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Last Lap with Timothy Olson: Soul Runner

After recovering from a well-documented spiral into drug addiction many years ago, the rejuvenated Timothy Olson, 31, became one of the world’s top ultrarunners. The former cross-country runner and coach has finished on the podium at 50Ks, 50-milers, 100Ks and 100-milers, and also holds the course record (14:46:44) for the Western States 100. When he’s not running, Olson is putting the final touches on Run Mindful Retreats, his new running camps in Boulder, Colo., and working with his wife on a business to market travel-ready Paleo, vegan and vegetarian foods.

What’s the focus of your camps?

You know that positive feeling you have after a race? We want to help people tap into that on every run by connecting with nature, friends and community.

Are the camp retreats geared toward ultrarunners?

No, and it’s not an “elite” running camp either. We’ll have different running and hiking groups to meet the needs and desires of all participants. It’s to come and connect with the other attendees, connect with the land, go for some big runs and hikes.

PHOTOS: A Glimpse Inside Run Mindful Retreats

How does the idea of mindfulness come into play at these retreats?

For me, mindfulness has really been helpful in my running and my life. I’m hoping to get people psyched on the idea of meditation. Focusing on breath can help with running, a lot. It also helps in day-to-day life. Meditating and breathing opens you up to mindfulness.

RELATED: Run Mindful Retreats are Powered by Positive Thoughts

What’s your routine before a race?

I’m not a big fan of tapering. I read “Siddartha” by Hermann Hesse before every 100-mile race. It gives me something to do in the days leading up to a race and puts my mind in a good place.

Your wife is a runner, and one of your pacers at Hardrock 100. What’s it like to run together?

For us, going on a trail run together is “date night.” We can clear our minds, joke around and just play on the trail. It’s a very powerful thing for our relationship.

What draws you to certain races?

Big mountains, big trees, a beautiful mountain range and preferably a new place. I like technical terrain with challenging obstacles. It forces me to be present and in the moment. I feel it’s what trail running is about: opening all of your senses and being able to take everything in.

Will you run Western States 100 again?

Someday. I haven’t decided when, but at some point in the next few years. Western States has a beautiful course combined with great history and great people.

Your favorite post-long run food?

A bison, bacon and avocado burger with sweet potato fries.

Have you always leaned toward a Paleo diet?

It’s something I’ve morphed into over the last 6 years. I went gluten free first. It helped my stomach issues a lot. Then I went grain free and really noticed a difference in how I felt on a daily basis and how much better I recovered after long runs. I don’t eat as many gels as I used to, and my stomach stays together better during hard efforts.

Why do you run?

I run to be happy, to be wild and free. It’s very simple. You go out for a run and tap into nature, tap into your animal being inside. To me, trail running is the best way to find peace and presence.