With multiple international ultras under his belt, Nevada born Dylan Bowman is a force to be reckoned with. On a cold, gloomy February evening, the Tribe Sports team were delighted to sit down and chat (virtually) with Dylan from his home in Colorado. From a nail biting sprint finish with Pau Capell to competing in the midst of a tropical storm, he shares the soaring highs and agonising lows that have shaped his unstoppable journey to the top over the last decade.
A talented lacrosse player while growing up, Dylan describes his entry into running as distinctly ‘non-traditional’. ‘I was never a runner growing up,’ he says: ‘After finishing college in 2009, I found myself without a competitive goal for the first time. I did my first ultra that summer and my first hundred miler a year later. I haven’t looked back since!’
After establishing himself as one of the top contenders on the US ultra running circuit, Dylan set his sights overseas, entering New Zealand’s Tarawera Ultramarathon in 2015.
'Tarawera is one of my favourite races in the world,’ says Dylan, with a smile: 'The scenery is just stunning and the course itself is quite forgiving in terms of terrain.’
Having scooped first place at both the 2015 and 2018 races, Dylan recalls how different the two events were. ‘The first time I ran that race, conditions were pretty much perfect,’ he says: ‘Whereas the second time I ran it in the middle of a tropical storm. It was raining ferociously and the trail was incredibly muddy, which slowed me down quite considerably - I ended up coming in about 40 minutes slower compared to 2015. To add to the challenge, in 2018 the route had been reversed - that second half of the race was brutal!’
In 2017, Dylan tackled the world-renowned Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Covering over 100 miles across the picturesque Alps, it’s widely regarded as one of the toughest foot races in the world. 2017 provided arguably one of the most competitive lineups in the races’ history. ‘If you look at the guys who ended up finishing ahead of me, there were 4 former UTMB champions in there - so I was in good company!’ laughs Dylan.
Despite finishing in a very respectable 7th place with a record time of less than 21 hours - and over an hour ahead of the 8th place racer - he views it as the ‘race that got away.' ‘For the first 100k, I felt I was almost having a perfect race,’ Dylan recalls: ‘But during the last 50k, I didn’t look after myself. I got to the point where I couldn’t eat anymore and didn’t take steps to mitigate that, as I was so wrapped up in the competitive element of the race. I let those important things slide and ultimately, it cost me.’
Having spent a majority of the race running with Tim Tollefson - who finished in third place - he spent the final agonising 10 miles of the race struggling to maintain the competitive drive he prides himself on. ‘I was passed by Xavier Thévenard, Jim Walmsley and Pau Capell all within those last few miles. Going from being in contact with third place to finishing 7th overall was really hard. I’m still hugely proud of the result, but making mistakes that could have been avoided was difficult to live with - but that’s the nature of sport! There’s always something to learn and always something to improve on. It was an important lesson for me.’
Spurred on by the challenges he faced at Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, he went on to have two of the best races of his career the following year, competing in the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji and Ultra Running World Tour - where he achieved first and second place respectively. ‘In the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, I was running in second place behind Pau Capell the whole way. About 100k into the race, he had a 27 minute lead on me.’
Over the next 60k, Dylan was able to steadily close the gap before finally catching and then overtaking Pau with only 5k to go. ‘I literally had to run flat out for those last 5k to hold him off,’ laughs Dylan; ‘In the end, I won only by about 2 minutes, so it was an incredibly close race. It really demonstrated the importance of perseverance in running.’
At the Ultra Running World Tour in France the same year, there was a similar hotly contested finish. After initially leading the race, he lost about 5 minutes when he was led off course by a race official and subsequently passed by two other runners. ‘It was my experience the previous year at UTMB which allowed me to dig deep and keep on fighting to the end. By the time we were closing in on the finish, it was a real tooth and nail battle - we were all running as hard as we possibly could.’
In the dramatic final stretch, only 90 seconds separated the first 3 finishers, with Dylan coming in just 1 minute behind the winner in second place. ‘After 14 hours of racing, to have such a close finish was pretty incredible,’ he says.
With so many demanding events in his back catalogue, Dylan has developed a highly tailored training programme built on consistency, quality and specificity. ‘I’m not someone who does an insane amount of training, I tend to focus more on quality rather than quantity,’ he says: ‘When I do train, I train hard - but it’s about making sure you find the balance. Before each event, I’ll learn as much about the course as possible and try to replicate that as specifically as possible in my training.’
Despite his tremendous success, Dylan has never lost sight of what truly matters to him - his fundamental love of running. ‘My reasons for running are no different to anyone else. Running is where I feel most comfortable - it helps me feel productive, gives me motivation and something to work towards. It keeps me physically fit and strong, but also emotionally relaxed and resilient. For me, it’s about constantly striving to be better and to keep going - and to keep telling the story about what makes this sport so special.’
Dylan has recently launched Pyllars, an online resource designed to support runners physical and emotional fitness. Find out more here.