Lessons Learned From a Trail-Running Shooter

Dan tells me, “You’re missing a leg.”

“I’m missing a leg?”

“Yeah. Here, look. See? You’re an amputee. Try it again.”

I am with the mountain-sport photographers Dan and Janine Patitucci, and I am flunking trail-running photo school. Badly. We are in Switzerland’s Jungfrau region, where there’s something like 500 miles of the best flowy singletrack in the world, and I am stuck in a 100-yard recursive trail-running loop. Working with Dan and Janine is like being in prison with two of the nicest people you could possibly imagine. I am in the photo equivalent of Groundhog Day.

I make another pass on our alpine runway. I hear the shutter on Dan’s Sony a7rII whirring. I stop, and Dan stares intently at the camera’s screen, flying through something like 30 images in 10 seconds.

“I don’t have it,” Dan says. “We need it.”

Dan, I realize, is one part tweaker, one part Kilian Jornet, one part Dalai Lama. He has a heart of gold, and he is fully capable of accidentally grinding fellow runners into the dirt. But if he doesn’t get the shot he craves, he mopes.

I am not helping. I move through the mountains like a worn Sherman tank, every inch of ground hard-fought. There’s someone nimble inside, but he hardly ever appears.  Most of my surfaces have battle scars.

Yet the power of imagery is such that it’s all worth the effort. Single images have changed people’s lives, mine included. Years ago, I saw a photo of a climber in British Columbia’s Bugaboos. He was happily dangling his feet off a ledge, the forest incomprehensibly far below. “One way or another,” I told myself, “I am going to do that.” A climbing and mountaineering life ensued, with celebrations atop remote peaks, funerals so soul-crushing my eyes still mist at the memories and many deeply fulfilling experiences between those poles.

Related: 15 Inspiring Images from Trail Runner’s 2016 Photo Camp

In my life’s slideshow, Dan and Janine’s trail-running images have supplanted the one of that climber. They have been everywhere I looked, from the Patagonia catalog to Rock and Ice to this magazine. So, when I needed photographs of trail running in the Alps for an idea that would become an improbable career, I hopped a train to their corner of the Alps, Switzerland’s ridiculously dramatic Jungfrau region. We talked for a few hours at their local pub, but not once about work. I caught the last train home feeling like a transfer in grade school who had found his new best friends.

Everyone knows them, and everybody loves them. Just mentioning Dan and Janine creates an unspoken bond. In Colorado, a bartender once overheard my conversation and blocked me as I headed for the door, pleading, “Tell Dan and Janine Kathy from Silverton says hi.” One of these days, when I need a place to crash for the night, I’m going to head for the nearest brewery in the nearest mountain town and yell, “Dan and Janine said I might be able to crash with one of you guys.” The door will open to someone’s spare bedroom.

The last few summers, I have been training new trail-running guides, who will lead running trips on which, of course, many clients will take photos. I try to convey what I learned from Dan and Janine: technical tips, body-movement insights, advice on clothing choices. But something’s always been missing.

Last fall, I realized what it was. We were trail running the Tour du Mont-Blanc, and found ourselves high on the col between Switzerland and Italy long after the season’s tourists had come and gone. The day was winding down. Hungry, we coasted through tilted pastures towards dinner in the Swiss border village of Ferret. Rounding a corner, we intruded on a scene that has played out in that spot for centuries—a shepherd, her flock, dog at her side. Dan was first through, and he captured a scene both beautiful and timeless. We were there, I realized, for the simple reason that he and Janine get out. A lot. They are there when beautiful things happen. Over and over, day after day, over the course of years. The important thing, as Kilian Jornet says, is to keep moving. Dan and Janine do.

These days, I still lumber along. I wear clothing that’s not quite colorful enough, and I can barely remember the photographer’s rule of thirds. But I always think of their example: Get up early, grab your shoes, run through town and head into the hills while others are reaching for their first cup of coffee. Be the one who’s there.

Doug Mayer is not sure if he lives in Chamonix, France, or Randolph, New Hampshire. But he thinks he might be a trail-running model in a future life.

WATCH: 2018 Trails in Motion Film Festival Trailer

The 2018 Ledlenser Trails in Motion film festival is (almost) here! The lineup of films for this year’s edition of the trail-running specific film tour is stacked, including films about 2017 CCC champ Clare Gallagher; Death Cab for Cutie frontman and trail runner Ben Gibbard; Moab 240 champ Courtney Dauwalter; and Adam Campbell, who nearly died in a scrambling accident in 2016 and, one year later, completed the Hardrock 100.

The 2018 tour schedule will be announced soon, here.

Vietnam Veteran Rich Hooper Finds Peace on the Trails

“A friend of mine saw three bears here last week,” Rich Hooper says by way of introducing me to his favorite trail, a steep, rocky loop above his hometown of Basalt, Colorado. He usually runs it alone, but he’s made an exception today, so I huff quietly and do my best to keep up.

“If you see poop with a bit of fur in it, that’s coyote,” he says, slowing down briefly to point out shriveled scat. Noting a broken sage branch a few feet away, he adds, “I see something like this, and wonder what broke it off.” He gazes off into the forest, craning to hear or smell the bear that must have passed this way.

Hooper, 67, is around five-foot-five, with a square jaw, sizeable calves and a sturdy build. His close-cut silvery hair and beard frame leathery wrinkles and gray-blue eyes that sparkle mischievously every time he says something sarcastic, which is often. “Psh,” he’ll say, when someone claims to be too tired, busy or injured to run. “You’re weak. I take no prisoners.”

Hooper served as a sergeant in Vietnam, from 1969 to 1970, and, like many veterans, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. For decades, he had no idea what was wrong with him and no way to deal with it, until he was finally diagnosed in 2009. Four years ago he discovered trail running. Now he is finally learning what it means to be at peace.

