pack and then I was wondering why everyone started out hiking. I thought this was a race. I thought you were supposed to run. Anyway, I ended up winning the thing and that's when it was kind of like a light bulb went on, like, maybe I'm half decent at this. I don't know if anybody fast was here or not. I didn't anything about the community or really the sport in general. I just enjoyed my running, my hobby jogging.”

Glick then started thinking about a marathon.

“I found out that people run stupidly far distances,” he says, reflecting back to his first marathon. “That was very intriguing to me.”

He progressed from 26.2 miles to a 50K the following year, then a 50-miler the next and then a 100K, all while racing shorter distances.

Arlen Glick holds the course record at the Umstead 100-miler.

Then came the Eagle Up Ultra, the 24-hour, 100-miler that changed everything.

“I did pretty decent at the shorter distances for those small local races, but nothing too spectacular,” he recalls. “But when I did my first 100-miler, it became clear that that's what I was going to be good at. At first it was a really big scare because that was way harder than anything I've ever done. Just mentally, it kind of wrecked me for about six months. But once I got over it, I realized if I'm going to be good at this, then that's what I'm going to have to do.”

If the 10K victory was the spark, then the sub-15 hour win at Eagle Up stoked Glick’s fire.

“That was a pretty decent effort at the first attempt at the 100-mile distance, which generally that takes a while to figure out,” he says. “It's funny because as I look back, I did so many things wrong there but for some reason it still worked, and sometimes it has me a little bit baffled. But then even as I talked about the uncertainty of my career with me deciding not to be on social media, me being from the East Coast, me not necessarily knowing if I was going to be good at running mountains and that's kind of where everything happens, it was very uncertain whether or not I would ever be able to do this as a career. Of course, I didn't really know that until just middle of last year that some opportunities started opening up, so it's been an interesting journey.”

Those who follow the sport know about Glick’s separation from social media. To follow other runners, he scans UltraSignUp for updates, uses Strava and engages with others in the community.

“I am a people person so I'm interacting with people, and I attend races all the time and just talk with people,” he says. “A lot of my knowledge about races is just asking people about different events that they have done. I do have Strava, which is sort of a social media platform too, but I found that to be super helpful just to see how people were training and what they're doing.”

The journey

Glick’s rise to prominence as an ultra runner has taught him many lessons along the way.

“One of the most interesting things I’ve learned is what makes an ultra runner a good one, and I think it's amazing how many components I've had all along but never made the connection that that would produce a good ultra runner,” he explains. “It's been super interesting to see the mindset that I have adopted. It propelled me to success, but I didn't know that this was going to point toward success. I've always been one that was super untalented at sports in general, and yet I was always so determined and willing to work as hard as I needed to. I had a good work ethic. I find that a lot of successful ultra runners were horrible at sports but had a really good work ethic. That seems to be a component that produces good ultra runners.”

Arlen Glick is doing the Western States-Hardrock double.

Glick’s relentless drive is easy to spot, admirable and inspiring. So where does it come from — his upbringing, his DNA or something else?

“I'm not sure how much of it is my upbringing and how much of it is DNA,” he answers. “I would say there's probably a couple components there. Both are responsible for it somewhat.”

Glick, the sixth of nine children, recalls his father teaching him at an early age that sometimes life is not fair. “As silly and as basic as that seems, there's grownups who haven't learned that yet,” he points out. “And it's such a good life lesson, but it's also so applicable to ultra running in making you successful.”

When Glick attends races as a spectator, he takes note of those dropping out.

“It hurts because I don't want them to make a decision that they're going to regret, and most of them probably will regret it,” he says. “At the same time, it really helps me to understand the way our minds work. A lot of times what people are looking for when they are thinking about dropping is they want sympathy. They want someone to tell them that they have a legitimate excuse to drop. Just having this ‘don't feel sorry for yourself’ attitude because that's not actually going to get you anywhere. That thought process is going to keep you in the aid station. But if you learn how not to look for sympathy, like when you come in and your crew's there, and of course they're there to serve your needs, whatever you need, and if you make some mistakes and you need to adjust your plan, they are there to make it happen.”

Relating it back to his determination, Glick says, “some of the thought process that I have may be genetic, and then some of it is just some lessons of life that I learned as a kid growing up and being in a family where you were expected to work, you were expected to take responsibility for your choices.”

Arlen Glick has won the Javelina Jundred.

Western States-Hardrock double

Arlen Glick is running the Western-Hardrock double, which are just a few weeks apart.

