Two-time American skyrunning running champion Morgan Elliott is preparing to take his nomad lifestyle abroad in a bid to battle the world’s best mountain athletes.
In both 2016 and 2017 Morgan spent his summers living out of a car while chasing his mountain running dreams around the States. Now the twice-crowned national ultra-distance skyrunning champion is ready to take on the world’s elite in the high mountains of Europe.
Starting in May, the 25-year-old will travel between Spain, Italy and Andorra to race on the Skyrunner World Series circuit for the first time. Competing at altitudes in excess of 2000m, sky runners are renowned for their speed over technical mountain terrain. And having proven himself to be one of the best in the business at this in his home country, Morgan now wants to mix it with the big names on the international stage.
Living to make memories
The inov-8 ambassador, who developed an early love for the outdoors while growing up in western Pennsylvania, said: “2018 is all about having a killer time overseas and ‘dirt-bagging’ it while chasing my dream of winning the Skyrunner World Series.
“For the past two summers I’ve been a nomad. I’ve lived out of my car while chasing trails and high peaks, volunteering at 100-mile races and travelling to skyrunning events all around the States. During this time, I put my money only towards gas and food. I’ve become addicted to this free-living lifestyle and I’m excited to bring it out to Europe in 2018 for a summer of training and racing.
“I live to make memories, to have my days filled with adventure. I strive for the opportunities to run wild in the mountains and push my boundaries to discover more. Adventures (unplanned mistakes that usually require an increase in distance with some off-trail explorations) often happen when I take my friends on a trail run with me. I’m hoping to have lots of adventures in Europe.”
Morgan’s first-ever trail running race came back in 2013 when he won the Moonshine Trail Race 15-miler in northern Carolina. That same year he also took victory in his debut ultra, the Quest for the Crest 50k, which features more than 3300m of elevation gain. Morgan not only won the race but scooped a $500 bonus for breaking the six-hour barrier.
Winning titles & setting fastest known times
Fast-forward three years and Morgan enjoyed a breakout 2016 season, winning the US skyrunning ultra championship – a set of five mountain races, each around the 50k distance. Using his raw speed (Morgan ran 3:50:38 for 1500m in his collegiate days) to good effect, he quickly became renowned for taking it out hard from the start.
Using his skill and agility to run fast over technical mountain terrain, Morgan defended his national skyrunning crown in 2017. In doing so he won the Audi Power of Four 50k in the Aspen mountains for a second successive year, improving his winning time by 11 minutes to cross the finish line in 5hrs 06mins.
2017 also saw Morgan set a new Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop in Aspen, Colorado. He ran a time of 4hrs 16mins and 17secs for the roughly marathon distance loop around the iconic Maroon Bells mountains. His time cut around 11 minutes from Sage Canaday’s former trail best. Check out Morgan’s before and after Instagram posts, the first showing the TRAILROC 270 shoes he wore to set the FKT and the second showing him celebrating below the mountains.
And so to the present day, and Morgan, based in Asheville, where he works in a speciality running shop and also leads group runs with the North Carolina Mountain Trail Runners, is planning to take on the world’s best skyrunners in races across Europe this summer.
His key races include Transvulcania Ultramarathon, Spain (75k with 4350m elevation gain), Livigno SkyMarathon, Italy (34k with 2500m elevation gain), SkyRace Comapedrosa, Andorra (21k with 2280m elevation gain) and Trofeo Kima, Italy (52k with 4200m elevation gain).
Following in his father’s footsteps
Asked what inspires him to run and what a typical week looks like, Morgan said: “I am inspired by my friends around me. My dad was also a runner and after he passed away from leukemia when I was 12, I’ve always felt a comfort doing what I remember seeing my dad doing. I’m also inspired by the pure joy of being out on a trail seeing the views.
“A typical training week could be described as getting the elevation up-up-up and up! My runs can get a bit extreme to match up the skyrunning races I am training for. When choosing a route, I seek inspiration from my friends and I choose a route the night before, so when morning comes I am motivated to go ascend a trail and catch the sunrise. I try not to repeat similar routes very often. I have to wrap my runs up to make it to my job on time in the mornings. Some days I follow my AM runs with PM runs. And I always treasure the days when I do not have to be at work so I can be out on the trail for a large portion of the day.
“As well as that, I’m an avid foam roller! I also cross train on my single-speed mountain bike, occasionally get some rides in on my road bike when I feel the need for it, rock climb, hike and do some yoga. When not running I enjoy camping and hunting wild edible mushrooms. I love playing disc golf and being near the water too.”