Dylan is a runner who has led the world's top trail running scene for many years, until he became the founder of the trail running media "FREETRAIL" who also can juggle a role as an "ambassador" promoting trail running culture worldwide.
Needless to say, trail running is a sport in which you run on wild mountains and compete with other runners, but in the competition, runners experience the beauty and toughness of nature, and at the same time, connect with their own bodies and minds. And it is a sport that makes you realize your own growth by continuing to run while sometimes feeling happy and other times overcoming pain. Specifically, the 100-mile race, also Dylan’s specialty, is said to be a race so dramatic that it can be compared to a person's life, and that it creates a documentary revealing the essence of people.
Dylan has been active in FREETRAIL for the past few years and has already made a significant impact on the community. Dylan answered as below when we asked about balancing “FREETRAIL” while being an “athlete.”
"I want to spread the appeal of trail running, my love, through FREETRAIL, and this is my top priority right now. I want to live a life with my friends and family which I continue to share all the positivity that comes from this wonderful sport, such as the courage to overcome own barriers, the motivation to move forward, and the power of not giving up and aiming for the goal.
But I'm still motivated as an athlete and have goals I want to achieve. I have always lived a life committed to competition, and I feel that this is the most natural way for me to live in the first place. But I now have a new family and have started a small business called FREETRAIL with my close people, I think I am in a different phase in life than I used to be.
Tomorrow will be my second Hardrock 100, but I think of this challenge as a "New Chapter" for me. I'm feeling anxiety and nervousness like I've never felt before as an athlete, but I’m thinking to run connected with myself in the present rather than chasing my past self."
The Hardrock 100 is a historic trail running race held in the city of Silverton, Colorado, USA. It is 177 km long and has an elevation of 10,584 m. Most of the rugged mountains of San Juan Mountains, which make up a corner of the Rocky Mountains, are high mountains with an altitude of over 4,000 meters, and those runners who participates must reach the goals through various barriers such as dry air, low oxygen level and burning sunlight.
"It's really hard to put into words how great Hardrock100 is. Of course, there is wonderful nature, but there is a special appeal about this place that can only be recognized by experiencing the atmosphere of this tournament. The Hardrock 100 is considered one of the most valuable races to participate in globally and has always been a model case for trail running in Northern America. I have been applying for 10 years to participate in this race, and 2021 was the first time I got to compete in this race. This is my second entry, but I’ve been coming every year ever since to feal involved in some way even in the years I didn't participate. Hardrock 100 participants must enjoy this race for those who didn't make the cut. I think of this race as the kind which requires that type of mentality. “
Despite it was Dylan’s first participation in the race, Dylan broke the course record at the time and finished second in 2021. The memories of himself pushing the limits and running to the end are still within him. However, who knows how those memories will work for him in his "New Chapter" race until he runs it.
At break of dawn, Hardrock 100 kicked off with a countdown to 6am by the crowd of spectators.
The first page of Dylan Bowman's "New Chapter" was turned.
The story goes back to April of this year. Dylan competed in Ultra Trail Mount Fuji's short race "KAI70k" in Japan.
Dylan has won the Ultrarail Mount Fuji long distance race "FUJI" twice and is familiar with Japanese trail culture. Dylan shared his thoughts on his KAI participation before the race.
"It means a lot to be in KAI this time since this would be an important step towards the next Hardrock 100 race. Running this race will help me understand my present condition and feel my current best. This is important because I must reestablish my run today by being fully aware of my current best without getting psychologically pulled by previous performances. I also think that enjoyment is another important element for me in the race now."
KAI was a short-distance race but took off fast from the start with all the fast-paced marathoners also participating among Japanese runners. Despite that, Dylan kept improving his ranking and finished fourth.
"I think I took a very good step at KAI. I think I was able to maintain my speed at a good pace and I felt my steps solid on most of the climbs. I even met a few friends along the way and got to enjoy chatting with them a little. I truly felt really good progress. I slowed down a bit on the last climb, which was imaginable considering my current training frequency, but I can only move forward one step at a time. So, in that sense, I think running KAI was a very worthwhile step. “
During the race, Dylan would call out to the runners who were ahead of him as he passed them. (Since the long-distance FUJI started first, the top runners in the short distance KAI which started later kept passing the FUJI runners as they go.) Running while encouraging other athletes is not easy to do at all without mental leeway. Despite of him competing as an athlete, Dylan Bowman always remembers spirit of the “FREETRAILER.”
