Fitsok Ambassador Jason Eichhorst moved from Fresno to Salt Lake City in 1996 to be closer to the mountains. Skiing and BMX riding were his main pursuits until 2011, when he simultaneously got married. “Immediately following that, I became completely intrigued with rock climbing, which my wife was not very thrilled about,” he says. After about a year of climbing passionately, but meeting fierce resistance from his better half, Eichhorst started to gravitate toward trail running. “I was beginning to [find] the approaches to climbing routes more enjoyable than the climb itself,” he says. “And the thought of travelling through the mountains with very little gear became appealing.”
He took to it quickly – and as with climbing, jumped in headlong. He finished his first trail race, the 2013 Squaw Peak 50 Mile in Provo, Utah, in 11:50:57; in 2014, he finished The Bear 100 Mile, his first 100, in 24:13:46. And in 2015, he had a breakthrough, placing 12th at the Wasatch Front 100 in 23:50:20 and earning sixth in the competitive Tushar Trail Run 93K. Meanwhile, he has been operating and growing the website Merit Endurance, which features photography and interviews designed to inspire runners with a passion for the mountains. We recently did a little collaboration with them here. We caught up with Eichhorst to talk about his running, why he wears Fitsok, and how the landscape of his Utah dwellings informs and inspires his running and his work with Merit.
What are your favorite memories – and/or proudest accomplishments – as a runner?
A few events come to mind. Completing my first running race ever (2013 Squaw Peak 50 Mile) was pretty fulfilling. I had no idea what to expect after 22 miles, so making it any distance beyond that I was completely elated (to the point of tears a few times). Finishing that was a great feeling. Also, finishing The Bear 100 (2014) was another good memory. Then this past September I finished Wasatch 100 under 24 hours; honestly, I still can’t believe I did that.
You’ve had a good few first years of trail running, but what are some goals you have for next year, or beyond?
This next year I have nothing planned yet, other than to have fun and be in the mountains as much as possible. I’ve not pinned down any races, but I plan to look into a couple events soon. There are some adventure runs I’d like to take a shot at as well. Racing in Europe, or overseas, has always been a “bucket list” item of mine simply due to the ambiance of it all. The pure excitement from the crowds has got to be an awfully empowering feeling.
Tell us about Merit. When did you start it, and why?
Merit was a pipe-dream/brainstorm that my wife and I had discussed, which then turned into an MBA class project to help out a friend, which now has turned into blog/website. The end MBA project was a lot different than what it has come to be.
How did it grow – and evolve – from there?
So, the MBA class finished, we had purchased a domain URL and it just sat there for about 6 months. One day I decided to turn it into a blog/site and made all of the posts related to mountain and trail running. After I had some momentum going I asked some runners if they’d be down to do interviews. Everyone has been really supportive and down to help out. We recently saved up a few bucks, had some socks and tees made to help promote it a little more. It’s quite slow, but it’s a fun outlet for us that we enjoy doing.
How would you describe Merit’s purpose, or mission? What do you hope to do with it, and how is it different from other running-related content on the web today?
I find there’s a lot of BS involved on some of the running websites and that’s not what draws me in. It’s just running, like you throw on some shoes and get after it. You want to get better at running? Do it more and don’t eat like you’re still 17. It’s a pretty damn lean sport, that’s my outlook with how the site is, too. At least that’s how I try to keep my outlook towards it. But in the future? I’d like to see it go in the way of truly functional running apparel, but we’ll see. I made some sample shorts that I’ve worn during both 100 milers and a couple 100k’s and they were flawless. For now, I’d be happy with finding some free time to devote getting fresh content put on the site.
Now for the important stuff. Why do you wear Fitsok?
Honestly, I love the socks! Flat out. I can’t think of another brand of sock I’ve worn that holds up as well, or works as well. I still have my first pair given to me from Kyle and Jeff, and I still put them into rotation (ISW Trail Cuff). Not one hole!
Holes in socks used to be an issue for you?
All I can really say is that my mother to a younger me would have loved not buying socks for her teenager every 3 weeks. I had the tendency to go through socks awfully fast.