Duncan Callahan on Reaching the Top, Burning Out, & What Comes Next (Ep.9)


  • Duncan’s background in endurance sports (3:23)
  • Ultrarunning at an early age (6:55)
  • Duncan’s first Leadville 100 (13:45)
  • Winning the 2008 Leadville 100 — i.e., the ‘Gunnison’ 100 (18:15)
  • Burning out (21:49)
  • What would he have done differently? (25:20)
  • On identifying as a “runner” (30:34)

There is a very common narrative in the running and ultra running world about people who were struggling in life, then they found running, and that saved them from the bad track they were on. In other words, we often hear about the salvific power of running. But what happens when you’ve been an endurance athlete for over twenty years and you then find yourself in search of some answers? Then what?

Duncan Callahan won the Leadville 100 in 2008 and 2010, he’s set multiple course records at a variety of ultra races; and he has so many other wins, podiums, and top 10 finishes that I finally just stopped counting.

And yet…

This two-time Leadville 100 champion, this guy who when he was in highschool could be found putting in 40-mile workouts on rollerskis before he would go to class, and a few years ago was doing things like running over 2500 training miles in 100 days — do that math, this guy who is a Carmichael Training Systems coach who specializes in ultrarunning, has developed a pretty complex relationship to running.

One of the things I really love so much about Duncan — beyond his humility and his kindness and his intelligence — is his absolute candor. He is a coach, and coaches are supposed to have answers. And while Duncan has some strong opinions about best practices, he refuses to throw out pat answers or phony solutions. Not all questions have simple answers, and we do a huge disservice to ourselves and each other when we act like they do. And I think his perspective is going to spark a lot of good thinking and self-examination that will serve a lot of us well.

I met up with Duncan at the ICELab on the campus of Western Colorado University, and I’m excited to share our conversation now with you.

Jonathan Ellsworth talks Leadville 100 winner, Duncan Callahan, about running, "burning out" on running, and how to cope with it.
Duncan Callahan, Western Colorado University.

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