By contrast, Dylan struggled on the big stage of Hardrock 100, surrounded by family, friends, and its wonderful community.
It wasn't until he arrived at "Ouray Aid Station" that Dylan's support crew noticed something was wrong with him.
“Ouray Aid station” is the turning point of the entire course. Because the aid station is located at the lowest altitude, it is suitable as a place to rest and replenish energy. But the lower the altitude, the more series of tough climbs follows. And not only that, stopping at this section tends to fall in the timing when it rushes into the night. Because of all this, it is very easy to fall into a negative mental state.
Dylan arrived at the aid station in 4th place. Many people gathered at the aid station greeted him with applause. Dylan sat back in a chair with a grim expression on his face, put a towel over his head and looked down. When the crew called out, Dylan repeated his bearish responses.
"It's really hard, it's like I'm running while troubleshooting all day."
"It's too hot today to begin with."
"I don't know if I can make it to the end."
His friends and people around him listened to his pleas, but continued to nourish and encourage him, and kept encouraging him to drink fluids.
"You say it's the worst run, but you're still in the top 4 in Hardrock 100, which is really amazing! You can be confident!"
"It's night from here on, but it just means this strong sunlight will disappear. So, it's good!"
"Topher is there from here, so you'll be fine!"
Dylan's longtime supporter and wife, Harmony, later told us about Dylan at Ouray:
"I've never thought anything like this before, but I thought he should even retire when I saw Dylan's expression on Ouray. But I knew he’s capable of judging his limits, so I trusted his will and sent him to go on."
Stay at Ouray is about 10 minutes. Applause and cheers erupted from the crowd as Dylan stood up. The next aid station, Telluride, is a 1500m climb and a 1000m descent.
It is said that a 100mile race will always have a low point, just like in life. In other words, it is a state as we say, “rock bottom,” that will not fall any further. And trail culture makes us realize that it is not a weakness to be getting out of such point and getting helped by someone to continue running.
At 11pm, Dylan’s support crew was waiting for him in the Telluride Aid Station, an aid station at 74mile.
We could imagine a significant slowdown with a night hill climb of 1500m, given Dylan's condition at Ouray, but Dylan entered the Telluride Aid Station without dropping his place in the race. At this station, Dylan had a solid talk with the crew, ate, rehydrated, and headed to the next mountain with the new pacer Rich. His expression and steps clearly suggested that he escaped from the "Low Point."
Topher, who had just finished pacing Dylan, described how it was:
"At Ouray, there was a bit of weakness due to the heat, dehydration and a fall just before the aid, but Dylan was moving his legs well and was well nourished. I kept encouraging him to take each step for the goals right in front of him, and I felt like he was gradually regaining the confidence back. Virginius Pass was a tough climb with a lot of snow left, but Dylan had a really strong mental after overcoming it.”
The "Chapman Aid Station" at the 84-mile point was a remote aid station about 30 minutes up the mountain road from the parking lot. There’s no phone reception at this section and runners can't be tracked either.
Dylan arrived at the Chapman Aid Station close to four o'clock in the dark. His arrival was two hours later than anticipated. While waiting, runners who had passed Dylan along the way came in and out the Aid Station one after another. All competitors looked tired and exhausted, but then the sight of Dylan walking down the hill looked even worse. Then Dylan said, "I can't make it to the end."
Later, Dylan tells us about what happened at Chapman Aid Station:
“The experience I had at the ‘Chapman Aid Station’ was truly a miracle. In the 20 hours since the race started, I kept struggling and almost gave up many times. Yet I held on and ran towards the finish line. But when I climbed the "Oscars Pass" in front of the "Chapman Aid Station", I had to continue forward only for survival rather than competition. So, I was rather relieved that I got to go home alive by the time I got to Chapman Aid Station. I gave my all right there and then. Honestly, my Hardrock 100 was over for me there. But Bill did not allow it. I felt frustrated with him for not getting the situation at all at first. But it was a miracle for me because the recovery at "Chapman Aid Station" made me want to aim for the goal again in a positive way. I've never been touched by the kindness of such a powerful person."