“I can think more clearly when I’m on the trails,” says Hooper. He speaks softly, measuring each syllable with precision. “Other times, I just think about nothing. It’s almost like being back in the war again, the way you go down deep inside your own mind, put the pain away, get rid of all your feelings and just go.”

 

Drafted

Hooper grew up in Elizabethtown, New York, and was drafted in 1968, when he was 19. After 11 months and six days in the Ia Drang Valley, he returned home with major hearing loss in both ears and type II diabetes, which a study by the National Academy of Sciences would later link to Agent Orange exposure. Worse were the bursts of rage that would seize him at the slightest provocation—a joke that rubbed him the wrong way, a smell, a song. “I was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he says. “No one understood why I was like that. I didn’t understand why I was like that.”

In reality, Hooper was experiencing PTSD, a condition that would not be named, or recognized as a medical diagnosis, for over a decade. The stress of combat had left him hypersensitive to potential threats, even where there were none. In crowded rooms, he stood with his back against a wall, for fear of someone sneaking up from behind. One morning, his mother tapped him on the shoulder to wake him up, rather than kicking him in the foot as was customary in the military, and he grabbed her by the throat.

Hooper coped by drinking, which fueled his anger and risk taking. He got into fights. He drunkenly drove his Plymouth Hemi Cuda at 140 miles per hour on steep, winding roads. He wandered through the woods and snuck up behind hunters, exhilarated by the thought that they might shoot if he caught them by surprise.

“Friends of mine, guys twice my size, have told me that they were scared of me, because of who I became when I was drunk,” he says now. “It was that bad.”

 

A path to peace

Despite his struggles, Hooper earned a degree in Outdoor Recreation Education. Over the course of the next 17 years, he moved from New York to Colorado,  divorced three times and once tried to commit suicide.

By 2002 he had grown estranged from his 12-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, and become a single parent to his 10-year-old son, Keegan. He was working as a property manager at a chapel in Snowmass, Colorado when he met Houston Cowan, then CEO of Challenge Aspen, a local nonprofit that specializes in recreation for people with disabilities. Cowan invited Hooper to join their annual marathon fundraiser.

“It was clear that Rich was proud of his service,” says Cowan. “But whenever you brought up anything about the military, he would get very quiet. You could tell that whatever had gone on in his past, he was trying to bury it.”

Ramping up from zero miles to a marathon wasn’t easy or painless. Hooper routinely woke up at 4 a.m. to run while his son was still asleep, and by race day he had developed plantar fasciitis.

“It wasn’t difficult,” Hooper says. “I just made up my mind to do it, no excuses.”

Related: Trail Running Helps Returning Veterans

 

Discovering the trails

In 2012, Dina Belmonte, a Challenge Aspen teammate, introduced Hooper to a trail loop behind her house. “I was, and still am, amazed at his agility and his awareness of everything around him on the trail,” says Belmonte.

But to Hooper, it just made sense.

“I ran some of my first ‘ultras’ in the jungle, wearing cotton fatigues, a long-sleeved shirt, combat boots and a pack full of ammunition that weighed more than I did,” he says. In Vietnam, he navigated with a compass and maps that could be off by several hundred yards—“not an issue until the enemy starts shooting howitzers at your position”—and relied on oddly shaped leaves or fallen branches to remember the path back to base. No one stopped when temperatures soared over 110 degrees and water canteens ran dry, when sunburned blisters burst and soaked their shirts with puss or when a soldier had jungle rot and chunks of flesh were falling off his feet.

For most of his life, Hooper has struggled to maintain interpersonal relationships —“You went [to Vietnam] as an individual, and for the most part you covered your own ass. There was no room for emotion.” But with running as an outlet, he has become happier, more relaxed and more fulfilled—and more social.

He invites other people to run with him and makes sure they are comfortable with the pace and terrain. If someone trips and falls during a race, he stops to help. He spends several hours a week volunteering for Challenge Aspen. He hasn’t relapsed to heavy drinking in seven years. Most importantly, he has reconnected with his daughter. When he ran his first 50-miler, the Grand Mesa 50 in Grand Junction, Colorado, in July 2015, Kaitlyn and her husband came out to crew for him.

While trail running is a far cry from war, Hooper finds it calls upon a similar blend of endurance and adrenaline. “It’s not that I am reliving my war memories when I am out on the trail,” he says. “But being here, pushing my physical and mental limits again, it feels good.”

Ariella Gintzler is the associate editor at Trail Runner magazine.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of Trail Runner magazine. Since publication, Hooper has gotten married and moved, but he still runs, and hopes to complete his first 100-miler before his 70th birthday.

The Veterans in Crisis hotline is a free, confidential resource for those in need of support. Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

Didn’t Get Into Western States or Hardrock? Here Are 10 Alternatives

This fall, 4,909 runners put into a lottery in hopes of getting one of 369 spots in the 2018 Western States 100, perhaps the most iconic 100-mile race in the United States. Similarly, this year saw 2,236 applicants for the Hardrock 100, a notoriously difficult high-altitude race in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains with just 145 available spots.

If you didn’t get into of these races (perhaps yet again), don’t fret. There are plenty of other races with a similar combination of terrain, camaraderie and spirit.

There are now more than 150 100-mile races held annually in North America alone. Here are 10 races that can cure even the most stubborn Hardrock or Western-States FOMO and get you motivated about training.

 

1. Eastern States

Held in northern Pennsylvania, this a 103-mile, single-loop course is run almost entirely on singletrack. The race follows Pine Creek, a scenic river that runs through the Appalachian Mountains. But with more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain, it isn’t for beginners—which makes it all the more rewarding.

When: August 11, 2018

Where: Waterville, PA

Register: www.easternstates100.com

 

2. Wasatch 100

Looking for an altitude-heavy race with terrain that ranges from wet scree to dry valleys and everything in between? The Wasatch 100 offers 24,000 feet of elevation gain over a point-to-point course outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. The point-to-point offers plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, too: past participants have seen everything from elk, sheep and moose, to bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes. Come prepared.

