Caleb Bowen would be your curly-haired, Appalachian accented fun-loving boy next door…if that boy also had the fastest 100 mile time in the country last year. At the 2022 edition of Canal Corridor, Caleb ran 100 miles in 12 hours 40 minutes and 22 seconds – it is surprising so few know his name. We are here to change that. He has back-to-back wins at Rim to River 100-miler, Hurricane 100-kilometer, Highland Sky 40-mile, Grayson Highlands 50-mile and took third place at the Gorge Waterfalls 100-kilometer this past April. Just a few weeks ago, Caleb secured his golden ticket at the inaugural Grindstone 100-kilometer race, taking second place, breaking 9 hours in the process. Not too bad for a loveable hillbilly from West Virginia.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Caleb Bowen and I am a curly headed blonde from Huntington, West Virginia. For my job, I am the Head Cross Country Coach at Marshall University, which means I drive a lot of vans, run across fields while yelling gibberish as I get tongue tied with splits, and drink tons of coffee getting up early for early morning practice. For fun, I love running, hiking, and exploring the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Do any of your group chats have names? If so, what are you willing to share? How did they get that name? What is a major topic of discussion in them?
Oof, I have a couple but the best one is called “Cheaper Cigs” because there is a place in Huntington that is on a route we run often where the business is literally called, “Cheaper Cigs”. They may not sell the cheapest cigarettes in town but they sure as heck sell some cheaper ones.
If you could change one thing about your favorite social media platform, what would it be?
While I am not sure if it’s my favorite social media platform, I would love to change the name of “X” back to twitter…because it’s weird to just change the name of a social media app that I have been using forever to a letter of the alphabet.
What is a book of fiction that you really enjoyed, for no other reason than you liked it?
Game of Thrones
What is one song you’ve been listening to on repeat recently?
“Nose on the Grindstone” by Tyler Childers. You can’t train all Summer long for a race called “Grindstone” without soaking in all of the grindstone references. Also, its just a banger of a song and it’s one that tells the reoccurring story of many from the area where I live.
What is one trend that started in 2020 that you love?
I think it was a trend before 2020 but I totally hopped on during the pandemic…TikTok…
What is one trend that started in 2020 that you hate?
Tiktok….I love it…but it kills my productivity
What are the last three emojis you used?
Likely the crying/laughing face because I laugh a lot internally whenever I text people. If I think something is really funny, I will use 3 crying/laughing emojis. If it’s just adequately funny, I’ll use one or two.
What is the last thing you bought online?
The last thing I bought online was $12,000 worth of shoes for the XC team. Now, for myself it was probably a haul of gels for Grindstone from The Feed. It definitely feels like I dropped $12,000 on gels…
What is your most controversial food opinion?
Is there such a thing as a controversial food? Something that some may think is weird is the food that I find when I forage (mushrooms such as chanterelles, chicken of the woods, lion’s mane, etc as well as Ramps). Ramps are an Appalachian delicacy but basically are a pungent wild leak. They have a really strong onion smell and if you eat a lot of them, you will sweat out the smell. It’s kinda controversial but definitely accepted in my neck of the woods.
What three videos are at the top of your YouTube recommended homepage?
Which Allie is your favorite?
I went to college with an Allie who played volleyball. She was really cool and ended up graduating from Med School. She was a heck of a volleyball player too!
What argument in mass media do you not understand or think is a worthless issue?
The hysteria over Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Not necessarily an issue but my goodness it doesn’t need to be talked about 24/7 everywhere.
When you go home for the holidays, what is the food or tradition that it wouldn’t be the holidays without?
Oh lawd…definitely my sweet potato casserole. Literally heaven in your mouth. It’ll change your life.
When I say in-seam you say…?
When has your ego caused you to do something you sort of regret but also would describe as wild and worth it?
Boston Marathon 2018. I knew I wasn’t in shape but I signed up for it anyway. It ended up being the most miserable I have ever felt in any race. It was in a middle of a crazy storm where there was a 30-40 mph headwind, 42 degrees, and just sheets of rain. I finished but it was rough. However, it taught me some valuable lessons and I feel like the guys I ran with all became brothers that endured something pretty gnarly. That experience has helped me in my ultras because so far, nothing has been worse than that. Not even Bandera…hahahaha.
What was your worst running fuel decision? What was the surprising best?
