From Couch to 5Ks to Ultra Champ

Nathan_ultraThe busy father of five balances his commitments to family, work and of course running — as he teaches his children about exercise, wellness and perseverance.

By Henry Howard

Like many runners, Nathan Maxwell started the sport to get in shape. He ran a few 5Ks and was hooked. So he went up in distance, again like many runners, to see if he could do a half-marathon.

That was 2012.

Since then, Maxwell has charted his own path though he deviated from the natural path. The next step was not a full marathon. Instead, the Augusta, Georgia, resident went right to ultra distances, where he found his passion and excelled at those long races.

“Running is now part of my day-to-day lifestyle,” he says. “It’s like getting up in the morning and brushing my teeth, but more fun.”

From Couch to 5Ks to Ultra Champ

In 2013 — the year after his first half marathon — Maxwell completed 14 ultras, one triathlon and one marathon.

During 2014, Maxwell completed 15 ultra marathons — including a 100-mile trail race — a marathon, and another triathlon.

“I started running with a buddy I met at a mud run,” he recalls. “He had run dozens of marathons and ultra distance races, and we started to train together. Next thing I know I was signed up for my first 50K … I skipped right over the marathon. After that I was an Ultra Junkie. Less than 12 months later I ran my first 100 miler in a 24-hour period.”

Running and Family Life

When Maxwell isn’t zooming down or up a trail, he is an eCommerce marketer, father to five children and husband to Amanda, who also runs.

“I run often with my wife and kids,” he says. “Sometimes we will all run a 5K race together as a family, all seven of us. Even my 5-year-old will run/walk along with us. It’s a fun family event that we all love to do. My two oldest daughters really like the cotton tees from the races.”

But the race swag — T-shirts, medals, etc. — isn’t the driving force for the Maxwells. Their aim is to promote living healthy and active lifestyles.

“I feel it’s very important to keep an active lifestyle to be a good example for my children,” he says. “Not just so they see me do it, but can also participate themselves. It’s not always just running. We may go trail hiking, kayaking, swimming or other fun outdoor sports.” 
The Maxwells strive to find a balance between training, long race days, work and raising a large family. “I found that running my long training runs late at night or early in the morning work best. I also will skip a run if it means missing out on a family non-running event. I put the family first, running is just something I love to do when I can.”
Maxwell has won three consecutive wilderness triathlons, as well as two 50K races. (Nathan and Amanda each won first place in the Erwin Wilderness Triathlon last June, a biking-kayaking-running event.) No matter the distance, he finds a reward at the end of the line.

“For me it’s to find out how to push my body beyond what it can do, and keep going even when I think I can’t take another step,” he says. “The feeling when it’s all over is amazing. I love a finish line no mater what distance, but something about getting to that finish line for a 50- or 100-miler is indescribable.”

While his goal is to one day run Western States 100, for now, his eyes — and legs — are focused on improving his 5K, marathon and 50K personal bests. 

Training for an Ultra

Maxwell is an example that anyone who trains can indeed become an ultra runner.

His advice to wannabe-ultra runners: “Slow down. Take walk breaks. Slow down. Walk the hills. Slow down. You will PR this no matter what, so just get to that finish line no mater what. Hydrate and listen to your body, unless it’s trying to tell you to stop, then ignore it and keep moving.”

Maxwell typically runs between 13 and 35 miles per week, depending on whether he is tapering or training for races.

“I find that a typical marathon training program works just fine for a 50K (31 mile) distance,” he says. “Anything beyond that distance, just increase your long runs or do back-to-back long runs two days in a row.”

When Maxwell toes the starting line, his goal is just to finish. But he gleans his inspiration from those around him. “I’m inspired when I see a 70- or 80-year-old man or woman lining up at the starting line.”

Speed Drill

Point of pride: Completed 100 miles twice and placed first overall in the Erwin Wilderness Triathlon event three years in a row.
Favorite race distance: 50k
Favorite fuel: #2ndSurge by Pacific Health Labs.
Favorite hydration drink: DrinkChia
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: I like so many songs, I don’t really have a favorite. I do like to listen to music late in a race when I’m just too wore out to think of things to say.
Favorite or inspirational mantra or saying: “When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.” Proverbs 4:12 NLT
Where can other runners connect or follow you (social media, blog, etc.):
On Twitter: @SocialShark
On IG: @SocialShark

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