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Two Decades And Still Running

March 11, 2019 4 min read

Posted by Nathan Guest Blogger and 2013 Leadville Champion Ashley Arnold

Nathan athlete James Bonnett has been a runner for over two decades. In that time the Arizona resident has completed more than 40 ultra marathons-a majority of them 50 miles and longer. And ... he's 27.

Bonnett was running double-digit miles in one trail race before his age was even in the double digits. Then after an already-long running career, Bonnett took a short hiatus a few years ago. He's back on the trails now, though, and is, perhaps, stronger than ever.

So far this year Bonnett, who not only competes but also has his own coaching business on top of his day job at a running store, has run the Born to Run 50K (he finished fifth). He's now in the thick of a heavy training cycle to get ready for the iconic Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (which he last ran in 2007). After Western, he'll take a well-deserved mid-season break to spend time with his family and soon-to-be-born son, Zane.

He'll be back on the trails after that he says, hopefully racing in Europe followed by a few low-key events in preparation for another big focus, the JFK 50-Mile. Then, if his legs are still willing, Bonnett says he'll top the year off with an Arizona Trail FKT attempt and a six-day stage race.

Between his training, work and a busy life, we caught up with Bonnett via email to ask a few questions about his life-long connection to the sport:

Q+A
Why Nathan? How does hydration play a role in your training?
Nathan Hydration has been a great addition to my running career. Their equipment helps me get to the finish line. Without them I couldn't transition through aid stations as fast and I wouldn't have the gear for long training runs in the desert without water.

You started running at a young age. How did that come about and why did you want to run a marathon?
I started running around the age of four or five, and at the time I was just running warm ups or cool downs with my dad. As I grew older I became faster and stronger and so I wanted to push my body in distance and speed.

I didn't necessarily want to run a marathon I more or less just stumbled into it during a mountain marathon race my dad was running. The race consisted of a 7.5-mile 4,000-foot climb and then a descent of almost equal distance to a turn around spot where my Mom was working an aid station. I was supposed to stop and ride back with her but at the time I felt great and wanted to continue. My Mom was clueless about the race-other then helping out at the aid station, so she allowed me to continue on. With all that being said I climbed back up the mountain and back down, surprising my dad at the end with a finish.

... And then, you ran your first 100 at age 12?
My first 100 occurred at a race called Across The Years 24-Hour. I completed 101.4 miles in the time. All the competition blew up so I ended up receiving my first ultra victory as well.

Did you hear a lot of backlash about competing in ultra distances at such a young age?
This is a question I hear a lot. And, yes, I did at times. My father would get e-mails, phone calls, letters, and every so often, would get 'talked to' at race. A few times during races people actually told me not to continue or tried to stop me from continuing. For the most part I felt support from race directors and the people around me.

How do you feel ultrarunning has shaped you as a teenager and a young adult? What do you think your life would be like without it?
I think its been great for me. It's good to have goals in life. I think it really keeps people out of trouble.

How do you feel about returning to run Western this year? What does that race mean to you?
This is huge! I have been very excited to run again this year. WS100 is a very special race to me.

When you're not running, what are you doing?
Usually coaching or working at my local running store iRun. (It's the best ultra store in AZ!) If I have any other time, I'm usually spending it with my girlfriend or just hanging out with friends going to local sports events, playing disc golf, snow boarding, or bowling. But between training, coaching, and working I don't have much time.

What does Nathan's hashtag #werunonwater mean to you?
The human body would not work without water. It is the original source of energy that keeps us going.

What is your hydration unit of choice from Nathan?
I have been using the Firecatcher for my long runs and my commute to work. For my shorter stuff I have been using the Speed Draw Plus insulated.

If you could only ever run one trail again, which trail would you choose?
Any trail would do. I love to run no matter where I am.


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