Meet Dave Wiskowski!
1) Tell us, how and when did you get into trail running?
I was running a local half marathon in suburban Chicago, and began chatting with a woman named Shelley that I was running with for a while in the race. We became friends that day, and then she talked me into coming out to join her running club. After a few months of road running with many new friends, she then introduced me to trail and ultra running. It was a whole new world that terrified me. But because I now had a good friend who would be there running with me, I signed up for my first 50k, which was pretty much my first trail run. After that, I was hooked.
2) What’s your favorite distance to race?
Tough to choose. My most enjoyable distance to run is the 50 mile distance, but I’ve been drawn to the 100 mile distance mostly. I believe it’s because the 100 mile distance challenges me in ways that nothing else ever has. It challenges me in places that I didn’t even know I had. The depth of the connection, the depth of the joy, the depth of the misery and suffering, is just unlike anything else. It feel like every aspect of it interacts directly with my soul. All nonsense, BS, fakery, pretense, anything on a superficial level, is all blown away (usually in a fiery explosion) and you get right down to the heart of only what matters. Even when I feel like I’m dying, it makes me feel the most alive. 100 milers taught me how I want to live life. Only in the deepest, most authentic state, whether that’s in success or in suffering. It matters not which it is. It only matters that it’s pure and raw and authentic. Nothing is within my control in a 100 miler, and that’s what I love about it.
3) Do you consider running to be your therapy? If so, what aspect is most therapeutic?
Running is definitely a therapy of sorts for me. I’ve lived for most of my life suffering from depression, at times quite severe and debilitating. That led to addictions with food and alcohol in my adult years. Both of those addictions took over and consumed my life for many years, and obviously made the depression even worse. Life was like living in a dark tunnel. Such a narrow view in which to see, and so little light. But thankfully I found my way out, through major lifestyle changes. First was going fully plant-based. And then shortly afterwards running showed up in my life. I used to drink alcohol to numb the pain of my daily existence (there was nothing wrong with my life, but in my mind it was all pain). So once I added running to life, I realized that it brought me a level of peace that was so much better than whatever I had through the numbing of alcohol. It was an invigorating, vibrant state of presence, where any negative or depressed thoughts went away, and positive vibes were flowing.
4) Describe one of your most badass personal accomplishments on the trails. What was going through your mind during it?
If I had to choose one, it would probably be at Western States in 2016. I went to Western States with a Chicago friend, to crew and pace him. He was pretty new to the 100 mile distance, and the blazing heat of the day took him down by mile 55, so I didn’t get to pace him. But while this was all unfolding, I was connected with another runner who didn’t have a pacer, so they asked if I wanted to pace her. I was a definite yes! I’ll never forget being at Foresthill, at mile 62, in the dark, waiting to meet my runner. She showed up around 11:00 pm and I came over and said “Hi, I’m Dave, and I’m going to be your pacer, and run with you all the way to the finish!” That was probably the first time I had paced someone that I had never met before, but it turned out to be great! My runner Natalie was always about 15-20 minutes ahead of the cutoffs all night and all morning, which is quite tight. When we came up from the Western States trail, past Robie Point at around mile 99, and into the neighborhood, so many of the residents were out there cheering for the runners! They called out to the runners by name, with such passion and genuine caring in their voices. This was the back of the pack, and everyone at this time was riding the cutoff pretty tight! When they cheered for my runner Natalie, I had tears in my eyes. I was so happy for her because I knew that in less than a mile she was going to cross the finish line, one that I’d seen so many times in videos. I was overcome with emotion at the fact that these people gave so much to help will the runners that final mile to the Placer High track and the finish. It all sort of felt like I was watching a Billy Yang movie about Western States, with an epic slow motion scene of that final mile through the neighborhood. And through my tears of joy and emotion, I also laughed at how much this moment overwhelmed me, and the fact that it wasn’t even my race. I think it was at that moment that my running life shifted, and I cared less about what I could do, and more about what I could help others do. Oh yeah, and Natalie crossed the Western States finish line in about 29:45, 15 minutes under the cutoff. There were many more tears and smiles and so many good feelings!
5) Does your hobby of running overlap with your work life? Is your schedule conducive to running?
Running does overlap with my work life of being a professional photographer. Running also helped me to make the change to leave behind a “normal” office job, and pursue my passion of photography. It’s probably been a poor choice in terms of a financial outcome, but it’s opened up a world of travel and learning to create everything on my own. Giving up stability is scary, and often uncomfortable, but it also yields freedom and growth. This path is definitely still unfolding, and I look forward to so much continued growth in my photography life, and to utilizing the tools that I’ve gained through my running experiences.
6) You describe yourself as a “plant-powered” runner. How has going vegan positively impacted your running?
Going vegan changed everything. It was the catalyst. The spark. The drastic shift from a life of seeking comfort from pain, to a life of seeking joy, adventure, and happiness. I went vegan in September 2011, immediately after watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives”. A little over a year later, I lost 70 pounds and ran the 2012 Chicago marathon (in 3:45). My first marathon ever. The new lifestyle was fully cemented within me. The plant-based diet allowed me to physically thrive in ways that I never had before. I was a pretty good athlete in high school, but I always hated running. I even DNF’d a 2 mile run in my sophomore year of high school which was required to try out for the varsity soccer team. But now in this new plant-powered life, many years later, running just showed up. My body and mind felt a level of health and energy like nothing I’d ever felt before. I went for a run one day out of the blue because I was overflowing with energy. And I ran the next day, and the day after that. It didn’t feel real. I watched my body transform from the vegan, plant-powered lifestyle, and knew that dramatic changes were happening. The fully plant-based lifestyle allowed me to take control of my health, lose lots of weight effortlessly, significantly improve my sleep, energy and recovery, and honestly just feel amazing all the time!
7) Can you share one of your favorite quotes?
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
― William Hutchison Murray
8) What’s your next big adventure?
Most adventures just kind of show up. I made a decision several years ago to say yes to everything. I guess the biggest one is running the Ouray 100 in late July 2019. It’s a race in the rugged San Juan mountains in Colorado, with 42,000’ of elevation gain and a 52 hour cutoff. It definitely seems to be beyond my ability, but I won’t know until I try! Oh, and there will most definitely be some adventures with my vegan, ultra running, sober-warrior sister Catra Corbett! She always squeezes a lifetime of epic adventures into each year, and I’m lucky enough to be along for the ride on some of them!!