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Finding Flow: Brian Tinder

For this ultrarunner, dad, and business owner, it’s all about getting through the “tough seasons” and shutting off life for a while

Nothing is finite. Not that disorientation you feel 65 miles into a 100-mile race. Not the challenge of raising three young kids while also balancing a career as a professional ultrarunner and operating your own landscaping business. But it can sure feel that way. Somehow, Flagstaff, Arizona-based Brian Tinder manages to balance all three—and keep the bigger picture in mind. How does he do it? By savoring the euphoric running highs whenever they come, pushing through the dark times, and finding strength he didn't think he had.

I moved to Flagstaff for the four-season weather. I was always a runner, but the first few guys I became friends with in town were trying to make it in the running world. I had to challenge myself to keep up.

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I ran my first marathon shortly after high school graduation. A friend was attempting to run a marathon a week (he ultimately ran 200). I joined him for his 75th. The finish line was at the 50-yard line of Notre Dame’s football stadium. I still have pieces of grass I took from the field that day.  

I live for competing. I compete in my daily work, and also when I toe the start line.

In Flagstaff I became a trail runner. There’s just endless opportunities for exploration, and there’s always another trail.

Trail running takes more exploration of self than road running. You don’t get to rely on other people to push you like when you’re running shoulder to shoulder in a road race. On trails you can go 10 miles in a race without seeing anyone.

The runner’s high doesn't happen when you hope or expect it to. But when it does, it’s total euphoria. You run and push yourself to a limit that you thought was going to be the end, but somehow you find another gear and keep going. You find strength you didn't think you had.

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To find flow, you need to be able to shut off life. If you let the challenges of life interrupt your run or your race, then you’re not going to do very well. In order to find that flow and push through that dark place, you have to shut off all the things that are going on.

Half the battle is figuring out how to shut life out. That doesn't come easily. I have to allow myself to sit down for ten minutes in the morning before a run or a race so I can clear my mind.

We always like to see what we’re capable of. And that’s why we compete. We train, we think we’re good, and we want to see how we size up. We love to see what we’re made of.

If you’re in shape to run a marathon, you’re in shape to run 100 miles. It’s just more mental. In training, you have to learn what that dark place and pain feel like and learn how to push through it.

During the Leadville 100, I spent 35 minutes on top of Hope Pass trying to figure out if I was going to finish the last 45 miles. I was looking around and was like 'Man, this is incredible, and I’m not injured. Why the hell not?'

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You can’t focus on how bad it is in the moment. If you’ve made the right decisions, you’ll be able to bounce out of it eventually. Don't focus on the people passing you. You're probably in a rad place, so stop and look around. That’s a lot of what trail running is. You have to remember why you're doing it.

If you really looked at what's going on in someone's head during a race, you'd probably think they’re freaking nuts. When I'm running, my head is a creative space. I'm always drawing or creating something in my mind that's fun and that keeps me entertained. That could be painting a picture of the person in front of me and what they've done for training. Why they're faster on a hill or something. I play with thoughts.

My wife and I always talk about seasons. Like 'We’re in a tough season.' We have three young kids, so we go through a lot of low points. We don’t let ourselves get caught up emotionally. We figure out what the issue is that’s hurting us and work on it. It’s the same thing with a race.  

Having three kids has made me a better runner. My girls are six, three, and one. They kick my ass. I have to focus on what my training is, and it’s made me a lot more thoughtful. Before kids, I could get lost and not care, but now every moment out the door matters more. I can’t mess around.


adidas TERREX aims to connect with all outdoor creators. These are the people who find their flow in the outdoors –whether trail running, mountain biking, climbing, or fast hiking. When in this flow, they are at their most creative and progress beyond their own expectations. We want to inspire this community to get outside and discover they can do more than they thought they were capable of. From the highest highs to the lowest lows, how do you find your flow

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