Aaron Newell, A Dominant Newcomer to OCR

Interview by Kurt McIntire

08 12 19

Aaron Newell
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Today let’s meet Aaron Newell, Spartan Pro Team member, 2019 Broken Arrow Triple Crown winner, and climbing guide. As of August 2019 he’s put together a solid season, earning 7th in the Spartan U.S. National Series, 2nd place at the North American OCR Champsionships 15k, 2nd at the Snowmass Ultra, 2nd at Spartan's Ohio Ultra, and top-5 showings at nearly every major race. This all-around endurance athlete is relatively new to the world of obstacle course racing, having his first race at San Jose in 2018.

How, in 1.5 years of competition, is Aaron one of the best OCR athletes on the planet?

Aaron grew up in northeastern New York, with the Adirondack Mountains a short drive away. By age 15, Aaron was running trails, nordic skiing, mountain biking, and rock climbing. This love of the outdoors and athletics progressed into his late teens, where he was sponsored by Salomon and competing in ultramarathons. By 2017, he had been following the sport of OCR for a few years, keeping tabs on Ryan Atkins’s dominating performances. Aaron says, “As a professional endurance athlete and rock climber, I knew I could do well at this sport too”.

And great Aaron has been, performing better as races get longer and as elevation gain increases. But, the road to his OCR debut in 2018 was hard fought.

Overcoming Injury

Shortly after his sponsorship with Salomon in 2013, Aaron was struck with an intense bout of Mono and Giardia. He became sick enough to lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks. Losing so much body weight in a short time made Aaron prone to injury. Over the next 6 years, he faced a string injuries — tearing his labrum, breaking his left foot, breaking right foot, breaking his left ankle, then having several surgeries to re-do or improve on previous surgeries.

Aaron Newell Ankle Surgery  

In 2019, he’s mostly healed, but the lingering injuries kept him from training early this season. Now, Aaron lives out of his converted van, bouncing between Colorado’s mountains and the Sierra Nevadas. This lifestyle allows him travel from race to race and train in the United State’s most rugged mountain ranges. As this season converges at Tahoe, for the Spartan Race World Championships, Aaron says, “I want top 5 at Tahoe. The sport has evolved. I think I can do well on that course”.

Aaron ran the Broken Arrow Sky Race’s Vertical Kilometer, 26k, and 52k this July, earning him the Broken Arrow Triple crown. Let's break down the gear he wore for that weekend of high-altitude trail running in Tahoe.

Aaron Newell
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Aaron Newell's #gearlist:


AN: “I’ve been training for years with sunglasses. I’m the only member of my family without eye glasses, and I want to keep it that way. I like Oakley's Jawbreakers because they’re polarized, covering a lot of the face. Also, the frames have little holes in them so the lenses don’t fog up.”


AN: “I think they’re (VJ Shoes USA) a great company. I love that they’re supporting obstacle course racing.”

How do you choose the right shoe for race day?

AN: “VJ Shoes's offerings are all pretty similar in weight, but the iRock is good for soft muddy or snowy conditions. If course has a lot of pounding downhill, the XTRM is great. It has a rock plate and it's lugs aren’t quite as deep. For the MAXx, you'll feel more cushion, smaller lugs. This one feels like a training shoe. For long races, the smaller lugs don't press into your foot like larger ones can.”