Running High: Q&A with Avery Collins

26 year-old pro runner Avery Collins is different from other athletes. Although cannabis has been a consistent conversation in the athletic world, Avery has always been open with his cannabis consumption and how he utilizes the plant to train and recover from long runs.  

Born and raised in Indiana with four siblings, Avery was always active and adventurous. From summer camps to hanging with friends to visiting his grandparents in North Carolina, he was always on the go. He fell in love with the mountains after visiting his aunt and uncle’s cabin in Virginia. Avery developed a love for running a bit later in life, when a lack of funds for a gym membership forced him to get creative with his exercise routine. It’s then that he discovered the beauty and suffering of running.

What sparked your interest in running?

My gym membership expired while I was going to community college in North Carolina. I had always been a gym buff, but honestly couldn't afford a gym membership at the time and decided, "Well hell, I’ll try running." I decided that day I was going to run to the end of my neighborhood and I did, but it was a SUFFERFEST. It was only 1.5 miles to the end of the neighborhood but it was so difficult. When I returned home, I found what I really enjoyed most was the suffering itself. Now I just find little different ways to suffer.

How did you get into ultra running?

I got into ultra running on accident. After running for about 8 months I was strolling the internet looking for my next big challenge - a marathon. I had already run about four half-marathons and was ready to see what a marathon was like. I didn't necessarily want to run a flat one so I started looking for mountainous East Coast marathons. I stumbled upon the Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, VA. As I was looking through the website I noticed there was an "Unofficial Official" Double Marathon. This entailed a 3am start with a full course run, then lining back up with the rest of the competitors for round two. I asked a family friend if he thought I could do this. He said, "If you haven't finished a marathon yet, there's no way you'll ever finish this." To which I responded, "Consider it done..."

I wanted an adventure and I wanted to prove him wrong. No one can tell me what I am capable of doing. After this race it became an absolute passion I needed to feed.

How did that first Ultra go?

I ended up finishing in 4th, but it was brutal. The last 10 miles absolutely kicked my butt. Both of my knees were completely swollen and I couldn't walk for a full day afterward. I'll never forget towards the end of the race with about 5 miles left thinking, "I never knew this pain existed" and I absolutely loved it. Its unexplainable. It’s like a drug; fighting off all the demons and pain.

What races have you participated in as a pro athlete?

HURT 100 - Oahu, Hawaii

Colorado 200 Endurance Run - Central Colorado

Tor Des Geants - Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps

Western States 100 - Squaw Valley, California

Grindstone 100 - Virigina

Ouray 100 - Ouray, Colorado

Who are your current sponsors?

Evolab & CBx Sciences, VaprWear, PurePower Botanicals, Cranked Naturals, Muir Energy and ECS Distribution

What goes through your mind when you’re running that distance?

Not much... that's what I love so much about running. I don't think about anything. The only thing that matters when you’re running 100 or even 200 miles is water, food and movement. That's what I like so much. I get to live in my one world and it’s all about survival. Nothing else.

What's your craziest race story?

Well... I get lost in about 70% of the races I run. I would say the craziest story I have would be at Ouray 100. I went off course for about 2.5 hours running up the wrong mountain. I was running back and forth on Richmond Pass in a panic trying to figure out where the hell I went wrong. Once I was back on course, I was in dead last and would fight through the entire race finally finishing in 1st place. I passed the leader around mile 86.

What keeps you going during a run/race and why?

I have a lot of motivations. Often times it's simply proving to myself that I can do exactly what I say and dream of. Competition is also a driving in factor in keeping me going. I don't like to lose. I think of my family a lot when I’m running, especially my grandpa. He has been my biggest fan and support since I started running. Lastly, I enjoy running in the mountains for hours, if not days, alone. That's all I need really. Racing and being in pain is not a chore for me, it's a choice and I enjoy every minute of it.

If someone wanted to get into ultra running, what advice would you give them?

Find a race that absolutely inspires you. Don't settle for the first ultra race you hear about, i.e. Leadville Trail 100. Run something that will challenge you both mentally and physically. Be adventurous and don't settle to be like everyone else.

Where’s your favorite place to run?

The San Juan Mountain Range.... 354 thirteeners in one mountain range. Yeah it’s an unbelievably magical place.

