by Joe Moscariello, Marathon Sports Plymouth store manager

If distance running is simply the process of making the kinds of friends who inspire you to do painful things you didn’t think yourself capable of and possibly don’t want to ever do again, Brian Tjersland is either the best or the worst friend to have. Equal parts intimidating and approachable at six feet tall (6’2″ in his Hokas) and over 200 pounds, this year’s Winter Warrior Challenge overall winner is probably not what you’d expect when imagining an ultra-high mileage runner.

Find him near the middle or back of the pack exchanging friendly jabs and jokes with other members of Team Owen, the New Bedford YMCA, or TARC (Trail Animals Running Club), and he’ll happily invite you to join them. Ask about his running and he’ll casually regale you with epic tales from mountains, deserts, and forests. He’ll shrug his accomplishments off as normal human behavior, and make a convincing case that anyone can do what he does.

“It’s a social thing. Historically, running and walking is exactly how people got around, traded, and socialized. Humans were made for this activity.”

As modest as he may be about his running, Tjersland’s path through running is far from typical. “I started running in 2008 when I turned 40 and weighed 280 lbs. I basically went straight to half-marathons, then ran my first marathon at Newport in 2010. I ran the Boston Marathon the year after in 2011 with a waiver from my running club.”

Two weeks later, he ran the Providence Marathon. In less than a decade of running, his resume has swelled to include completions at several of the most prestigious and challenging races in the country, with finishes at the TARC 100, Bryce Canyon 100, and the prestigious Western States 100.

As for any special tips, tricks, or products he uses to enable his seemingly superhuman running, Brian is again the king of understatement. “I’m very fortunate, I’ve never had an injury. I stretch twice a day for 20 minutes, rotate three different pairs of shoes, and drink plenty of water. I love cheeseburgers.”

As for shoes, he says “Well, I have 4 pairs of Altra Repitition, 3 pairs of Hoka Mafate, and 1 pair of Mizuno Inspires unworn in my closet. I had to retire the pair of Hoka Mafates I was wearing through Winter Warrior, because they had over 1,000 miles.”

One would expect he would have some favorite anecdotes or places he’s run, but again he’s nonchalant. “I love seeing new places, but I also don’t really have any favorite races from the past. I don’t run to do the races – I do the races because I run.”

However, when asked about what he’s got planned next, Tjersland gets a familiar gleam in his eye when describing his experiences pacing a fellow runner through Badwater – a 135 mile race through Death Valley, CA in July, ending with a nearly 5,000 foot climb up the largest mountain in the contiguous US, Mount Whitney.

Characteristically understated, he says: “That’s an incredible run.” 

For more information on Team Owen and the Spinal Muscular Atrophy charity they run for, CLICK HERE

For more on Trail Animals Running Club (TARC), CLICK HERE

New Bedford YMCA: Brian leads group runs from the NB YMCA Monday through Friday at 8:00am.