If you’re an avid fan of ultrarunning, Hayden Hawks is a name you’ve known since at least December 3rd, 2016. On that day, Hawks battled all day with Zach Miller at The North Face Endurance Challenge - Championships 50 Mile to take second place. He’s only made a bigger name for himself since then by winning the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc CCC 100k in 2017, while notching wins at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120k in 2018, the Chuckanut 50k in 2019, and the Black Canyon 100k in 2020.
Hawks had his sights set on the Western States Endurance Run this summer, but with that race cancelled due to the global health pandemic, he’s readjusted his year. He recently won the Squaw Peak 50 Mile in his home state of Utah, and will run the entire Hardrock 100 course over four days this week. We slowed Hawks down for a few minutes so that you could catch up and get to know the newest rabbitPRO.
Question: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Answer: I grew up in St. George, Utah, living next to Zion National Park, and now I live in Cedar City, Utah. It’s about 40 minutes up the road from St. George at about 6,000 feet above sea level. I attended school and ran Cross Country and Track and Field at Southern Utah University in Cedar City where I met my wife and decided to buy a home and settle after college.
Q: How did you first get involved with running?
A: St George, Utah is a hub in Utah for outdoor sports. Lots of people come to visit the National Parks, mountain bike, climb, trail run, and play on the red rocks. It's an amazing place to grow up and I was involved in a lot of these activities at a young age and grew up with a love for the outdoors. I also played pretty much every sport I could get involved in--basketball, baseball, football, soccer, wrestling, biking, and running. I was a very active kid and was always doing something outside most of the day. After making many all-star teams in many sports and really excelling in baseball, I thought my future would be in that sport. Then I got cut from my high school baseball team after feeling like I was a lock to make the team. The coaches said that I was too small and didn't see me getting any bigger. This really affected me and I fell into a little bit of depression and had a lot of body image issues. I hired a personal weight training coach, lived off of protein shakes, and tried to gain weight and get big.
Then when I was 15 years old I had a friend from my neighborhood invite me to go run with him at six in the morning with the cross country team. I thought this was a joke, but decided to go to make him happy and because I thought the running could help me stay in shape for baseball. I went to practice and quickly fell in love with it. I really loved that no one cared what I looked like and I felt comfortable in my skinny body. I was very competitive and pushed it with the top guys and would die at the end of every run. I kept going back though and was determined to not die and try to beat all the top guys. With the help of my supportive coach and family I soon became the best runner on the team, became a state champion and one of the best runners in the nation. I decided that running was my thing and I loved it. I loved the community, I loved pushing myself, and just plain loved running. I became a soul runner, started running on the trails because they were fun and I loved exploring. I got a scholarship and my life became amazing!
Q: Speaking of trails, when did you first start running trails, mountains, and ultras?
A: Like I said before, I first started running on trails in the National parks, state parks, and mountains of Southern Utah when I was in high school. I started working at the St. George Running Center at 16 years old and found out that people not just hiked on trails but they ran them. I introduced trail running to my high school cross country team and we would enjoy trail days on easy days. I started running with the local marathoners and trail runners and would do big long days with them in high school and loved it. There was so much to explore and it was so much more fun. We would go on family camping trips in the mountains and I would go run the mountains and trails and my love for maps began.
I then went to Southern Utah University on a track scholarship and would try to run in the mountains and on the trails as much as I could for easy days in college. I fell in love with this route we would run on easy days in college called Razorbacks. It had some technical trail parts and some exposure and was so much fun. After running and excelling on the track in college I got a little burnt out of running on roads and tracks so much and decided that I still wanted to run because I loved it, but wanted to try and see what a trail race would be like. I signed up for the USA Mountain Running Championships (10k distance) right off of regionals on the track in 2016. I flew out to New Hampshire to run the Loon Mountain Race not knowing what to expect with a friend from my track days, Matt Daniels. I was hoping to make the USA team but had no idea what it would be like. I went to the lead right away ahead of Joe Gray and Andy Wacker and pushed it so hard. I ended up falling back a little but finished 4th and made the USA team. Even though I suffered at the end, I loved it and wanted to do more.
Soon after that I went home and had a friend invite me to go run Pine Valley Mountain and train on trails with him and some friends. I joined him and even though it was really slow and took forever, I loved it again. I still wasn't sure if I wanted to pursue trail running or try to make a career on the roads and track. A couple weeks later I last minute signed up for the Speedgoat 50k on a whim because my friend convinced me. I showed up the night before and won the race. After that I was convinced that I loved the trails, loved the trail community, and wanted to try and make a career out of it. I have never looked back and so happy with where my life has taken me!
Q: You've accomplished a lot already in the sport of ultrarunning. What are some major goals that you haven't yet accomplished?
A: My biggest goal that I want to accomplish still in the sport is to get really good at 100-mile races and in turn win Western States 100, win UTMB 100, Hardrock 100, and many other races.
I love running and love running for as long as I can. I still want to be good at the shorter stuff too but I really want to be as diverse of a trail runner as I can be and try to be the best that I can be. I have a lot of goals and adventures planned, I think about them daily and they drive and motivate my training and life. I want to show my son that I can accomplish hard things and that I will never give up. I never want to let a race get me and want to go back and strive to be my best at anything I do no matter how long that takes. I want to have fun with this whole thing too though, travel lots, and have many adventures.
All photos by Derrick Lytle