Towers Road is a three-mile stretch of undulating dirt and rock that climbs 1,600 feet in elevation overlooking Fort Collins. During the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trail served as a proving ground for Adrian Macdonald, a financial officer in the Department of Statistics at Colorado State University.
In 2020, Macdonald was training for the Boston Marathon when it was cancelled four weeks out because of the pandemic. “I was fit, and I wanted to do something with all that fitness,” said Macdonald, who also serves as chair of the Classified Personnel Council.
Macdonald explained that when he started running Towers Road — a popular training route among area trail and ultrarunners — it reminded him of something.
“I always had the idea of doing ultramarathons in the back of my mind,” he said. “And that seemed the best time to do it.”
Fast-forward two years: Macdonald has become an elite ultrarunner, winning the prestigious Leadville Trail 100 Run the previous two years. He also is sponsored by the running shoe company On and the fitness apparel maker Ultimate Direction.
For Macdonald, his transformation into a top ultrarunner was the culmination of years of work.
He started running during his sophomore year of high school; he ran cross country in college; and he completed the 750-mile hike of the Oregon Desert Trail in 2016.
Today, Macdonald said he spends up to 15 hours a week training for ultramarathons during his free time, explaining that the preparation is baked into his personal life, so it doesn’t conflict with his work at CSU.
“I’ve been doing running for so long. I’ve always been putting time aside to do it. Also, a lot of my friends are runners, so it’s part of my social life,” said Macdonald, who serves as board member of the Fort Collins Running Club, a group that hosts running and social events.
Andrew Epperson, CSU’s head cross country and distance coach, is one of the people who regularly runs with Macdonald. He also is his personal coach.
Epperson explained that their friendship and partnership started when Macdonald reached out to him to see if he wanted to go on some runs on Towers Road and other areas. Epperson, who runs with Macdonald once or twice a week, said the training for an ultramarathon is much different than a typical road marathon of 26.2 miles.
“You’re putting in the weekly grind that allows you to run 100 miles, but you’re never running 100 miles in a single (training) run,” he said. “So, it’s really about preparing the mind and making sure that you’re staying confident because in those longer races, it’s going to be tough.”
Macdonald noted that Epperson’s help has allowed him to focus on the bigger picture and not sweat the smaller things. “As long as I keep getting fitter and stay consistent, the races will work out,” he said.
As for what’s next, Macdonald said he has his sights set on an ultramarathon in Australia that is part of the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) World Series. If he does well there, it would qualify him for the UTMB in the Alps, widely considered the top ultramarathon in the world.