Adam Danks has a photograph of himself and his father running around their block when he was only three years old.
“I always wanted to emulate my dad,” said Danks, 41. “He was a runner so I decided to do that too.”
Danks ran track and cross-country in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and was successful enough to earn a scholarship to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. He was as fast on the track as he was in cross-country, but Danks always liked the dirt best.
“I have always loved the trails. I am not sure what it is that I like so much, but the trails are so much more compelling for me than the roads. Even in high school. I did track every year, but cross-country was my love.”
The city of Phoenix also stole Danks’ heart, and some of that has to do with the trails at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Located just 20 minutes outside of the city, the Phoenix Mountain Preserve includes Camelback Mountain, Lookout Mountain, and Piestewa Peak, which are close to 3,000 feet in elevation.
“There are miles and miles of running trails there with the city skyline in full view,” said Danks, who still regularly runs those trails when training for the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series.
This year, he is the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series Champ for the 40-44 age group. He finished third overall at last week’s XTERRA Black Canyon half marathon, fifth overall at the XTERRA White Tanks 20K, and fifth overall at the XTERRA San Tan 14-miler. In each of those races Danks won his age group.
Although Danks has been running since college, and his success makes it look easy, he admits that his commitment to running had to chance as his life did.
“Kids and career kept my mileage low for about ten years,” he said. “But I got back into it in 2010 when I decided to train and qualify for the Boston Marathon.”
Danks ran the Utah Valley Marathon and qualified for and ran in the Boston Marathon in 2012. This past December, he ran the California International Marathon in less than three hours.
But now the trails are calling him back and he is training for both national and international trail and ultra runs.
“I saw this XTERRA series as a way to take the speed I gained training for a marathon and translate it to trail running,” said Danks, who now trains with coach Chris Vargo, who is an accomplished trail runner.
“In 2016, Chris ran the Crown King Scramble 50K, won the race, and broke the course record by over 13 minutes. I told myself, you know, if I really want to get serious, I should ask the guy who already knows how to do it.”
Danks admits that having a coach keeps him focused and accountable.
“Without a coach and that outside perspective, it’s too easy to say, oh man, I’m working really hard, I’ll take a down week. But with a coach there is a larger plan in place and a bigger perspective. That opens up my opportunity to get better as a runner because Chris can see my potential whereas I might be leaving something on the table.”
Currently, Danks averages about 60 miles a week, including high-intensity training. This can sometimes be tough to fit into a busy schedule, which includes owning and running a small business. But Danks is committed to both his sport and the company he and his wife Andrea recently founded - Runner’s High Herbals – which is a holistic muscle recovery and skin care company.
“Andrea is a registered nurse, herbalist, and outdoor enthusiast and she’s been using plants for health for years,” said Adam. “Last year, we were looking for an alternative to ibuprofen after a tough training block, and Andrea created a salve for me made with pinon pine pitch and other botanical oils.”
The salve worked as well as ibuprofen without the side effects and inspired the couple to start their own business. In addition to their salves and muscle balms, they also make anti-fungal and first-aid creams and balms. All of their products are sustainable, natural and ethically sourced.
“Being endurance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, we wanted something as rugged and natural as we are,” said Danks. “It’s great to work with Andrea because we love what we do, and doing it together is another point of connection for us.”
Photos courtesy of Action Media Photography