With four 100-mile wins and another three podium finishes since early 2021, Arlen Glick may be the most successful-yet-underrated runner out there.
It takes me a hot minute to track down Arlen Glick for an interview. He isn’t sponsored so there is no brand or public relations team to connect with, and he doesn’t believe in social media so I couldn’t find him via Instagram or Twitter. Folks online aren’t even sure if he has an email address, so I throw a Hail Mary and leave a decidedly awkward comment on his Strava amidst the dozens of supportive notes praising his running workout. Fortunately, it works. Glick emails me the next day.
It doesn’t typically take this much detective work to schedule an interview with an ultrarunner as decorated as Glick. Not only did this 29-year-old win the 2022 Men’s USATF 100 Mile Road Race in February, but he also placed third at his first-ever Western States appearance at the beginning of this summer. In 2021, he won the Umstead 100 in March, Mohican 100 in June, Burning River 100 in July, and the Javelina Jundred in October, smashing course records at both Mohican and Burning River. Even though he has only been running 100 milers for a couple of years, Glick seems to have a knack for the distance, which says quite a lot, since he definitely does things his own way.
Born and raised in Ohio as a devout fifth-generation Mennonite, Glick was homeschooled along with his eight siblings (now his crew team at races) as the family routinely traveled the country for their prison ministry responsibilities. The large family — 11 including his parents — formed a musical group, singing gospel and playing instruments to inmates as far away as Florida. Their travels were so frequent that Glick never knew what his year would look like. “I dealt with a lot of uncertainty from year to year, so I couldn’t commit to a certain career because I never knew how much time we’d be at home,” Glick says. “But I think it’s good because it taught flexibility, and that mindset helps in ultramarathon.”
The family schedule left no time for organized sports either. But, as Glick grew into an adult, he wanted to improve his fitness, so he dabbled in running. He never intended to compete, but the situation quickly escalated after he entered (and won) his first-ever 10K in 2014 at the tender age of 21. He worked up to a marathon in 2015, a 50 miler in 2017, and his first-ever 100 at the Eagle Up Ultra in 2018–which he also won. He went on to win his second and third 100 milers back-to-back in 2019: Mohican in June and Canal Corridor just four weeks later.
“I eventually realized that you never know what the day is going to hand you when you’re standing at the start line,” Glick says. “Every race is brand new and you’re going to face things you’ve never faced before, challenges you’ve never had to deal with. And that’s the fun of it.”
For his part, Glick’s career is steamrolling ahead but it’s not without its challenges. For starters, Glick will be the first to say that his geographic location works against him. He still lives in Ohio, and notes that he is constantly working against the ultrarunning community’s strong bias that anywhere east of the Rockies isn’t for serious runners. “It’s common knowledge amongst Easterners and Midwesterners that you’ll get treated like a nobody until you go west and do something great,” he says. “But most of those people don’t come back east so they don’t know how difficult these courses are.”
The way Glick sees it, he has a mental advantage over anyone routinely training out west. To prepare for Western States, he’d run 20 miles of hill repeats up and down a 100-foot hillside or spend hours on the treadmill working a steep incline. He dubs this work “mentally taxing,” but notes that it makes the consistent, 4,000-foot climbs out west feel easy by comparison. “Mohican has 13,000 feet of elevation gain which is less than Western, but most people run Western faster because you can really get into gear and get comfortable,” Glick says. “Around here, the hills are really punchy and the humidity is a huge factor.”
Beyond geography, Glick also battles against the realities of everyday life. Even though he has won nine 100 milers since 2018 and podiumed at three more, he was only one of two athletes in the top 10 at Western States without a sponsor. This means, mere mortal that he is, Glick has to work full-time at his brother’s excavation business along with his family’s prison ministry obligations that still call for travel two months out of the year. Would it be convenient if he was sponsored with more time to train? Absolutely. But he isn’t willing to capitulate to social media, and many brands aren’t willing to look beyond Instagram followers.
“I’ve chosen to stay off social because I feel that it’s so dangerous and hurtful and what it has done to our culture is so catastrophic,” Glick says. “It’s ruining young people and yet, it seems like the only thing brands are willing to work with these days.”
It’s a very personal stance for Glick, and one that he feels professionally hurts him. He notes that he has entertained loose conversations with brands, but they come to an abrupt halt when they learn he isn’t on social media. “It would be great if a company would see through this and work with me anyway, but until then, I’m paying a very big price for it,” he says. “But it’s a price that’s worth paying.”
In the meantime, Glick will keep doing what he does best: winning 100 milers and pushing the limits of his abilities in between all of his life obligations. He wants to continually dive into mountainous races, beginning with the upcoming Run Rabbit Run 100 in Colorado. From there, the sky may literally be the limit as he yearns for both bigger and longer races, specifying that Badwater, UTMB, and Hardrock are high on his wish list. But at some point, the work-life balance may become a larger factor.
“It brings me joy and I’d love to be able to do it without the financial pressure,” Glick says. “Until then, I’m just going to suck it up as long as I can and see where it goes.”
*featured image courtesy of @RidgeRUNers