When: September 7, 2018

Where: Kaysville, Utah

Register: www.wasatch100.com

 

3. Fat Dog 120

If you haven’t run a race across the border, you’re missing out. Held in British Columbia’s Cascade Mountains, the Fat Dog 120 is comparable to Hardrock in terms of difficulty, with more than 28,000 feet of elevation gain over its 120 miles. Running through three provincial parks and featuring everything from alpine meadows to technical singletrack to groomed trails circumnavigating aqua blue lakes, Fat Dog also brings the weather: expect dry heat, scattered lightning, torrential rain or crisp, nipping temperatures—sometimes all during the same race.

When: August 10, 2018

Where: Keremeos, B.C., Canada

Register: www.mountainmadness.ca

 

4. Cruel Jewel 100

Expect almost 106 miles of either up or down—there’s maybe one part of this course that is flat, but even then your hip flexors will be firing off as you hop over myriads of logs. Cruel Jewel is not for the faint of heart: the event boasts over 33,000 feet of gain and your quads won’t let you forget the 33,000 feet of loss. Out of the 106 miles, 95 are run on singletrack through the Chattahoochee Forest. It’s an often-overlooked Southeastern event with plenty of shade.

When: May 18, 2018

Where: Blairsville, GA

Register: www.dumassevents.com

 

5. Ouray 100

The Ouray 100 is a close neighbor to Hardrock, and now in its fifth year of existence. It may not cover Handies Peak or cap out above 14,000 feet, but it does deliver 8,812 feet more climbing. Nestled in the ever-captivating San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the race is considered a “graduate” level 100-miler—after all, the last 10.6 miles of the event pass through the finish area (don’t quit now!) to face a 4,844-foot climb before doubling back to the finish.

When: July 29, 2018

Where: Ouray, CO

Register: www.ouray100.com

 

6. San Diego 100

San Diego is a year-round running destination, which means by the time June rolls around, the temperatures are often in the 90s. In some years, this can mimic a hot Western States, making it a great alternative event. The San Diego 100 course covers five unique areas featuring pine forests, manzanita scrub, a scorching climb through the heat-trapping Noble Canyon and sweeping desert views as the route traces parts of the Pacific Crest Trail.

When: June 8, 2018

Where: Lake Cuyamaca, CA

Register: http://www.sandiego100.com/

 

7. Bear 100

How many 100-milers take you from one state to the next? The Bear 100 begins in Logan, Utah and ends 100 miles later in Fish Haven, Idaho, all while taking advantage of the changing fall scenery. Expect to see bright red maples and shockingly yellow aspens while climbing more than 22,000 feet. For those who suffer in high-altitude races, the Bear tops out at 9,000 feet, making it a bit more manageable. Bonus points for the overall male and female awards, which feature an engraved picture of Old Ephraim, a famous Grizzly bear who reportedly once roamed the wilderness areas that runners pass through.

When: September 28, 2018

Where: Logan, UT

Register: www.bear100.com

 

8. Plain 100

Tired of aid stations? Bored with just finishing? Looking for something soul-numbingly hard? Try the Plain 100. In its first eight years, the event had zero finishers. Even today the race has less than a 50-percent finishing rate.  What makes Plain so tough? No course markings; no aid stations; two humongous, remote, gorgeous and difficult 50-mile loops with a single re-supply point between. Never mind the elevation gain (and the endless hours alone on the trail.) You know you’re in the Plain 100 when, as race participant Martin Miller explained, “you quit at mile 70, but have to drag yourself to the finish line to find anyone who cares.” This event is just plain tough.

When: September 15, 2018

Where: Leavenworth, WA

Register: www.plain100.com

 

9. Cascade Crest 100

The 20th edition of the Cascade Crest 100 (affectionately called CCC) will run the regular route despite 2017’s reroute due to nearby wildfires. The trail follows the Pacific Crest Trail for the majority of the beginning miles before dropping down via a steep, roped section. From here runners will work their way through a 2.3 miles-long tunnel before emerging on the latter half of the course. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier. Expect to hit “The Trail from Hell,” which is more bushwhacking than running. The crowning point of the race is a series of steep climbs and descents called the Cardiac Needles, which, at 80-something miles into the race, are no joke. Be sure to pause along the way to look up and out; the views alone make this one worth running.

When: August 25, 2018

Where: Easton, WA

Register: www.cascadecrest100.com

 

10. Mogollon Monster

The Mogollon Monster traverses one of the most heinous routes in all of Arizona, the technical, undulating Highline Trail, (which also happens to be home to the notoriously difficult Zane Grey 50.) At first glance, the event’s 22,000 feet of climbing might seem average amongst other 100-milers on this list, but know that within those 100 miles, you’ll be hard pressed to find more than 100 feet of smooth trail. The region is remote, rugged and covered in more loose rocks and fallen trees than you could ever dream up.

When: September 15, 2018

Where: Pine, AZ

Register: www.mogollonmonster100.com

 

 

 

Hayden Hawks Running 100 Miles For Bears Ears

Starting Wednesday, December 13, Utah-based runner Hayden Hawks will commence a three-day run through the area formerly known as Bears Ears National Monument, in an attempt to showcase the region and raise money for the forthcoming Bears Ears Education Center.

Hawks grew up and still resides in Saint George, Utah, four hours west from the national monument. He burst onto the trail-running scene in 2016, with a win at the Speedgoat 50K, and has since gone on to log wins at France’s CCC (part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc festival of trail races) and the Moab Red Hot 55K as well as an FKT for the Zion Traverse.

National parks and public lands, he says, have been an important part of his life since long before he became a professional trail runner.

The idea for a big run through Bears Ears came to him in 2016, when President Obama first designated the monument. Last week, when President Trump announced his plan to shrink the monument by 85 percent, Hawks knew that now was the time to put that vague idea into action.