“The Western States-Hardrock double is infamous for good reason,” he says. “If they were the other way around, it may be a lot easier.”

Originally, he has signed up for UTMB in August. But when his name got pulled for Hardrock in November, Glick opted for it instead of the famed European race. He obtained his qualifier for the Hardrock entry by racing Run Rabbit Run, where he placed second in 19:04.

“Run Rabbit Run is not nearly as difficult as Hardrock is going to be in terms of the basic metrics, 33,000 feet of climbing and average altitude of like 11,000 feet,” he says. “Hardrock is such a new thing, it seems so clear in my mind that I needed to put everything into Western States and not even worry about Hardrock. I feel like if I prepared for Hardrock and then threw Western States in there before, I probably would fail at Hardrock anyway because the key time for you to get up at altitude is right over Western States, the snow is melted enough that you can get up to altitude, is right while you're tapering or recovering from Western States. So when I looked at just the dynamics of it, I was like, well, shove it. I don't want to fail at Western States because I've got Hardrock hanging over me.”

At the time of our interview, which was a few months before Western, Glick was focused his training on that race.

“I'm basically trying to get as fit as I can for Western States,” he says. “I have a pretty strategic plan. I think I have the best plan that you can for the double, but certainly not the best Hardrock plan. I'm in Arizona training right now. I was in California for a week. I'm here for two weeks. I'll be home for a week and a half, and when I'm home, I'm sleeping at altitude with an altitude tent. As you know, I live at sea level, so I'm sleeping at say 10,000 feet and I'm running at a 1,000 feet. Then when I'm gone, I'm sleeping at anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 feet and training anywhere from 4,000 to 9,000 feet. Then I'll be home for a week and a half after my Arizona stay, and then I'm back out to California on the Western States course for about two and a half weeks during my peak training phase.”

During his taper for Western States, he’ll be at home in Ohio. After the race, he will return there to recover for four or five days. And then two weeks before Hardrock, he heads to Silverton to “learn how to use poles, hike and spend some time at altitude.”

It’s an audacious double, even for an elite athlete.

“Hopefully the body won't react too bad when I get to altitude,” he says. “I think it looks pretty silly taking a wrecked body into something that's significantly harder than anything I've done in the past, but that excites me. I'm still pretty young and dumb, at least I'd like to think that, and that kind of gets me excited knowing that I've done a lot of 100s, but this is going to be a really cool experience with quite a curveball thrown at me.”

Once Glick finishes the double, what would success look like?

Arlen Glick is sponsored by Craft.

“Ultimately success would look like Western States being successful,” he says. “That's what I would like to succeed at. That one is where I'm the most likely to succeed. I would like to go into Hardrock celebrating. There's the potential to be super fit for both races, but I think Hardrock is going to be so new to me that fit or not, it's going to be hard to be successful there, so I'm kind of at peace that whatever happens at Hardrock. What I guess failure would look like is that Western States may go good or bad, and then if I got a DNF at Hardrock, that's what failure would be. I'm going to do my best at Western States and then when Hardrock comes around, success at Hardrock really looks like a finish.”

After the double, Glick will go to UTMB as a spectator and support his sponsor, Craft.

“That's something that I really look forward to after Hardrock, is to go over to France and just spend maybe three, four weeks just learning to know the area in hopes that someday I can come back and race and do UTMB. That's something that I'm really looking forward to as kind of my celebration. No pressure of a race, but just go learn about a new culture in a new area that I haven't been to before.”

Looking ahead on his race calendar, it is unusually blank. For now.

“I don't know what the rest of my season will look like,” Glick says. “I don't think I will hang up racing after Hardrock unless something is really messed up, but that'll give me some time to think about if I want to do a race in the fall. Mountain running season is pretty short. It's kind of unfortunate and crazy. At the same time, I packed both of my mountain races in a very short window.”

Speed drill

Name: Arlen Glick

Hometown: Massillon, Ohio

Number of years running: Around 11.

How many miles a week do you typically run: “When I’m trying to get in shape usually 100 to 150.”

Point of pride: “My Umstead 100 with 13 hours of running and only 21 seconds of downtime.”

Favorite race distance: 100 miles.

Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: “Not much pre-race but I love a good burger after a long run!”

Favorite piece of gear: Recovery sandals.

Who inspires you: Tommy Rivs.

Favorite or inspirational song to run to: None.

Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “I can’t fool myself so when I’m struggling I just remind myself how good I will feel when I’m done and how glad I will be if I pushed as hard as I can.”

Where can other runners connect or follow you:


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