Get to know Leadville Trail 100 champion Adrian Macdonald

photo by Matt Johnson - @matoutdor
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Most people don’t know the name Adrian Macdonald. But, they should. This local ultra-runner has taken the trail running scene by storm in the last two years.

Due to the COVID shut down of numerous races, Macdonald says he turned his sights to the trails out side his Fort Collins home and began to seriously consider ultra-running. After a year of training, he surprised the trail running community by winning the 2021 Race Across the Sky in Leadville in his first attempt at the 100-mile distance.

His winning time of 16:18:19 was the fifth fastest time ever run on the course.

Proving that wasn’t a fluke, Macdonald followed that performance up with an astounding victory in the 2022 Leadville Trail 100, winning by over two hours in 16:05:44 – the third fastest time in the race’s history.

We caught up with Adrian to ask him some questions about himself.

On Trail Film Fest at the Lyric in Fort Collins – Tuesday, November 1st at 6:00 PM

Featuring Out & Back, the story of our very own, On Trail Athlete and Fort Collins Running Club member, Adrian Macdonald’s rise to prominence in ultra-running and his journey to and at the 2022 Leadville Trail 100 where he attempted to defend his 2021 title.

https://fb.me/e/3IoTTNpqg

Quick Stats

Name: Adrian Macdonald

Age: 34

Hometown & Current: Westwood, MA and Fort Collins, CO

Professional & Educational background: Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Gettysburg College. 

Sports participated in: I grew up playing football, soccer, basketball and baseball. In high school I played soccer in the fall and started running indoor and outdoor track. Once I got to college, I picked up cross country and started running year round.

Years in current sport: I’ve been running competitively for 18 years but have only been competing in ultra-marathons for two years.

Racing Team: On Trail, Fort Collins Running Club Racing Team

Sponsors/Affiliations: On Running, Ultimate Direction

photo by Matt Johnson – @matoutdor

The Long Run

What are some of the biggest highlights in your racing career?

Winning the 2021 Leadville Trail 100 in the fifth fastest time in event history in my first attempt at the 100-mile distance is the biggest highlight. I don’t think anyone knows for sure if they will be good at 100 miles until they have given it a few attempts. So, for me to win Leadville and run so fast on my first attempt was magical. Backing that performance up this year with another win and the third fastest time on the course was also a highlight for me.

What are your long-term goals?  What do you want to achieve as an athlete?

I would like to compete to win and podium at some of the other big 100 mile races like Western States and UTMB. My next race is the Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko 100-Miler this December in Australia. A top three finish there will qualify me for UTMB next summer.

I also would like to return to Leadville and run under 16 hours, maybe go after the course record or maybe try to get the giant belt buckle for completing the race 10 times. 

Why Colorado?  What makes Colorado so special for endurance athletes?  What makes Colorado special to YOU?

Colorado is so special for endurance athletes because of the mountains, the elevation, the sunshine and the community of so many other like minded athletes. Personally, I have been inspired by the mountains ever since I first visited. It can be hard and frustrating but I’m always amazed by the places my legs can take me. 

Middle Distance

Take us through a “day in the life;” what type of training regimen do you follow? 

I do the majority of my training first thing in the morning. Tuesday and Friday are usually workout days. Wednesday is a moderate long run at Horsetooth Mountain Park or Lory State Park. Saturday is my long run. In the summer, I try to run my long run up high in the mountains. A couple days a week I’ll do a second run in the evening, after work. 

What are one or two things you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?

I make a monthly visit to my physical therapist and make sure to tell him about even the smallest thing that is bothering me. This helps me stay ahead of injury and prevent small discomforts from becoming big injuries. 

Do you follow any specific nutrition plans?  What are you favorite recovery meals, drinks, etc.?

I don’t follow any specific nutrition plan but I do try to make sure I’m eating healthy, especially when I’m in the midst of a big training block. I’m more relaxed about my diet in the offseason.

Do you have any recommended resources to share (books, seminars, websites, coaches)?

I try to read everything that Alex Hutchinson writes. His book Endure is particularly insightful.   

What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?

The length of an ultra-marathon can be overwhelming, both leading up to and during a race. I like to think of it in terms of time as opposed to distance. Running for 6 – 16 hours seems more manageable than 50 to 100 miles. Heading into my first Leadville, I told myself I was just going to run all day. 

What are your favorite races in Colorado?  Why?

The Leadville 100 has been life changing for me and will always hold a special place in my heart. Some other favorite races are the Mount Evans Ascent, the Horsetooth Half and the Tortoise and Hare Series put on by the Fort Collins Running Club.

Where do you like to train in Colorado?   Why?

The mountains! They are what inspire my running these days. The Sawatch Range and State Forest State Park are two of my favorites. The Sawatch has so many big mountains to run up while State Forest State Park is remote and peaceful.

Sprints

Favorite running shoe: On Cloudstratus for the roads and On Cloudvista for the trails.

Favorite post-run/race beverage: Coffee

Favorite post-run/race meal: Breakfast burrito 

Role models: Nick Clark is a role model and mentor for my ultra-marathoning. He was a great runner but also great at building community through running here in Fort Collins. I’ve been lucky to have him pace and crew me at many of my races. 

Day job: I work at Colorado State University as the Financial Officer of the Department of Statistics. I also serve as the Chair of the University’s Classified Personnel Council that advocates for State Classified employees on campus.

Solo runner, running partner or team/group?

All three! I usually do my speed workouts solo. I have a small group run I organize on Thursday mornings. For my big trail runs in the mountains I’ll try to get a friend or two to join me.

Podium

Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?

My biggest breakthrough was winning Leadville in 2021. That came from trying a new distance that I was really excited about.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

When I left for college, a former camp counselor told me to try to meet as many interesting people as possible and that the relationships I built with my teammates would help me “cross that finish line faster than you might have thought.”

Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by? That you train by? 

My college coach would tell us before every race, no matter the weather, that it is a beautiful day to enjoy our sport.

What keeps you motivated?  Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Self-improvement was what originally drew me to the sport. There is no better feeling than achieving something that I had previously never thought my body could do. I also love the competition.

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