Trail StyleOCTOBER 2023
There’s something about ultra trail that draws a certain type of athlete. We don’t want to say it attracts eccentrics, oddballs, weirdos, or perverts, but you do need to be a special kind of ‘free spirit’ to crave the degree of discomfort that comes from running a 50km-plus race through the woods.
To be an ultra runner is to be an individualist, that much is clear. But if the insane feats of athleticism accomplished by these maniacs wasn’t enough, some of them dress in strikingly unique ways as well. For this issue of POSSESSED, myself (Jason, the editor of this thing) and Matt Mitchell examined seven professional ultra trail specimens, and basically carried on like we were the dudes from Queer Eye. Matt is a San Francisco-based journalist and trail running obsessive, frequently seen zipping around the wilds of Mt. Tamalpais. We invited him over to the POSSESSED offices for a slide show and a chat about the curious world of trail runner style.
Matt, welcome. Are you ready?
Thank you. I am.
Okay, first cab off the rank: Coree Woltering. Aged 35, comes from Ottawa, Illinois, definitely had his fair share of podiums, runs in a goddamn Speedo. Thoughts?
Well, I don’t know Coree personally, but I have a lot of friends that do, and he’s a pretty vibrant personality, and that’s reflected in his choice of running apparel. I think it’s cool that Coree is able to diverge from the generic kit that North Face or any other sponsor would give him and really make it his own.
'I think it’s cool that Coree is able to diverge from the generic kit that North Face or any other sponsor would give and really make it his own.'
I couldn’t agree more, and also, I respect him for the Speedo. While he is opening himself up to potential mockery, when you think about it, everyone should be running in Speedos. Like, the range of movement that they would afford you.
I think it could also be seen as commentary on how absurd some aspects of ultra-running are.
Expand on that.
Well, people have every right to take it super-seriously, but at the end of the day, it’s a pretty silly premise. You know, like, running hundreds of kilometers and trying clock a certain time.
It is pretty silly.
And I think that those stye choices—whether it be a Speedo or Courtney Dauwalter in those long shorts—they bring a bit of levity to it and serve to remind people that we’re just out here to have fun and test ourselves.
Speaking of Courtney...
'Again, it’s a reflection of her personality, and goes against a lot of gender norms, which is rad.'
She’s 38, hails from Golden, Colorado, she's this year’s UTA Triple Crown winner, and she runs in basketball shorts. Courtney Dauwalter. Living legend, complete badass, fashion... I want to say iconoclast. Why the long shorts? Who cares at the end of the day, but also–why?
Well, I interviewed her a little while back, and I didn’t mention the shorts because it’s gotten to the point where it’s her brand and there’s nothing more to be said about it. She’s been asked about the shorts a lot.
Has she ever given a definitive answer, though?
I think it’s just, like, comfort, man. I’ve talked to a lot of professional female runners and one of their complaints is that, yeah, a lot of the shorts that are given to them for races don’t have a long enough inseam.
Thigh chaffing? I get that, too.
No, wedgies. But I think it’s cool. Again, it’s a reflection of her personality, and goes against a lot of gender norms, which is rad. And it seems to have transcended her now; like, the fact the Salomon has begun selling long shorts for women—
Is it called the ‘Shortney’ range?
Yeah! I didn’t know if that was a joke or not—
No, it’s real.
Yeah, it’s totally real. And I think a lot of young women look up to Courtney, and it’s cool that a brand would recognize that and understand that there’d be a demand for those shorts.
I wonder if she was ever pressured by a sponsor to wear regular running shorts. I mean, that sounds so dumb, but I wouldn’t put it past some brands.
Totally. It’s funny, I remember when she was running before she even signed with Salomon, she ran Lake Sonoma in, like, 2015, and was still wearing basketball shorts. So that’s always been her jam: long shorts and an oversize t-shirt.
It’s her secret weapon.
'Looking at this picture of Catra, it definitely speaks to why a lot of people get into this sport, right?'
Okay. She’s 58, she’s from California, and she’s the first American woman to run one-hundred 100-mile races. She’s podiumed over 60 ultras, and she’s one the best examples of running changing someone’s life for the better, because she was addicted to meth and actually ended up in jail. Incredible story—incredible lady. Candy-colored Catra Corbett.
And she’s not getting lost and going missing in the woods any time soon—she’s fluorescent.
Looking at this picture of Catra, it definitely speaks to why a lot of people get into this sport, right? The thing is, everyone is running from something, and the fact that she has this style seems like a nod to her past and an acknowledgement that, yeah, she did turn her life around.
