By Devon Sibole
He was the golden boy of this year’s Run3; The tall blonde who crossed each finish line solo, politely shrugged off overwhelming praise with an appreciative smile and quickly retreated to the open arms of his cheering family. With every record he set and podium he summited, it became even more apparent that Justin Ricks’ modesty was just as noteworthy as his incredible Run3 performance.
I caught up with the humble Ricks shortly after he blazed through the finish line of Stage Two. I had hoped to chat about the secrets of his wicked fast speed. Ricks mentioned that he had spent the last week camping near the some of the Gore-Tex TransRockies trails for easy access to train on the course, quietly adding, “I ran Hope’s Pass five times last week.” With that kind of discipline, it is no wonder that he set records every day during the 2010 TR3.
Watching Ricks power up the ascents, it’s hard to imagine that just three years ago, he was overweight and out of shape. Carrying an extra 80 pounds, competitive running was but a nostalgic memory from Ricks’ days on the CU Colorado Springs cross country team. Said Ricks, “I fell in love and got comfortable. I started working. My wife and I started to grow our family. Life happened.” He looked at his wife with a flirtatious smile and added, “And I guess I also gained some extra pregnancy weight.”
Ricks eased into his metamorphosis with pick-up games of basketball and flag football. “I once made a hell of a defensive lineman!” joked the now svelte Ricks. Those friendly games led the way back into running, reigniting his passion for the sport he once courted religiously.
His comeback to running was rather seamless and the weight melted off quickly. Ricks started training for more cross country events and helped coach a few teams. He even appeared at last year’s Gore-Tex TransRockies Run as part of Team Wounded Warrior Project.
At the final Run3 dinner, Ricks said he felt great although he’ll take a few days to recover. After a brief rest, training for the California International Marathon in November begins immediately. In addition to training 10-14 hours a week, Ricks will also run in a few local 5k’s and half marathons to get his body ready for the flat road races. His goals are set high. He doesn’t publicize this openly, but Ricks just may be the first Gore-Tex TransRockies Champion to debut at the next Olympic Trials. Best of luck, Justin!