“I have the talent and ability to run 100-plus miles. A lot of other people can’t do that, so I see it as my job to go out, [cover that land on foot] and educate people,” Hawks says.

Initially, he considered establishing a fastest-known time (FKT) through the monument, but abandoned that idea because, to him, a record-attempt would be missing the point. “This is not about going fast,” he says. “It’s about learning and gaining a deeper appreciation for the land.”

Instead, Hawks will complete three runs over three days in three different areas that are among the more than one-million acres cut from Bears Ears National Monument.

“I want to highlight the land that’s not getting protected,” he says.

Hawks is keeping the adventure low-key—just himself, his brother Levi and friend and photographer Derrick Lytle—to avoid the disruptions that often come from big groups.

“It’s such a sacred place,” he says, and points out that having a large support crew wandering the region’s remote, rugged singletrack would be counterproductive to the ultimate goal: to raise awareness for protection and sustainable recreation in the Bears Ears area.

He wants his run to make a big impact, but not a big physical impact.

Throughout the trip, Hawks will be posting photos and updates (when Wi-Fi permits), so that runners around the country can vicariously experience the land that has been the subject of so much political contention.

Hawks is also asking for people to sign up to sponsor one of his 100 miles, with a minimum of a $10 donation per mile. The goal: raise at least $1,000 for the Bears Ears Education Center. Spearheaded by Bears-Ears advocacy nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa, the educational visitors’ center is still being built.

Hawks will end his trip with a 17-mile loop through the Valley of the Gods, in the southern part of the Bears-Ears region, and is extending an invitation for anyone wishing to join. The dirt, 4×4 route winds through arid plateaus, buttes and sandstone towers and will, Hawks says, be a way to “get together and show appreciation” for wild spaces.

Hawks will announce a meeting time via social media later in the week.

Click here to sponsor one of Hawks’ miles and donate to the new Bears Ears Education Center.

Trail Runner will continue to add updates as they become available.

A Different Kind of Trail-Running Goal

“What are you planning for the coming year?”

I posed this question to many of my trail-running friends earlier this fall as we hung out volunteering at several Northern-California races. Invariably, their answers revolved around racing.

“Really hoping to get into Western States finally.”

“I wanna earn enough qualifying points for UTMB.”

“Building up to Javelina in October for a PR. Tahoe Rim Trail 50 over the summer.”

Naturally, PRs or graduating to new distances are worthwhile trail-running goals—goals we all share. However, focusing solely on training and competing in races can dull a healthy and happy relationship with the sport.

How about setting a different kind of goal—one that enhances your trail running yet doesn’t involve a typical race?

Here are seven suggestions for alternative new-years goals that might enhance or refresh your trail time.

1. Learn new wilderness skills

This year, Stephanie Case, a Canadian ex-pat living in the Swiss Alps, set a goal to improve her orienteering skills.

“I’m not as excited by the thought of blindly following yellow and pink flags in races like I used to be,” she says. “I want to chart my own course and explore—to run for the purpose of discovering new places rather than for getting a Strava crown or winning a race.”

Nearly a year ago, Case suffered a life-threatening accident while running solo in the Alps, and had to be rescued by helicopter. “My accident taught me a hard lesson that I need to be better equipped if I’m going to do [unsupported days in the mountains],” she says.

Other ways to better your wilderness skills include taking a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder course such as those offered through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

 

2. Find and run a trail from Point A to Point B

If you regularly drive from one place to another, can you connect those dots by running off road?

Last September, Ian Robertson of Vancouver, British Columbia, cobbled together some trail routes from Vancouver to Squamish, a little over 50 miles. That got him thinking: Could he more than double the distance and run all the way up from Squamish to Whistler on trails, some 50 miles more? He plans to scout the best route in 2018 and make a go of it.

“I think what motivates me to ‘connect the dots’ is that I, and many others, don’t really know what is in our own back yard,” says Robertson. “Driving for hours to do something in a destination, such as Whistler, might be common, but runners seldom consider exploring all the interesting terrain in between.”

Related: Your Big Goals Don’t Have To Be Races

 

3. Spend a night solo in the outdoors

Have you ever slept alone in the wilderness?

“Some folks are completely comfortable with this, but I’d bet a night sleeping alone in the woods gives most folks the heebie jeebies. I know it does for me,” wrote Bryon Powell of iRunFar last October, before he embarked on a multiday solo adventure to explore the region around Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

“It’s the solo nature of the trip that feels like the largest leap into my unknown. Until this August, I’d never spent a night camping alone in the backcountry. I’ve camped a ton over the past decade, gone on multiday backcountry adventures … and spent the night alone in a hut in New Zealand, but, in my mind, that all feels quite different from spending a night alone in a tent or equivalent in the backcountry.”

Powell’s post prompted me to set a goal of camping alone in the coming year, on a night following a long trail run with fastpacking gear and food. I’ve always had friends or family with me while camping, for security and companionship. Being alone, and tuning into the wilderness environment overnight, sounds like a challenging yet enriching quest that’s long overdue.

 

4. Make your trail adventures multi-sport

Jordan Smith of Woodbine, New Jersey, is branching out from running to kayaking, and he set a goal to try kayak camping in the new year—that is, to combine day-long kayaking with overnight camping and trail running.

“I’ve been known to overtrain with running, so any outdoor pursuit I can do that uses different muscle groups and keeps me fresh is a good thing,” says Smith. “Anytime we put ourselves in another’s shoes—i.e. runners as bikers, hikers, kayakers etc.—it helps us see the wilderness in a new light. Too many times, runners beef with hikers, who beef with bikers, horse riders or whomever. Experiencing new ways to enjoy the outdoors brings us closer to together.”

Allison Snyder, of Ophir, Colorado, plans to take winter off from trail running to develop her Nordic-ski skills, and to learn backcountry skiing and ice climbing.

