Stuff That Fatty (Really Really) Loves: The Altra Olympus

05.19.2014 | 6:43 am

I’m a cyclist. I ride my bike. On the road or on the dirt, it’s what I do; it’s who I am. It’s about 80% of my identity (the other 20% is the making and consumption of guacamole).

Oh sure. I’ve tried other sports. Like, racquetball. Or roller blading. Or pole vaulting. Or competitive eating. (Yes, really, for three out of four of these.)

Or, when absolutely necessary, I’ve run. And by “necessary,” I mean “when training for a triathlon I’ve somehow been hoodwinked into registering for” or “when trying to impress a girl.”

Well, The Hammer knows me too well (now) to be impressed by my efforts at keeping up, so I must be training for a triathlon. Or two. Or possibly three. (I blame The Hammer for this; she’s taking the “Athlete Ambassador for WBR” thing pretty darned seriously.)

And so I’ve been trying to run. And expecting to — as usual — deeply resent every moment of it.

But a weird thing has happened. I’m…enjoying running. On trails, at least. 

And I think I know why.

Meet the Altra Olympus 

I’ve been a fan of Altra footwear for a couple years. Their big wide toe box and zero-drop foot profile just feels right on my feet in a way that no other shoe ever has.

And so I’ve collected a few pair:

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From top left: Altra Three-Sum, Altra Instinct, Altra Olympus, Altra Lone Peak, Altra Instinct Everyday

But while these shoes fit great, they haven’t really changed my life or anything…well, except maybe the Everydays — which are my absolute favorite shoes for  whenever I’m forced to wear pants.

But then, Heath Thurston — one of the guys at Altra — set me up with a pair of the Altra Olympus trail running shoes. Like all Altras, they have the whimsical footprint highlighted in the sole:

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But what makes them really different is the massive amount of cushioning the shoe has, while still being really light.  

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Now, I like these plenty just for the fact that they make me about 1.5” taller — when you’re 5’7”, that makes an important difference.

Crazy Difference

But all that cushioning serves an incredible purpose — it softens the pounding I take when running. And not by just a little bit, either. Running on these is like running with a pair of pillows strapped to your feet (but much less awkward).

In practical terms, the first time I ran with these, I noticed that when I hit the three-mile mark in the trail run — which is where I usually start hurting and just wish I could quit — I still felt fine. And so I told The Hammer that I’d stay with her for another mile or so.

I wound up running on trail six miles that day. And, extremely importantly, the next day I wasn’t completely disabled. My ankles were OK. My knees were OK. My hips were OK. 

A few days later, we went running again. It was raining out, so we went on the road this time. My plan was to stay with The Hammer for the first four miles of the run, then head home while she did another four.

Instead, I ran with her for the whole eight miles. And again, was OK the next day.

Since then, I’ve gone out running with The Hammer a couple times a week — mostly trail, because I don’t think I’ll ever really enjoy running on the road — and I’m fine. 

In fact, I’m better than fine. I’m great. As it turns out, I like trail running. It’s like mountain biking for when you don’t have enough time for a ride (an hour of mountain biking is hardly enough time to get warmed up; an hour of trail running is a good solid workout).

And I have to give most of the credit to the Altra Olympus. It’s been like going from a fully-rigid mountain bike to full suspension. For me, it’s made all the difference in the world; for the first time since we met, I’m able to go out with The Hammer and enjoy participating in one of the sports she loves.

I kid you not: I love these shoes. Love love love them. 

So a couple of days ago, I went out running with Heath Thurston of Altra, and asked him about these magical, magical shoes. Watch this very professionally-made video yourself, then gather your family around and watch it again.

That was a masterpiece, as I think you’ll agree.

A Foolish Plan

As I ran with The Hammer, successfully — and even happily — completing trail runs of eight or more miles, I began to wonder: what if I signed up for a race? Not a marathon. Nooooo. And not even a regular half-marathon. But how about a trail half-marathon?

As it turns out, there’s one coming up, and it’s close to where I live:


Even better, the trails are familiar to me — they’re the same trails I learned to mountain bike on twentyish years ago.

I started researching the race and found that the course record is held by Vic Johnson (1:39:37.7), who was my relay teammate in the Utah Half last year:

Vic’s the one in the middle.

Obviously, I wouldn’t be going after that time. I’d be looking more to complete than compete. Still, I liked the idea. Which felt weird: me, liking the idea of doing a running race.

I brought the idea up to The Hammer. “You want to run a half-marathon?” she asked, not even bothering to try to conceal her incredulity.

“Well, I’m liking the whole trail running thing,” I said, also not bothering to conceal the incredulity in my voice. 