Right. It’s like she’s still a wild woman but in the best way possible. And it looks like she’s been dipped in the tattoo bucket. That’s a lot of ink.
Yeah, it’s cool. I feel like ultra-running is a sport where you can totally show off any artwork on your body. It’s cool that that’s a thing.
It is. I back this look 100%. But can you imagine what her wardrobe must look like?
Oh yeah, it’d be a lot. And you never see her wearing anything else. I’ve seen her at races and it’s incredibly authentic.
That's the best thing about it, it’s totally authentic. But it’s not unheard of. In the world of ultra-running, she’s a standout, but you do see other fluoro-explosion people around.
It’s an interesting phenomenon.
I know what you’re saying. And I think that there’s a strong tie between expressing yourself and ultra-running; it does seem very relevant to our sport for whatever reason.
Have you ever dyed your hair a crazy color or worn florescent socks, Matt?
No, man. I stick to darker colors.
And I don’t wear a lot of logos and stuff, which is why Satisfy gear is great.
Nice. We’ll leave that bit in. Speaking of Satisfy...
'...it’s also kinda dirtbag couture—in the best sense, though. Like, you could see him on a trail and not know that he was running...'
The great Mike V.
He’s 38, lives in Prescott, Arizona, won the Cocodona 250 in 2021—among other things—and he’s a frickin' badass.
I love his style.
How would you describe it?
Well, there’s a lot of rebellion happening, as well as this kind of... I don’t know... Cowboy aesthetic?
I’m picking up cowboy vibes too. A little wild west; sort of a ‘no nonsense’ attitude.
Right, and it’s also kinda dirtbag couture—in the best sense, though. Like, you could see him on a trail and not know that he was running, based on his appearance.
I hear you on that. You might just assume he was a prospector.
Yeah. He doesn’t strike you as a runner. I feel like the industry standard is ‘We want to make clothes that make you look like a runner,’ whereas with brands like Satisfy, that’s not the message.
Let me ask you this: could you do the midriff shirt? Mike pulls it off because he’s got zero fat on that belly.
Yeah, I think that look works if you’ve got a pretty low-fat percentage.
Totally, like you couldn’t get away with that top if you had a beer guts.
You could try, but probably not. You have to work your way up to this look. But like, even the backwards hat and the sunglasses that look like they came from a gas station, and the Casio watch—
That is a Casio watch.
It just fits the whole look. It’s the accessories that complete his whole look.
Do you think he’s giving off prepper vibes?
Yeah, definitely. He’s got his bug-out bag for sure.
If the shit hits the fan, Mike is ready.
That’s probably why he runs such long distances—it’s for when the government comes.
'I think the Jesus comparison is definitely accurate, and he has the body to pull it off.'
Okay, now this fella, he’s very different to Mike, but you could definitely imagine them together in a metal band or a stolen Plymouth Barracuda.
Anton Krupicka. 40 years old, from Boulder, Colorado. He’s won Leadville twice, bunch of other races. Minimal everything. Often shirtless back in the day. Thoughts?
Oh, man, what can I say about that guy?
Jesus in a pair of 3” shorts.
Right. When he was running like that, it was kinda the apex of the minimalist movement, where everyone wore those FiveFinger minimalist shoes and carried around a dogeared copy of Born to Run and felt like they were inhabiting some kind of primitive space by running long distances.
But he’s iconic, man. I think the Jesus comparison is definitely accurate, and he has the body to pull it off. I think Anton’s look works with his personality. He’s this Boulder intellectual and his philosophy is expressed in the way runs, y’know? Like, if you read his training logs, they’re all incredibly well-written and have allusions to highbrow American authors and philosophers, and that’s just him.
The thinking man’s ultra-runner.
Totally. And it’s funny, he’s been around for a while... Did you say he’s 40?
Yeah, so he’s still as iconic as he was when he was winning races. But then Anton is more famous for his training than his racing. He won a lot of races and was one of the most talented runners at the time, but I think he would’ve been painted over if it wasn’t for his personality and that he helped grow ultra-running, especially in Europe. He was definitely in the vanguard of the sport.
'Well, you can see in his style that he seems completely indifferent to fame or anything like that. He has a working man look to him, right?'
I’m hoping you don’t know who this is so I can tell you about him. Not a trail runner, but a pretty amazing dude and worth a mention. Let me know if you recognize him.
Oh! I’ve heard of this guy!
