The American took more than two minutes off Anthony Costales’ stellar mark from 2023 as he clocked 7:30:18 and revealed afterwards that pretty much everything had gone to plan – even a two-and-a-half hour delay at the start due to snow storms.
Talking through his race on the excellent live Mountain Outpost broadcast, Hawks said: “The race started at 9:30, which is ideal for me. I usually do most of my runs around nine or ten and so it was perfect. I’m not a morning person, so I have a really hard time getting up too early.”
Leading from the front
Hawks was at the front of a big front group from the start to the first aid station, which he said was a deliberate tactic: “It was really sloppy for about 10 miles or so. I made a decision at the start that I was going to go to the front because I just didn’t want to have to fight the mud – I wanted a clear path and to be able to see exactly where I wanted to go.
“I felt like if I was sitting behind everybody, I might have to hurdle some people. I might be more likely to fall or have mud kicked up on me. And I think it worked out pretty well. I was able to get through it without falling or having any serious issues.”
As the race wore on Hawks took control – and no one was now able to stay with him – but his incredible time didn’t come as a huge surprise.
He added: “I was just running my own race. I kind of had an idea of what I thought I could run.
I knew that I was in course record shape. I wanted to run sub 7:30. I didn’t quite get it, but I got close enough.
“I knew I could win the race. Like I said, I knew I could break the course record. I knew I was in shape to do that. And so I knew that if I stuck to that game plan, if somebody were to beat me, they were going to have to break the course record as well.
“And that’s pretty challenging to do, especially a course record like Anthony Costales set last year. Anthony is a good friend of mine and he set a really stout course record that I was able to chase after all day and so I knew that, yeah, if I stuck to that plan, more than likely I would get the win. But you never know.”
‘I guess it’s kind of a comeback’
There was one moment of drama late on when Hawks realised he had to kick if he wanted the new course best as he revealed: “I ran into some friends and they were like, you’re about 30 seconds off the course record. And I was like, oh, shoot, come on. Because last time I ran this race in 2020, I missed the course record by, like a minute, I think. And I was like, not again. I’m not going to do that again. And so I really just pushed it that last mile, jumped a pretty fast mile and was able to sneak under the course record.”
The magnitude of Hawks’ performance was brought home by the fact that his winning time in 2020 was 7:55:33 compared to this 7:30:18 – but above all what shone through was his delight to be racing again.
He signed off by saying: “I think a lot of it, too, was, it’s been a long time since I’ve raced, and it just felt so amazing to be able to do what I love to do and do it at the highest level.
“And I was just like, man, I’m going to give it everything I got. I’m going to finish strong because I can. I can do that now. And I wasn’t able to do that in the past. I think I ran a complete race. It might have looked like I ran a really strong last 20, but it didn’t really feel like it. It more felt like I was just holding on. But that gap just kind of kept getting bigger, which was very surprising to me because it didn’t necessarily feel amazing.
“I’ve been doing this for eight years but I guess it’s kind of a comeback because I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to do this six weeks ago. To be honest with you, six months ago I was like, yeah, there’s no way I’m going to run Black Canyon. So it’s a comeback but, at the same time, I do think that I know what I’m capable of and I was able to show it out there.”
Asked how he felt physically after crossing the line, he added: “The quads hurt the most. I mean, they’re pretty banged up right now. Maybe I need to do some more downhill training, and I will before Western States, of course. But I think the biggest thing was we went out pretty fast on that first 20 miles, and that was a lot of downhill there.”