Any other sports you're getting into?

Oh yeah. Recently, I’ve done an ultra cycling road race. I mountain bike, paddle board, golf, surf, snowboard, splitboard, rock climb and play basketball.

How has cannabis helped you before and after your training/race?

Cannabis allows me to enjoy what I do. It's easy to get trapped in a pattern of staring at numbers and always competing against yourself. In ultra running, I think it's just as important to get out for at least half of your runs during the week and just take it easy. Cannabis allows me to be present and live in the moment. It reminds me to forget about the pace and enjoy the space. It's a very meditative thing to run high and it's the ultimate stress reliever for me. It’s as if nothing else in the world exists when I use cannabis during my training runs.

I don't use during races as its against WADA rules. But, if I’m in a legal state I am a huge proponent of rubbing in as much compound as possible as it helps shut the legs down. Anyone who has run a marathon or longer knows the feeling of throbbing legs that feel like they're still in motion. THC/CBD compounds help shut down my legs, allowing me to relax after a race or training run, and recover properly.

When did you start using cannabis for your training/races?

I started incorporating cannabis into my training about six years ago. After about a year of running in college, I decided to use cannabis while running.

Why are you so open about using cannabis as a pro athlete?

Well, I think one way or another cannabis is something the vast majority of humans can benefit from. If someone is uncomfortable with the psychoactive properties of cannabis, they can still benefit from the medicinal purposes the plant has to offer.

Has a sponsor dropped you due to you being an open cannabis user?

No, however, I have lost potential sponsors on a few occasions due to my advocacy.

Do you think athletes should be able to utilize cannabis?

Yes, for many reasons. One of the most important things endurances athletes do for recovery is eat. However, sometimes eating can be difficult for people directly after a run, bike, swim etc. Cannabis can stimulate the appetite directly after a workout, allowing for a much faster recovery. As I stated before, it can also help athletes relax when they’re under pressure - from themselves or otherwise.

Where do you see this industry going?

UP! CBD is slowly working its way into all facets of the endurance athlete industry and I think it's only going to grow into all sports as a whole.

What Evolab and CBx Sciences products do you love using?

For recovery purposes, I like to use the CBx Sciences Intensive Salve directly after a run, as well as the Evolab Alchemy Balance cartridge which is a 1:1 THC/CBD ratio. Before or during a run, I really enjoy the Alchemy cartridge in Sour Tangie. It’s one of my favorites. I typically lean towards this type of strain in flower as well. What's great about having the vape pen is I can take it literally anywhere. I’m often at places where it’s way too windy for flower. The pen works great in all seasons, no matter if I’m snowboarding, running or biking. The Sour Tangie cartridge is the perfect high for me. It allows me to still feel in control while giving me the “runner’s high” I’m looking for when I’m out in the mountains.

Why did you want to become an athlete for Evolab and CBx Sciences?

Evolab provides the cleanest, most well respected oils in the cannabis space. I’ve always wanted a vape pen sponsor that I can trust is putting the best product in my body. Like I said, flower is very difficult to take on the terrain that I’m on so I need something lightweight and durable to pack away into my running kit. Then I found out the Intensive Salve I was using all summer was by CBx Sciences. I’ve tried an infinite amount of compounds and there is nothing that helped with recovery and pain relief like the Intensive Salve. Period.

In your opinion, how does Evolab and CBx Sciences stand apart from other vape and topical companies?

From the topical standpoint, other companies make a product that I believe provides pain relief but what they're missing is the overall recovery. Intensive Salve actually provides true recovery from day to day for me when I’m out running for 6 to 8 hours a day. I can feel real results. Colors cartridges literally taste like you're pulling from a fresh hookah.

If you could describe yourself using one word, what would it be and why?

Adventurous. That's cheesy but it's true. I wake up everyday and find a way to get out and test/push my limits against the mountains. It doesn't always have to be through running. I like to keep my mind open to different ways to move in the mountains.

What do you love to do on your free time?

Run. I mean, that’s what I always want to be doing. I guess if I'm not specifically training with some kind of workout, then running in the mountains with my girlfriend Sabrina is honestly what makes me most happy.

To follow along with Avery’s adventures, be sure to follow him on his Instagram account - @runninhigh

Sam Bruce