“After a winter of doing these activities, I’ll be very excited to put on my running shoes again!” she says.

My multisport trail adventure involves our family’s purchase of a horse. Recently, I started hiking and running with the horse at my side, saddled up in case I want to take a break by getting on his back. My goal is to get both my horse and myself in better shape by sharing the trail together and to see how far we can go together in a day. I’m now more excited to hit familiar trails, which seem less familiar while covering the miles with my steed.

 

5. Become a better runner through a trail-running camp, class or retreat

When Clare Abram gained a spot in the 2015 Hardrock 100, she endeavored to prepare as well as possible by improving her high-altitude mountain-running skills. To that end, she gave herself the gift of attending coach Jason Koop’s Memorial Day Ultrarunning Training Camp in Colorado Springs.

Beyond learning valuable trail skills, gathering advice about refueling and hydration and fulfilling a high-mileage training week, “it was also just plain fun … you come back from the whole experience raring to go!”

Numerous top-level trail runners host summer training camps, such as Timothy Olson and Jeff Browning and Krissy Moehl. Years ago, I relished attending an Alaska ultrarunning camp organized by former Ultra Runner of the Year Geoff Roes.

More recently, I took a step toward fulfilling another goal: to run happier and more mindfully. I enrolled in a mindful-running retreat, hosted by former Trail Runner editor Elinor Fish.

Fish’s company Run Wild Retreats aims to cultivate mindfulness, reduce stress and promote general wellness while running, and she hosts the retreats in gorgeous destinations, including Iceland, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Moab. If you can’t take the time or afford the price tag of a major trip, then you can do as I did and enroll in her virtual retreat, held through an online platform over eight weeks.

Related: Ready, Set, Go To Camp

 

6. Run a fast road marathon

Longtime trail runners often lament, “I’ve gotten so slow!” Exclusively running hilly, technical trails at a relatively slow pace can turn you into the fabled tortoise whose steadiness trumps speed. Training for a road marathon is a great way to regain speed, and to remember what you love about trails.

Last spring, Blake Wood, 58, of Los Alamos, New Mexico, ran 2:58 at the Modesto Marathon—41 years after his first sub-three-hour marathon, making him the record-holder for the most years between sub-three-hour marathons. Wood, a Nolan’s 14 finisher and 21-time Hardrock 100 finisher, maintains his speed by coaching cross country and training with his daughter as she prepared for an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying time.

Ultrarunner Gene Dykes of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also has a goal to run a sub-three-hour marathon in 2018, at the ripe age of 70. Dykes finished the Triple Crown of 200s this year, running the Bigfoot 200, Tahoe 200 and Moab 240 in 2017, and then decided, “it’s time to take a break!”

Apparently, “time to take a break” is relative, because in 2018 Dykes says he’ll shoot for the marathon record held by a 70-year-old male, 3:00:23, set by the late Ed Whitlock.

“I’m entered in the Rotterdam Marathon on April 8, and the Boston Marathon a week later,” he says. “I’m hoping the Rocky Raccoon 100 in February will be positive in my training.”

7. Volunteer

The trail races we love could not exist without volunteers who staff aid stations, handle check-in, monitor traffic crossings and sweep the course. For the new year, consider making a commitment to volunteer at a trail event on a regular basis. Or, pitch in to help after you cross the finish line, as elite ultrarunner Michael Wardian did at the 2017 Hardrock 100. After finishing in 31 hours, he volunteered to serve breakfast to others at event headquarters.

There are also numerous other volunteer opportunities beyond races. Eric Schranz, host of UltraRunnerPodcast.com, ran the California International Marathon in December to guide sight-impaired runner Kyle Robidoux.

“Running as a sighted guide was probably the most significant experience I’ve ever had as a runner, and I can’t encourage you enough to get involved” through United In Stride, Schranz wrote in a post.

I volunteer for a group called Running for a Better Oakland, which promotes healthier lifestyles and self-esteem by training lower-income Oakland-area youth for 5Ks or a half marathon. George Manning of Alameda, California, also volunteers with the group and uses the runs with the students as a warm-up or cool-down before or after his longer weekend trail run.

“Volunteering is a such a fun way to share my knowledge and passion of running with local youth,” says Manning. “I look forward to our Saturday team workouts, and love the students’ energy and excitement. Seeing them complete their first 5K is so rewarding.”

 

Sarah Lavender Smith is a contributing editor for Trail Runner and author of The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5Ks to Ultras.

8 Top Trail Meccas

Gone are the old days of trail running where we took a real off season, much like we did in track and cross country. Sure, we still laced up our shoes and trained when winter weather battered, but we broke from racing itself.

These days, it can be 24, 7, 365, all the time. We know you want the option to trail run and race your brains out no matter the month. We’ve got you covered because, this year, our annual top-trail-“towns” feature highlights eight places—towns, counties or full-on geographic regions—that make great trail-running and racing destinations all 12 months of the year.

 

If you’re into running past waterfalls, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is the place. Pictured: Abiqua Falls. Photo by Justin Baile.

Pacific Northwest, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Ripe With Trails

500+ The number of wineries in Willamette Valley
2.9 The population of Willamette Valley, in millions, which includes Portland, Eugene and Salem
50.9 Average annual rainfall, in inches, in the city of Eugene

Willamette Valley was created when colossal floods inundated the region during the last glacial period, creating a vast lake more than 300-feet deep. As the floodwater slowly drained to the Pacific, it left the Willamette River, which runs the length of the north-south valley, in its wake. In the shadows of the towering Cascade Range to the east, and the Oregon Coast Range to the west, the valley houses roughly 2.9 million of Oregon’s four million residents and welcomes many more visitors each year to its collection of wineries and waterfalls.

But beyond wine tastings and cascading waters, the 150-mile expanse stretching from Portland south to Eugene is filled with accessible urban and state parks, and sprawling wilderness. The winter rainy season, from mid-November to mid-March, when the region can receive as much as 10 inches of rain per month, shouldn’t dampen year-round exploration, as temperatures in the valley remain mild, and trails, though sometimes wet, stay open for business.

