James Varner brings new energy and races to the Methow Valley
By Patrick Hannigan
James Varner is a man on the move.
Since moving to the Methow from Olympia two years ago, the 32-year-old Varner has acquired four jobs, organized two new long-distance running races in the valley and started a local running club. In his free time, he trains for ultramarathons and runs 75 to 90 miles a week.
“I’m just one of those people who has a lot of energy,” said Varner.
One of Varner’s jobs is as an independent race organizer. In that capacity he’s brought two new races to the valley, including the Sun Mountain Race, which attracted 180 participants last year. This year he’s adding a 50-mile option to the June 20 Sun Mountain Race, which will begin at the end of Twisp River Road and follow the Twisp River Trail down, then up and over Thompson Ridge into the Sun Mountain Trails.
Another Varner creation is a new race called the Winthrop Road Marathon, which is scheduled for Sept. 26. The course begins at Thirtymile up the Chewuch River and ends in downtown Winthrop. Varner also has plans for a third new local footrace, tentatively titled the Angle’s Staircase, but he’s still working on getting all the proper Forest Service permits. Varner is also the creator and race organizer for annual ultramarathons on Orcas Island and in Cle Elum.
“I’ve always loved to be outside and when you run you get to see a lot of beautiful country,” said Varner. “Trail or road races add a social element to running.”
While his job as a moon research assistant at the Bear Fight Center in the Rendezvous keeps him grounded inside, two of his other jobs keep him on the run.
Mapmaker Green Trails employs Varner to go take a hike – literally. Varner is charged with mapping new trails across the United States, which he does by walking or running them with a GPS. This year he is hired to hike trails in the Columbia Gorge, California, Arizona and Arkansas.
Varner’s fourth job is as a trail-running tour guide for a company called Adventure Running Company of Duluth, Minn. This year Varner is scheduled to guide three weeklong running trips in North Dakota, Colorado and California.
Between work and play, Varner estimates he ran around 3,000 miles last year. And while Varner enjoys road running for the sheer speed and efficiency, trail running is his true calling. His obsession began as a kid in southern Maryland, where he spent days exploring cow and deer trails in the woods behind his house. That grew into running cross-country in high school, which evolved into through-hiking the Appalachian Trail in his early 20s.
This summer, Varner is looking to break a record by running the entire 511-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington in 10 days or less.
To learn more about the new running races scheduled for this summer or join up with others who run regularly in the Methow, visit www.rainshadowrunning.com.
Photo courtesy of Glenn Tachiyama: Varner’s goal this year is to run the 511-mile Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail in 10 days or less.