Logan Williams is Running with Joy Despite Chronic Illness

A rare autoimmune disease that causes painful tumors on his body won’t stop him from chasing his passion and attempting the 100-mile Run Rabbit Run

Photo: Provided by Satisfy; Taken by Moe Lauchert

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A stacked field is scheduled to line up in the competitive field of “hares” at the Run Rabbit Run 100-miler on September 15 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 

The 105-runner field includes Dave Stevens, Jimmy Elam, Arlen Glick, Georgia Porter, Cat Bradley, Tara Dower, Nicole Bitter, and Sarah Ostaszewski, as well as Trail Runner editor-in-chief Zoë Rom. They’ll start at noon and join another 400 runners from the 8 a.m. start of  the “tortoise” division on a 106-mile course that features more than 22,000 feet of elevation gain. The only difference is that the hares will be running for a portion of the $75,000 in prize money, which includes $15,000 for the men’s and women’s winners.

Also among the star-studded lineup is Logan Williams, a 28-year-old lawyer from Incline Village, Nevada. In addition to looking for redemption following a 2022 DNF, he’s looking to prove to himself that the 100-mile distance is still possible for him.

Back in March, he thought he’d have to swear off the distance for good. A rare autoimmune disease diagnosis in 2021 has, and continues to, cause pain that he feels on a daily basis from tiny tumors that keep developing all over his body. He feels them on every run.

But, he keeps running. A chance to escape in nature and his passion for always trying to be better push him out the door each day. He’s got talent, too, with notable finishes at Black Canyon 100K, Lake Sonoma 50, Bear 100, and others that earned him multiple sponsorship contracts (Williams currently runs for French Brand Satisfy Running). All the while, he’s a law clerk whose week off to race is sandwiched between two complicated murder trials.

“For me, this year has been about getting back to why I got into running,” Williams said. “Of course I’m going to show up and want to do my best, but I want to show up to events that I’ve always wanted to do that resonate with me. Remove the community pressure to do things and do this as long as I can.”


Williams started noticing bumps on his arms and torso in high school. At the time, he, nor his doctors, could explain it. They’d cause some pain from time to time but it was simply written off as muscle tears or some other minor malady. It wasn’t until when he was in undergrad and law school that he started developing headaches from the pain. The bumps also started to become more prominent on his body as he picked up trail running after summiting every 14er in Colorado in 2016.

Williams had a knack for trail running despite entering the sport later. After several 50 milers over the years, a friend convinced him to run Utah’s Wasatch 100 in 2019 only three weeks before the race. He finished ninth in 24:38:26. Three weeks after that, he jumped into the Bear 100, ran it self-supported and finished fifth in 21:35:17.

“I remember finishing and being in so much pain,” he said. “But I had the biggest smile on my face, and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Hundred milers became his passion. When success continued with a fifth-place finish at Lake Sonoma 50 in 2021 and a ninth-place finish at Black Canyon 100K in 2022, he had acquired a Salomon sponsorship. It was the second career he was starting at the time. He was also beginning his legal career as a law clerk in Reno.

However, the bumps continued to form on his body and the pain worsened. After wearing a running pack for years, bumps on his abdomen and ribs made him have to forgo it on runs.

After years of putting it off, Williams began visiting specialists to see what was truly causing the bumps and what they were. In 2021, he was diagnosed with Dercum’s disease.

“Dercum’s is a really rare autoimmune disease that manifests itself differently with different people,” he said, “For me, it’s a buildup of painful tumors along muscle and nerve cells between the layer of muscle and fat. What happens is blood vessels will kind of break off and offshoot and then form a tumor. The tumors are painful in nature.”

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A Bitter Pill to Swallow

The fear of the unknown of what’s next still exists as Williams adapts to this diagnosis. . Every day is different in terms of pain and how his body holds up. For example, for Run Rabbit Run 2022, Williams realized during training that he could run for about five hours before the sharp pain, burning sensation or crawling feeling began. “It feels like something is being ripped out of you with pliers all over your body,” he said.

One race day, the pain set in early, at hour three. The pain first forced his pack off. His shirt, causing pain, came off soon after. His tights remained, but also caused pain. Continuing meant another 15 hours of this agony. He finally decided to drop.