Insider Info: “Doubletrack and gravel fire roads can be a good option in winter over narrow, non-draining, singletrack trail, so rail trails and multi-use paths, though with less varied terrain, are often the ticket during rainy season.”   —Willie McBride, a co-founder of Wy’East Wolfpack, a personal training and coaching service based in Portland

Trails

Forest Park / At 5,100 acres, Forest Park is one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves. Nestled in the Tualatin Mountains, just west of downtown Portland, the park includes roughly 70 miles of trails, and runners are greeted with views of the Willamette River after ascending more than 1,000 feet to a ridgeline. The park’s varied terrain includes smooth, rolling singletrack trail as well as steep, muddy, root-filled climbs.

Silver Falls State Park / Located about 40 miles south of Portland and 20 miles east-southeast of Salem, in Silverton, this stunning 9,000-acre landscape contains many waterfalls, including its biggest, South Falls, at 177 feet. The park includes over 40 miles of multi-use trails, some of which wind behind waterfalls. Try the seven-ish-mile Trail of Ten Falls loop to see 10 of the park’s cascades in a single run.

Bull of the Woods Wilderness / This wilderness area resides just east of Willamette Valley proper. Established in 1984, the 37,000-plus-acre expanse showcases dozens of lakes, creeks and streams, and a 5,558-foot highpoint at the Battle Ax summit. The area also contains over 60 miles of trails.

Races

Portland Trail Series / This is a low-key, five-race series held in Forest Park in each of the spring, summer and fall seasons, and distances range from four to seven miles. Info: Gobeyondracing.com/races

Trail Factor 50k / This Memorial Day weekend event, also held in Forest Park, includes a half-marathon and 50K. Be sure to stay around for the post-race barbeque. Info: Gobeyondracing.com/races

Silver Falls Trail Runs / Held in November near Salem in Silver Falls State Park, this two-day event offers a seven-miler, half-marathon, marathon and 50K. The 50K course covers nearly every major attraction in Oregon’s largest state park, and each course offers nearly constant up-and-down terrain with creek crossings and waterfall views. Info: Silverfallsmarathon.com

 

Sunset jaunt on Mount Tamalpais, Marin County, California. Photo by Emily Polar / Tandemstock.com

West Coast, Northern Marin County, California
Marin’s Quiet Side

223 The amount of public lands in Marin County, in square miles, about 27 percent of the county’s total land  area
490 The number of bird species that have been spotted in Point Reyes National Seashore—nearly half of all of North America’s bird species
600 The number of Coast Miwok Native American sites discovered in Marin and neighboring Sonoma Counties, marking 6,000-plus years of history

The southern finger of Marin County, containing the town of Mill Valley and the public lands of the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais, gets all the trail-running action. But if you check out a county map, you’ll see that this area represents a tiny part of the open space and trail systems available in the north.

The main hotspot is Point Reyes National Seashore. There, you’ll find quiet, curvy roads through grassy greenscapes, restaurants cooking fresh oysters … and hundreds of miles of singletrack all to yourself.

Insider Info: “Running in [north] west Marin offers a wonderful mix of dense forest, open grasslands and ocean views. The trails tend to be a bit less crowded and not quite as steep as those surrounding Mount Tamalpais [in southern Marin County].” —Magda Boulet, an accomplished trail runner who lives in the East Bay of San Francisco

Races

Miwok 100k / The Miwok 100K bridges the gap between southern and northern Marin County. It’s also a race that bridges the past, present and future of ultrarunning. Started in 1996, this race is something of a NorCal icon in that it preceded the trail and ultra boom that has led to literally hundreds of NorCal trail races. NorCal kids, you have this race and the people behind it as starters of your culture! Tia Bodington is the current and long-time race director and she puts a lot of love and her decades of ultra experience into this special event. Info: Miwok100.com

Trails

Point Reyes National Seashore / The seashore is the main gig for trail running in north Marin County. The area envelops most of the Point Reyes Peninsula, a chunk of land protecting most of mainland Marin County from the ocean with miles of beaches and rising to a north-south ridge some 1,400 feet tall. Almost 150 miles of trails await here, from oceanside doubletrack to singletrack switchbacking through redwood forests—and among poison oak, watch out! Perhaps the most bang for your buck can be had on the 9.5-ish-mile out-and-back on the Tomales Point Trail, which travels to the peninsula’s northern tip. 

Golden Gate National Recreation Area / This recreation area extends from southern Marin County northward. Its northern extension contains the rightfully famous 11-mile Bolinas Ridge Trail. Run this point-to-point or create an eight-mile loop out of it and the Randall, McCurdy and Olema Valley trails, which involves a steep ascent onto and off of Bolinas Ridge, but gets you onto arguably the ridge’s best miles. Bolinas Ridge tops out at over 1,600 feet and will offer you big views from its grassy top in good weather. In the spring, the ridge is also famous for its wildflowers.

Tomales Bay State Park / This state park sits in the eastern shadow of the Point Reyes Peninsula, at sea level on Tomales Bay and under the peninsula’s protective ridge. The park is mostly used for its quiet and protected beach access, but the trails leading to the beaches offer gorgeous forest running. Start where the park road ends, and run all the trails to all the beaches, racking up about 10 miles of running total. Pick a weekday and there’s a decent chance you won’t see anyone else the whole time.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park / This small state park is named after a 19th-century entrepreneur of the same name who previously owned the land. Make the six-mile loop with about 1,500 feet of climb to the park’s high point, Barnabe Peak, via the Barnabe Fire Road, a wide, doubletrack dirt road, and the paved Cross Marin Trail. The views onto the Point Reyes Peninsula from high on the mountain are superb as is the forest that you’ll climb and descend through.