Last year during the Hurricane 100k, I tried to take in too much liquid carbohydrates in a humid race which led to a good bit of GI distress. So, I went the last 40 miles of the race with just eating a couple pickles and two slices of watermelon. I think had I tried to take in more solid food early rather than strictly liquid/gels, my stomach would’ve felt better and I would have been able to take in much needed fuel throughout the race. However, you live and you learn Some lessons you have to learn the hard way.
I think the last few races I have done, I have nailed the nutrition well! At Grindstone I was able to take a gel every 4 miles which is roughly around 80ish grams of carbohydrates per hour. Then take in account of electrolyte drink and the mashed potatoes at the three aid stations with crew and I think I was getting in the amount necessary to sustain the pace I wanted to run for just about all of the race. I also think that maintaining a cool body temperature was crucial to that as well. Even though it was cool, rainy, and windy, I still would dump water on my head/neck at the aid stations so that I would be able to continue to take in fuel. Overall, I think it worked pretty well!
What is your death row meal?
Blackened Fish Tacos w/ a mango salsa, pickled onions, rice, and cilantro. Maybe tack on the sweet potato casserole there at the end just to make it weird.
Out and back or looped course? Why?
Out and back! I love being able to know what is to be expected. Also, there’s something comforting in those early miles knowing that the next time I’ll see this rock/overlook/aid station, I’ll be almost finished with the race.
Barkley or 24H track race? Why?
Yikes….both sound terrifying. I would have to go with a 24 hour race just because if I get lost during a 24 hour event on the track I am fairly confident my crew could find me. In Frozen Head, there’s a 99% chance I get lost in the first 10 miles. I would be the one that gets lost for days and ends up hallucinating talking to trees until found by park rangers.
When I say PTRA you say?
Is it bad that I have no clue what that is?
When I say UTMB you say?
Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet
What is one thing that absolutely scares you? Why?
Disappointing others. For some reason, I really care about what people think about me and my running and I just want to measure up to everyone’s expectations. This is something I’ve worked on and become much better at but it still lingers in the back of my mind.
What is a time you felt you didn’t measure up? How did you get through that?
I’ve had plenty of times where I felt like I didn’t measure up. One of the most recent was at Bandera 100k this past January. I came into it thinking I had a realistic shot at contending of one of the top 5 spots but things started unraveling around mile 26 and I hit one of my lowest lows from the 50k mark through mile 45. But, I had a great unexpected pacer (shout out to Sarah Beihl for joining me at the halfway point) who understood that I was going through it and helped kept me moving. Eventually I started to come out of my funk and I ended up sharing one of the most cherished finishes by running the last 4 miles with my dad.
I took so much out of my poor performance at Bandera that I honestly wouldn’t have had it go any other way. Sure, I would have loved to had a great day and get a Golden Ticket but I learned so much about myself and how to respect the sport that I think I needed that experience in order to have to races I’ve had since. My mindset has changed to really focusing not on others or how I feel and rather just being in the moment and cherishing the experience of running for 30, 40, 60, or 100 miles. I know now that I am truly blessed to be able to do this and that there are people in my community that look up to me. I want to show them that this sport can truly change your life and change the community around you. I also want to show them that our local running community supports each other and it doesn’t matter if you are racing for golden tickets or trying to finish your first 50k, there’s a place for you in this community.
Who is another runner that flies under the radar that we should all get to know?
Oh gosh, where do I begin? In my community alone, we have a guy named Dan Green who has been training his butt off all year and I think he’s going to crush the Javelina Jundred here later this month. On the women’s side in Huntington we have HollyAnn Swann who is almost 5 months post partum and right in the middle of Pharmacy School. While she has popped off some great races in the past two years, I definitely want everyone to watch out for her in the next year or so as she gets back into the swing of training and shows off that mamma strength.
Not necessarily in my community but a few I have bonded with over the course of the past year are guys like Jeremy Pope from Ohio and Paul Jacobs from Washington DC. Jeremy Pope paced me at the Canal Corridor 100 Mile last year and we have become really good friends. He finished 12th at the Grindstone 100k and I think we’ll see another speedy 100 miler out of him soon. Paul ran both the Highlands Sky 40 mile and Grindstone with me finishing 2nd and 4th respectively but he’s also been on a tear having won Massanutten Mountain 100, Canal Corridor 100, and the Zion 100k along with a top 10 performance at JFK 50. The dude is a stud and an even better person!