"Bill Schum" is the aid captain of "Chapman Aid Station." Managing a remote aid station without a lifeline can be a challenge in itself, but Bill took care of all the competitors, support and film crew who entered the aid station, creating an environment where everyone could dedicate themselves on what they needed to do.
When Dylan walked in, Bill immediately told the staff to get one of the cods in the first aid tent and laid Dylan on it. He put a sleeping bag on top of Dylan, put two hot water bottles under his armpits, made him drink hot chicken soup, and took off his wet shoes and socks. Dylan tried to tell that he wants to retire, but Bill didn’t pay attention to it and suggests that he close his eyes and rest first.
After a while, Dylan tried to tell the crew who were beside him that he wanted to retire and drive down the mountain. But Bill, who was also beside him, immediately interrupted Dylan and calmly urged him to sleep.
"Just close your eyes for now and sleep. There are only 18miles left. It’ll be a new day when you open your eyes. What was hard is about yesterday. There's still time, so you just have to decide when you wake up. Just close your eyes first."
At 30 hours, 25 minutes, and 40 seconds; about eight hours behind his own record, Dylan finished second in the Hardrock 100 with the presence of family, friends, and spectators. He walked the last few meters to the finish line with his wife, Harmony, holding his son "Rhodes" in his right arm. FREETRAIL buddy Ryan followed with a camera in his hands, while his eldest brother James Bowman, his parents, and pacer Rich saw him off with smiles on their faces.
When Dylan kisses the rock in the tradition of Hardrock 100, course director Dale proudly shouts, "Everybody, now here a True Hard Rocker, Dylan Bowman!!" As many friends and spectators applauded him.
"I knew finishing this race had a very deep meaning as soon as I reached the finish line. I knew it wasn’t going to be just a memory, but an experience of the true value of trail running in a deep sense, and it will stay within me forever. This reminded me again that trail running isn’t just about top athletes competing for first place or for a self-record, but it brings a spiritual experience of self-transcendence to all runners. Runners who push themselves while dealing with the timeout deadline at each aid just have to get through that for even longer than I did this time, and I think that's a lot tougher, mentally and physically.
This time, It was my family and friends who supported me, my pacers Rich and Topher, and those volunteers whom I don’t even know names, and that guy with the hard rock spirit who encouraged me in tatters."
When Dylan was asked about his future goals as he got a little emotional talking about the race that just ended, he smiled and replied:
"I’m not thinking about anything for the future yet, but they say that painful memories are quickly forgotten. Sometimes the most difficult episode of life turns into happy memories. And it also can be an experience to look for in life."
Dylan ran "Hardrock 100" this time under the self-title "New Chapter". He's no longer just an athlete, but more than an athlete now. He is a trail runner who can spread the true value of trail running to people and inspire them.
That's why everyone keeps cheering, wanting to see "Dylan Bowman" compete for the top spot in the world again.
Born in Reno, Nevada in 1986, grew up in Boulder, Colorado.
Played lacrosse from childhood until graduating university. After retiring from lacrosse, stepped into full marathons and competed in trail running races. Winning major races in North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, he has been actively racing worldwide for more than a decade.
In addition to racing, Bowman has made a successful career in the trail running industry. He founded FREETRAIL, a media and a company dedicated to sharing the passion for trail running with the next generation. Bowman hosts the Freetrail podcast, where he interviews a wide cohort of guests, covering topics from trail running, ultrarunning, sports, business, and the outdoor industry itself.
He has entered a partnership with Goldwin since 2022.
1st Place: Ultra-Trail Australia 100k in 2015
1st Place: Tarawera Ultramarathon 100k in 2015
1st Place: Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in 2016
1st Place: 100 Miles of Istria in 2017
7th Place: UTMB in 2017
1st Place: Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in 2018
1st Place: UTWT Tarawera Ultramarathon in 2018
2nd Place: Hardrock 100mile in 2021