A Race of Firsts for Tim Tollefson // Mammoth Times

Tim Tollefson took his eyes off the trail for just a second. His body was feeling the fatigue of a record-setting pace and after 27 miles, he fell face first into a pile of rocks. With bloody arms and legs, and a broken watch he kept running.

“The fall jolted me out of the funk I was in,” Tollefson said.  “I got revamped energy and got back into a good groove.”

He was leading the Flagline 50k trail race in Bend, Oregon, a race that acted as the US National Championships.  Tollefson knew the second place runner was closing the gap, but after leading the race since mile seven, he was not about to concede.

Clad in  “Mammoth Don’t Feed our Bears” trucker hat, and a bright yellow Brooks jersey, Tollefson, who represents Team Power Bar Elite, became a national champion. He crossed the finish line with his arms raised, winning in a course record 3 hours, 24 minutes, and 4 seconds. It was his first time running longer than the marathon distance, his first trail race, and his first national championship.

“I dug as deep as I could, found a gear that I didn’t have, and managed to hold on through the finish line,” Tollefson said. “My number one goal was to walk away with a positive experience and to be excited for another one, but internally I wanted to compete for the win.”

The 29-year-old physical therapist at the Mammoth SPORT Center competed at the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials, but decided that he wanted to try trail racing as a way to reenergize himself after narrowly missing the Olympic Trials Qualifying standard in the marathon at his last two races.

“When a marathon doesn’t go as well as you hope, it’s disappointing because so much time and effort goes into it,” he said. “So I decided to do something totally different and reignite my passion for running.”

To make the jump in distance and transition to the trails, Tollefson replaced long tempo runs with short uphill tempos. He also extended his long runs to over 26 miles and took them to singletrack where he climbed and descended thousands of feet of elevation.

“Training on Mammoth Mountain prepared me well to take a shot at wining this race,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine a better training ground than what we have around town; it’s neat that is in our backyard.”

Even with a national championship title, Tollefson who has a 2:18:26 marathon PR will not give up road racing and still has hopes of chasing the OTQ, but he cannot deny his early success in trail racing.

“I’m not giving up on the road marathon, but I’ll incorporate more trail races in the future,” he says. “I’ve been distance running for 14 years, but I’ve never been competitive on the national level, so to suddenly to have that—it’s kind of exciting.”

Note: This article first appeared in the Mammoth Times

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