 

The Grand Canyon, Coconino County, Arizona. Photo by Ryan Kreuger / Tandemstock.com

Southwest, Coconino County, Arizona
A Varied Landscape

Coconino County is a land of plateaus, mesas, canyons and peaks—and very little in between. Around these parts, you’re either running on flat, runnable dirt trails, or straight up or down steep and often-rocky mountain terrain. Variety abounds. The Grand Canyon alone—a fraction of Coconino County—encompasses five ecosystems, the same number found between Canada and Mexico.

Trail systems navigate high desert through aspens and roll along treacherous ridges above treeline; they switchback into canyons and meander next to creek beds. Elevations in Coconino County dip down to 2,480 feet, at the base of the Grand Canyon, and soar to 12,633 feet, at the summit of Humphreys Peak. And due to the varied landscape, a temperate running environment offers year-round running.

Insider Info: “In Flagstaff, when you’re snowed in, you can drive 40 minutes and be running on dry rock and dirt in Sedona. When it gets really hot in Sedona—triple digits—you can go up to Flagstaff and run in aspens and 70-degree temps.” —Ian Torrence, race director, ultrarunner and Flagstaff local

Races

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line Races / You can tackle the 55K, 100-miler or a fraction of those distances with a relay team at these high-altitude races in September. The scenic courses largely run on the Arizona Trail in the shadow of Humphreys Peak. Info: Aztrail.org/ultrarun

Run Flagstaff Summer Series / From May through August, the Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association hosts seven races, from one mile to a half-marathon, showcasing the area’s mesas, aspens and plethora of city parks. Info: Flagstaffsummerseries.com

Flagstaff Sky Race / Aravaipa Running, a stalwart race organization in the Arizona trail and ultrarunning scene, plays host to the U.S. Skyrunner Series finale in October with these brutally difficult races. The two-day event offers a Vertical Kilometer, 39K and 55K. The 39K and 55K start at the base of Flagstaff’s Mount Elden and top out at over 11,000 feet. Info: Aravaiparunning.com/network/flagstaff

Trails

Grand Canyon National Park / Grand Canyon National Park’s south entrance is a scenic hour-and-a-half drive from downtown Flagstaff. From the rim, it’s straight down into the belly of the canyon via Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails. Proceed with caution as you descend and temperatures rise—the only way out is to climb back up.

Mount Humphreys / Arizona’s highest point and part of the San Francisco Peaks mountain range, Mount Humphreys tops out at 12,633 feet. The five-mile Humphreys Trail ascends more than 3,000 feet from the base of Snowbowl Ski Resort to the summit. The steep, rooty and rocky trail winds through pines and aspens, then from Agassiz Saddle at 11,800 feet continues another mile along the ridge to the summit.

Flagstaff Urban Trails / For easy runs around the Flagstaff area with five-star views of Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks, hop on the doubletrack, crushed-gravel trails in the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS), which connects to myriad and more challenging trail systems.

Northern Sedona / A breathtaking 45-minute drive south of Flagstaff, Sedona is located at the southern border of Coconino County, and is ripe with trails in every direction. The 18-mile Three Passes Loop is a locals’ choice. Climbing a total of 3,800 feet, the loop offers sweeping views of red-rock and ochre-colored plateaus and trailside desert cacti.

 

Utah’s Canyon Country offers high-desert to high-mountain options—pick your season. Photo by Ben Herndon / Tandemstock.com

Mountain West, Canyon Country, Utah
A Southeast Utah Secret

11,617 The size in square miles of Canyon Country, which encompasses Utah’s Grand and San Juan counties
12 The number of peaks over 12,000 feet in Canyon Country, all in the La Sal Mountains
2.12 The population density of Canyon Country in persons per square mile, making it among the least-populated areas of the lower-48 states

Yeah, you know Moab, Utah, known to many as a winter respite for snow-less running. Indeed, the surrounding so-called Canyon Country of southeast Utah is a massive tract of public lands featuring intricate canyon systems. From the depths of Canyonlands National Park’s four districts, to the high-altitude La Sal Mountains, to the spanking-new Bears Ears National Monument (see “Running Bears Ears,” page 44), multiple lifetimes of trail-running exploration await you here.

Insider Info: “No matter how similar the innumerable canyons and mesas appear, each has a unique spirit and identity. To continue down one canyon and up the next is to experience two worlds.”—Bryon Powell, Canyon-Country local and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com

Races

Moab Red Hot 33K and 55K / This Moab springtime classic will ring in its 12th year in 2018. Both distances offer a mix of dirt-road and techy-slickrock running. Unless you’re running for the win, carry a camera, for Pete’s sake. Info: Grassrootsevents.net/moab-red-hot

Moab Trail Marathon / This ain’t no beginner marathon! With former international-caliber adventure racer Danelle Ballengee as race director, expect a big adventure. Slickrock expanses, running straight through a creek, clambering along fixed ropes and a real obstacle course late in the race, the Moab Trail Marathon is a full-body workout taking place in November. 5K and half-marathon distances are also available. Info: Moabtrailmarathon.com

Deadhorse Ultra / This event hosts 30K, 50K and 50-mile races in November on the trails and dirt roads located in Canyon Country’s northwest sector. This part of Canyon Country is probably its most runnable, but don’t be fooled by a flat course profile as deep sand and plenty of slickrock make this a race of strength, too.  Info: Madmooseevents.com/dead-horse-ultra

Trails

Canyonlands National Park / With 337,000-plus acres divided into four districts, there’s plenty to explore. Start in the park’s most accessible Island in the Sky District on the 11-ish-mile Murphy Loop, a lollipop that drops off the ‘island in the sky’ and climbs back up on it again. Move up to advanced-level backcountry trail running in the park’s more remote Needles District. Salt Creek, Horse and Lavender canyons are remote and contain hidden archaeological wonders if you’re willing to slow things down and search hard.

