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If you follow professional running, you may already know a little bit about pro athlete Cody Reed. If you’re invested in ultrarunning, however, Reed’s name is probably no stranger to your lips. A walk-on for the Northern Arizona University cross country and track teams from 2010 to 2015, before he started hitting the trails, Reed mostly competed in 5K and steeplechase events.
But it was after college that he really found his stride alongside former teammate Tim Freriks (and current Hoka One One-sponsored ultrarunner) among the trails of Arizona. “Tim and I were really good friends for a while before we started doing trail running,” said Reed. “Then started one day, we were running around in Sedona and we thought, ‘It’d be really cool if we trained in the Grand Canyon, or did these big runs and were able to go out for hours at a time.’”
As they began adding mileage to their distances, they teamed up with ultrarunner Jim Walmsley, who urged them to do more than just run for fun. “We weren’t thinking about ultraracing [at the time], and then Jim came to Flagstaff and he was like, ‘Why don’t you do an ultrarace? You’re doing the training for it,’” said Reed. “So then I went and crewed Jim and Tim in a race and I loved it, and the people, and everything. Then I signed up within two days for a 100K in like a month.”
Reed won that race, the 2016 Miwok 100K in Marin County, California, and has since added a number of wins and top finishes to his belt. That same year, he took home the win at The Ultra Race of Champions 100K, finished second at the Tarawera 100K in New Zealand in 2017 and placed seventh in this year’s Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.
A rat pack of runners, Reed now trains with Walmsley, Freriks, Jared Hazen and Eric Senseman regularly—devouring mountainsides and taking on some of the world’s most scenic trails. The “Coconino Cowboys,” as they call themselves, are based in Flagstaff, AZ. and have a mission to win as many ultramarathons as possible. Like his pack though, Reed doesn’t run for fame or praise. It’s about a love of the sport, a hunger to push their bodies to the limit and then push them even more—just to see what they’re made out of.
“We all, between me, Tim, Jim, Jared and Eric, we all have the same kind of mentality of like, ‘I don’t care what’s worked for all of these people all of these years, I’m going do my thing and we’re going to train really hard and race really hard,’” shared Reed. “It’s not going to work all the time but when it does, it really works. Individualism.”
The day we met, we had just listened to an Under Armour panel to learn about the brand’s newest trail shoe among the scenic Copper Mountain in Colorado. It was uncomfortably hot, and after having squirmed in our seats for 60 minutes, we were ready to the retreat to the shade for some relief. Reed, a lean, ponytail-wearing athlete, has a very casual nature to him. Although he hails from Northern California, you get a San Diego-surfer-dude vibe from him that shows itself in how he speaks: calm, cool and with drawn-out phrases (the CA way).
As we discussed his career, Reed seemed confident in his ability to tackle any race thrown at him, while at the same time not coming off as arrogant—a skill that didn’t go unnoticed. At 27, Reed seems ready to conquer the world (or at least the trails in it), and challenge other runners to show up for these longer races. “We set out to change trends in ultrarunning, just make it more exciting and get people excited to run these distances and come to the trails. To try to get it more popular and mainstream,” said Reed.
One thing he’s already noticing in the ultrarunning community is that more athletes are showing up to these races shortly after college instead of taking a more traditional route to competing in half or full marathons first. “The age is getting younger, I think. There’s more younger men and women trying the sport, which is great” stated Reed. “More people from similar backgrounds to us [track] that ran in college, really fast guys.”
To those checking out trail or ultrarunning for the first time, Reed has a piece of advice to help them get through their first races. “Forget everything you think you know about running, training, don’t be afraid to walk,” urged Reed. “This last training bit that I did before Western States for 100-mile specific training, I slowed it down. You have to train your slow gear just like you have train your fast gear. You’re going to walk and that’s just part of the training.”
Coming up, Reed will compete at the TransRockies Run from August 14-19, a six-day journey that covers 120 miles through the Colorado Rockies. Next, he’ll pack his bags for the Italian Alps on August 31 for the Courmayeur Champex Chamonix (CCC) 101K ultra, considered the “little sister of the UTMB.” The mountain race includes more than 2,500 meters of elevation and is a semi self-sufficient course with only 10 refreshments posts provided. You can follow Reed in his pursuits via his Twitter or Instagram pages and watch as he one day makes it to the Marathon Des Sables, his bucket list race in the Sahara Desert.