The late great Cliff Young. He was a potato farmer from Victoria, Australia, and he won the Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon in 1983 at age 61. It was a 875km race and he beat the record by almost 2 days; he ran it in 5 days, 15 hours, and 4 minutes.
And get this: When he was awarded the $10,000 prize money, he said he didn’t realize there was a prize, and he felt bad about taking the money, so he split it with the five runners up and kept none for himself.
Oh, man. Well, you can see in his style that he seems completely indifferent to fame or anything like that. He has a working man look to him, right? That face has been out the sun all day, and he looks like he has that gnarled, old man strength to him.
Farmer strength. It’s a thing.
Yeah, farmer strength.
Famously, Cliff trained by running after sheep in his wellingtons.
Right, well that’s the cool thing about this sport is that it’s still kind of young and there isn’t any kind of direct training programme that will drop you off at the top. It’s largely about experimentation. And I’m sure those boots made it a lot harder to run, so when he was in proper footwear, I’ll bet he was able to capitalize on his fitness.
That’s a really good point. And I think the other secret to his success was that he also didn’t stop. He ran almost continuously for five days. I think the longest stretch he did without sleep was 50 hours, and even then, he only kipped for a couple of hours before setting off again.
That’s insane. But I mean, look at his face. He is so focused. But his arms aren’t swinging, he’s not a track runner or a marathoner. This is the stance of a person who can run for several days.
And look at the he's way dressed. He doesn’t really look like he’s going for a run.
No, it looks like he’s heading out to get a newspaper or something.
But running in rubber boots.
I was pacing for friend in a 100-mile race earlier this summer, and this guy was wearing Crocs for the entire thing.
Yeah, and he came in, like, 30th place, and it was a burly course.
But wouldn’t Crocs fill up with rocks and shit?
That’s I’m saying.
But I’m gonna look into Cliff Young for sure. Did he come out of nowhere?
Yeah, pretty much. I’m not sure how much racing he’d done before.
That’s the thing, though, you hear about these folks that are just like, ‘Yeah, I signed up for this ultra-race and beat everybody by 90 minutes.' That’s a really cool aspect of the sport.
'It’s cool to see the people that featured in Born to Run still participating in the sport. Because they weren’t racing each other before; running long distance was just part of their culture.'
Now this last one brings us back to Born to Run. Maria Lorena Ramírez. She’s 28 and a member of the famous Rarámuri/Tarahumara tribe. She won the 50K Cerro Rojo UltraTrail in 2017 wearing sandals and a dress.
The dissonance between the sandals, the dress and then the Salomon pack is really interesting.
Isn’t it? It’s like she swapped the bottom half with someone else.
It’s cool to see the people that featured in Born to Run still participating in the sport. Because they weren’t racing each other before; running long distance was just part of their culture. It’s cool that ultra-running is such a beast that it can incorporate all different kinds of people.
It is very cool. I think Maria’s deal is that she’s all about being a positive role model for young women. That’s why she runs.
I love that she’s wearing sandals. The Tarahumara don’t like wearing modern running shoes, right?
That’s right. I guess they didn’t grow up wearing western shoes, so I imagine when someone went down there with a pair of Hokas or a pair of Salomons, my guess is that they’d be way too narrow for feet that hadn’t been restrained like that.
Do you know why western shoes are pointed at the end?
Does it have something to do with horses?
Yeah. So, back in the 1800s when rich people rode horses around, they made shoes with a pointed toe box to make it easier to step into the stirrups.
Oh, wow. I didn’t know that.
Yeah, but it’s interesting to think about the effects of that, because people’s feet are all screwed up as a result. Our feet aren’t meant to be bound like that.
The narrow toe shape persists.
God, that’s weird. So, Maria is onto something with the open-toe sandals, but what about the dress?
I think it’s cool she’s competing in a dress because there’s so much hype around performance apparel and wearing the lightest fabrics possible, etcetera—which is legit, of course, but Courtney is doing it in long shorts and Maria is racing in a dress, so...
Yeah, but that dress has gotta be a lot heavier and certainly hotter than anything else she could wear.
I mean, for sure. I wouldn’t race in a dress.
And also, the wind resistance. Think about that.
Totally. And then when the dress gets sweaty—even heavier.
I mean, full respect to her culture and heritage, but I wonder how much faster she’d be in shorts.
Right, but that’s what’s cool about the dress: she’s sending a message. Her competing is not exclusively about performance.
It’s style on principal. Form over function.
Excellent. Matt Mitchell, thanks for your time.
Thanks for having me.