“It is a week after the Ogden Marathon,” The Hammer mused, “So I’ll be in as good of running shape as I’m going to be for the season.”

And the very next day, she went and pre-ran the course, just to see what it was like.

The race course starts at the green dot and then goes around in a counterclockwise figure 8.

“I love it,” The Hammer said. And so the next day, she took me out to pre-run the course with her, during which each of the following happened, in this order:

  1. We stopped and talked with Survivor champion Tyson Apostol.
  2. I punched a mountain biker in the kidneys as he went by. He stopped and turned around — really mad — and then recognized that I’m a famous and beloved blogger, at which point he had to pretend my prank was funny.
  3. We saw two bighorn sheep, just twenty feet or so from the trail:
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And, more importantly than any of this: I survived. In fact, we did it in 2:36:45. Which may not sound too impressive, until you take the elevation profile into account: 


That’s 2223 feet of climbing.

Oh, Let’s Do That Again

So I started talking with The Swimmer about this race, trying to persuade her that she should try doing it too. And so last Saturday, while The Hammer was out running the Ogden Marathon, The Swimmer and I went and pre-ran the Timp Trail half marathon course together

Here’s a selfie of us at mile 10. We’re smiling because we know it’s pretty much all downhill from where we were:

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And here’s The Swimmer at the iconic “Pile of Rocks” in the meadow on the Frank trail network. From there, it’s just two miles to go. 

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We finished just about the same time The Hammer finished her marathon in Ogden, where she took third in her age group with a 3:30:

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So yeah. Next week, the three of us are going to do a trail half marathon together. 

Well, maybe not together. Because The Hammer’s still trying to decide whether to do the full marathon or the half. And I expect to go out hard and then bonk and have everyone laugh at me as they run by.

But here’s the thing: until I got these shoes — the Altra Olympus — I would never ever have considered doing this kind of event, much less been the instigator. 

I’m still a cyclist. That’s my thing, and it always will be.


These shoes have, no joke, completely changed my outlook on trail running. And it’s nice to have a second sport. Especially one I can do when I don’t have a lot of time (which happens a lot right now), the gear for which fits into a carry-on bag.


  1. Comment by Aaron | 05.19.2014 | 11:48 am

    Careful, Fatty. 2 years ago, I decided to run the Timp Trail Half. Then last year I ran the Timp Trail Full. This year I plan on the Squaw Peak 50. In the Altra Olympus. It’s a slippery slope.

    BTW, the plural is “Altra Olympi”

  2. Comment by Hamer | 05.19.2014 | 1:18 pm

    I had a similar transformation a couple of years ago thanks to the Altra Lone Peak and Born to Run. I still ride too, but trail running has really caught my attention. It’s awesome! I did a 50K last year! Peace on the dirt…riding or running. Roads suck!

  3. Comment by Jeff Bike | 05.19.2014 | 1:23 pm

    Noooo Fatty! Don’t give in to the darkside! Resist the lure of the new drug. It will consume you.

    Well ok you can run if you want to but just you wait and see.

    You know running will make you a stronger rider.

  4. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 05.19.2014 | 3:19 pm

    I can’t imagine running down a trail when you could be bombing down on a bike, but not one that would fit in carry-on. I tried running before I took up cycling but found it hurt all my leg joints. I would hypothesize that losing a lot of weight may have as much to do with enjoying running as the cool shoes. Have fun in the event.

  5. Comment by Terry Miller | 05.19.2014 | 4:00 pm

    Similar thing happened to me a few years ago. I’ve always hated running, but took it up because, as you say, it takes a lot less time. And gear. I can easily keep my shoes with me and jump on a trail if I happen to be near one. And no mechanicals! :) Now trail running is so easy to me that I rarely expend the energy to take the bike out. Be careful, Fatty!

  6. Comment by Jojo | 05.19.2014 | 5:58 pm

    At the end of the video: “Let’s go run”
    I was majorly disappointed that it didn’t actually cut to footage of Fatty running.

  7. Comment by BamaJim | 05.19.2014 | 8:47 pm

    Interesting. Been running in some Altras since last fall, which I like very well. Even more cushioning might be even better . Is the fit consistent with their other shoes?

  8. Comment by Anonymous | 05.19.2014 | 9:25 pm

    The only reason anyone should run is to get the last scoop of guacamole. I guess being chased by flesh-eating sentient robots is a good one too. But that’s it. So stop. Now. Please.

  9. Comment by Rolins | 05.19.2014 | 9:29 pm

    The only reason anyone should run is to get the last scoop of guacamole. Guess running from flesh-eating sentient robots is OK too. But that’s it.