“One of the harder lessons is that sometimes I can be in the best shape of my life, and be mentally ready, but there are things completely out of my control,” Williams said. “Hundreds right now are my favorite business, but as of right now, I’m not planning on doing another 100 for another year or two. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

Williams said this in March with surgery on the horizon. It’s become an annual procedure to remove some of the tumors. This year, he had eight of the larger ones removed on his abdomen and ribs. They ranged in size from a quarter to a ping pong ball. A delay for the surgery cost him his first race of the year, Val d’Aran by UTMB in Spain in early July.

Understanding and coming to terms with Dercum’s has been his goal this year. He deleted his social media in December. After years of actively posting about running injuries and Dercum’s, he needed a break. He didn’t want a distraction. He wanted to be present.

“It’s largely been a reset year for me mentally,” Williams said. “That’s lended itself to me being more patient and peaceful with myself. When you know it feels this way, when you know what it is, it becomes just an added layer to the 100-miler puzzle. It’s another problem to figure out on the run.”

This mentality didn’t come easy. Williams said he was in a dark place to start the year as the pain never subsides. However, things like the latest surgery and playing around with training and nutrition have made significant differences in his daily life.

He started with minimizing his processed sugar intake and being cautious, or even eliminating, most foods and beverages that can cause inflammation. He gave up foods he loved and also tested out gels and liquids. He found Neversecond gels and calorie-dense liquids work best for run fuel. He found new protein and nutritional sources from vegetables, rice, oatmeals, fish, and eggs to replace things like dairy and red meat. He also doubled his water intake to around 1.5 liters per hour. He put the same energy into rest and recovery.

“Every run, I’m going to feel this pain,” Williams said. “The intensity is largely dependent on what I do during or outside the run. My next run starts the moment the current one ends.”

The confidence from fueling as well as the success on long runs up to eight hours got him to consider 100 milers again. When someone mentioned Run Rabbit Run this summer, he put his name on the waitlist.

“This fear of the unknown was hard for me to come to terms with, and I still struggle with it,” he said. “The fear of what’s next with Dercum’s. That detracts from the moment that is. For me, every run, I try to take in the fact that I’m happy I’m running. A year ago, I didn’t know I’d be running today. Going into the 100, I know it’s going to hurt. But it’s like, holy shit, I get to do this. The body held up this year. We’re going to go out and make the most of this one day.”

Living in the Moment

Williams is reluctant to dwell too much on his diagnosis in conversation. He’s happy to talk about it now, but it’s not the story he wants you to think when you see him.

“If Logan wouldn’t have told me, I never would’ve guessed,” said Shawn Smith, a friend who lived with Williams in Salt Lake City a few years ago. “He didn’t really tell anyone for a long time. He didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. He wanted to prove he could do these things without sympathy and get through it.”

Dercum’s disease is not an illness you can visibly see, at least not the pain part. Williams hardly shows that side, though those close to him recognize his bad days. Yet, it’s Williams who is often looking to help others, as a lawyer and a friend. Running, despite the pain, is his joy.

His fiance, Emma Dahl, a pro runner who lives in Sweden, said running, as a sport, is his escape from the disease. It doesn’t go away on his runs, but it’s the culture, which he writes about for FreeTrail, that brings him the most joy. Dahl says you’ll find him at every start line talking to strangers, listening to their stories.

“It’s kind of what saves him,” said Dahl. “His mental strength is his biggest asset. He’s definitely the strongest person I’ve ever met. He already does so many amazing things, and when people hear and know he’s in pain doing all this, they gain so much respect for him. It inspires me everyday.”

That humility comes out in his actions and his words. When asked about how he manages a demanding career, sport, disease, and life, he speaks of others.

“You never know what someone else is going through emotionally, physically, or mentally,” he said. “Yeah, I have this weird thing going on inside me that can’t be explained, but in almost every other facet in life, things aren’t bad. I work in the court system and see people going through stuff all the time and not showing it.”

These are his thoughts as he navigates Dercum’s. He isn’t sure how or when his disease might worsen. As he said, he isn’t sure he’ll be running in a year. For now, he just wants to do what he loves. 

“One of the biggest struggles is this sense that every doctor tells me there’s this possibility of being bedridden and giving up running,” Williams said. “I don’t know how many more of these I get. Sometimes I’m in court all day and think I missed a chance to run. In that thought, I’m doing a disservice. That puts a pressure on me to feel like I have to do these things. I struggle to sit still, but I’m learning to just be in moments.”

The moment he’s excited for most this weekend?

“I stopped drinking three months ago for this race,” he said. “Everything is going to be hurting anyway after the run no matter what. I’m having a whiskey.” A bottle of Willard Full-Proof Barrel Select will be waiting.

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