  10. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 05.19.2014 | 10:20 pm

    Congrats to the Hammer on her 3rd place in the Ogden marathon, she is seriously fit and fast. What a great ambassador for WBR

    You might have just enough time to get cleaned up from the half marathon when you’ll be cheering Lisa finishing the full!

  11. Comment by Appleygirl | 05.20.2014 | 4:44 am

    I started cycling, which makes me smile like a kid at Disneyland, and later started running. Nothing major, just a 5k here and there but I went through the same transformation and completely understand <3

    We stumbled upon the Altra line six months or so ago and LOVE them! Especially in that groovy bright green :) It was the wide toe box and the zero drop and won me over <3

  12. Comment by Al Pastor | 05.20.2014 | 6:48 am

    I hate running, but still do it 2-3 times a week. I like cycling much better, though as you point out it takes a lot more time to get a decent workout.

  13. Comment by Joe | 05.20.2014 | 7:49 am

    How does the sizing hold up between models on them? The Instinct Everyday look like contenders for new trade show shoes, but the local running store only stocks a couple of their running models.

  14. Comment by chickenbocks | 05.20.2014 | 8:52 am

    I’m still curious why you punched a mountain biker in the kidneys. I’m sure it was accidental, but it would be more interesting if it wasn’t. Was he making fun of your fabulous shoes as he went by? Did he have a snarky look on his face that you couldn’t stand? Was there an Africanized killer bee on his jersey right on top of his kidney area and you secretly saved his life with one swift punch?

  15. Comment by Chris | 05.20.2014 | 10:15 am

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the allure. Running…well…


    I can say that after hill-repeat day on the road bike. Heck, I could say that during my last set of my hill repeats. If I were able to breathe. Or see.

    I think I’d rather be punched in the kidney by a jealous runner while riding than be the jealous runner doing the punching.

  16. Comment by Heidi | 05.20.2014 | 10:38 am

    Um, exactly who or what is *under* the iconic “Pile of Rocks”?

    I went to check Altra out, but unfortunately, the sizes don’t run small enough. (Fatty, you’ll love it when we meet up – you will TOWER a full half foot over me. Everyone’s tall in my world.) In the meantime, I love, love my Merrell Kids Trail Gloves. They don’t have an inch and a half of cush, though, and that’s sounding pretty nice.

  17. Comment by JRGdeCT | 05.20.2014 | 11:45 am

    “Mama said they were my magic shoes.” “Run Forrest, Run!”

    You almost got me to want to go for a run…. almost.

  18. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 05.20.2014 | 12:07 pm

    Fatty, either you have pimples that are so objectionable you need to pee on them, or it may finally be time to consider implementing a Recaptcha or similar anti-robot-poster solution on your blog.
    A burden of being famous I guess.

  19. Comment by owen | 05.20.2014 | 1:07 pm

    LT100 Trail Run on the radar for you and/or The Hammer? I helped pace a family member to a finish many years ago – much preferred the bike version. but Its a challenge with the same great vibe and you really get your money’s worth from a time on the course standpoint.

  20. Comment by daddyo | 05.20.2014 | 2:14 pm

    diversity of exercise will extend how long you can continue your athletic pursuits. you should try Brazilian jiu jitsu having already mastered the verbal headlock.

  21. Comment by daddyo | 05.20.2014 | 2:14 pm

    I jest. I jest.

  22. Comment by Sunny | 05.20.2014 | 3:40 pm

    You can say what you want…you inspire me to try. Thank you

  23. Comment by SteveB | 05.20.2014 | 4:56 pm

    My knees are crying as I read this…
    Stamp out cruelty to knees, just say no to ru**i*g!

  24. Comment by rich | 05.21.2014 | 8:18 am

    Fatty, like you I’ve been struggling with the time required for riding and a couple months ago bought a pair of solomon trail running shoes in an attempt to run instead….
    I tried…I really, really tried….but alas, the love was not there.
    As much as I HATEHATEHATE the spin bike, I still prefer it to running

  25. Comment by iRide | 05.21.2014 | 8:26 am

    Why are your grey shoes smaller than the others? I’m trying to fiugre out activity you do that you need to have your toes curled?

  26. Comment by treeman | 05.21.2014 | 12:21 pm

    Do you receive any compensation from this shoe company?

  27. Comment by Kukui | 05.21.2014 | 5:36 pm

    You’re the third person in the last week to highly recommend Altras! =)

    As a pretend runner, I’ll have to try these shoes out. I currently “run” (or rather shuffle-walk) in Saucony’s, but the latest iteration is not my fave.

    Wide toe box? Check.
    Zero drop? Check.
    Happy cyclist pretending to run? Worth a shot! =)

  28. Comment by Focalprice Coupon Code | 05.28.2014 | 8:36 pm

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