La Sal Mountains / Most peoples’ Canyon Country photos will have the snowcapped La Sal Mountains in the background, but few people venture into the vertiginous range itself. Go big or go home by summiting its tallest peak, Mount Peale (12,726 feet), a six-mile roundtrip outing with 2,500 feet of gain from La Sal Pass.

The Whole Enchilada is a 34-mile route that tops out at over 11,000 feet in the La Sals and ends in Moab, offering a couple of hours of alpine bliss, a breeze through the pinyons and junipers in the middle elevations and ledge-y red rocks in the low country.

Bears Ears National Monument / Established in late 2016 and protecting 1.3-plus-million acres all within Utah’s San Juan County, this new national monument is named after an eponymous rock formation resembling a set of bears ears. Cedar Mesa may be the most accessible way to experience the Native American history it protects; drop down into any number of canyons, such as Bullet Canyon, Grand Gulch or the Fish and Owl Canyons loop, and explore. Most archeological ruins aren’t noted on maps, so finding them requires you to engage your spidey senses. 

 

The “flatlands” of the Midwest can surprise you with short ups and downs that add up. Photo by Marc Meunch / Tandemstock.com

Midwest, Bluff Country, Missouri
Bluffs of Plenty

The number of historical landmarks in Cape Girardeau that are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, many of which date back to the 1700s
106 Record high temperature, in Fahrenheit, during the hottest month in the region, July
3,415 Size, in acres, of Trail of Tears State Park

Cape Girardeau, a running hub for the quad-state region including Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Kentucky, is located along the Mississippi River, about halfway between St. Louis and Memphis, and is surrounded by state forests and parks, national recreation areas and national wildlife refuges—all within an hour’s drive.

The climbs around here are short, but steep and punishing, often covering 200 or 300 rocky and root-y vertical feet within a mile, and made even more difficult with the area’s humid air and thick vegetation. The fall and winter seasons—when temperatures are mild and dense forests thin—are an especially opportune time to visit, but the bluffs and their views are worth exploring all year.

Insider Info: “For ‘flatlanders’ training for the mountains, there are tough, steep, runnable trails here to train on year-round. But wooded areas may occasionally get some poison ivy or ticks during the summer, so be ready.” —Bryan Kelpe, co-owner of Missouri Running Company, a local running store that hosts several events in the area

Races

Berryman Trail Races / The St. Louis Ultrarunners Group (SLUGS) hosts the Berryman Trail Races every May, with marathon and 50-mile distances. Located in Mark Twain National Forest near Potosi, Missouri, these courses roll through the highlands of the Ozarks. The 24-mile looped trail has about 3,000 feet of climbing, with some rocky sections but overall relatively quick terrain, resulting in course records of 6:33:27 for 50 miles and 3:05:18 for the marathon. Info: Stlouisultrarunnersgroup.net

Meandering Turkey 4.5 Mile  / “No whimps, whiners or crybabies.” That’s the witty slogan for this regional favorite held the Sunday before Thanksgiving in Klaus Park, and it sells out quickly. The root-y and hilly singletrack course challenges runners of all abilities. The post-race cookout, with homemade chili and craft beer, is a perk you won’t want to miss. Info: Moruncocape.com

Ondessonk Trail Races  / Shawnee National Forest, located in Illinois, 60 miles east of Cape Girardeau, contains seven wilderness areas within its 280,000 acres. This rolling glacier-carved landscape is home to the Ondessonk Trail Races each May, with 5K, half-marathon and 50K distances. The races utilize the Moccasin Gap Trail, a challenging 10-mile trail that passes Cedar Falls (the highest freefalling waterfall in Illinois), crests ridges and follows creeks. Info: Ondessonktrailraces.com

Trails

Klaus Park / Just four miles north of downtown Cape Girardeau, Klaus Park offers conveniently accessible dirt paths and root-infested switchbacks. Try the park’s 3.2-mile, multi-use outer loop, which averages a mellow 90 feet of ascent per mile. The trails here are popular on summer nights and weekends.

Hawn State Park / Nestled in the hills outside of Ste. Genevieve, about an hour’s drive north of Cape Girardeau, the park houses about 15 miles of trails with “plenty of elevation and creek crossings, combined with moderate-to-technical terrain,” says Kelpe. The rugged, 10-mile Whispering Pines Trail loops through pines and moss and across creeks.

Trail of Tears State Park / Hugging the mighty Mississippi River, the park memorializes the thousands of Cherokee Native Americans who perished during their forced removal by the American government from their homelands in the winter of 1838 to 1839. The park’s four trails total 15 miles. Burly climbs lead to the top of bluffs, where you can take in uninterrupted views of the river and southern Illinois. Located just a 15-minute drive north of Cape Girardeau.

 

You can run through history on diverse trails in D.C. Photo by istockphoto.com

Mid-Atlantic, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area
Running Past Politics

6,131,977 Number of people in the Washington, D.C. metro area, the sixth-largest metro area in the U.S.
38 Percentage of workers in Washington, D.C. proper who are federal-government employees
1790 The year Washington D.C. was established as the U.S. capitol

While known as hub of the American political sphere for some 225-plus years, Washington, D.C. is lesser known for its trail running. But courtesy of a long history of local, state and federal land managers preserving green spaces, there are plenty of places for trail runners to play.

The area’s parks tend to follow watercourses, and around D.C. that means the mighty Potomac River and its tributaries. In this mosaic of developed and wild places, you can run past U.S. history while dodging rocks and roots.

Insider Info: “Here’s our well-guarded secret: Washington, D.C. trails are copious and not crowded. They run in and out of neighborhoods, along roads and under highways, connecting the city. They can be fast and flat, and rocky and steep. One mile you can bomb down singletrack and another be at The White House. There’s only one place in the world where such a run is possible.”—Michael Wardian, globetrotting runner and D.C.-metro-area resident

Races

Bull Run Run 50 Mile / Held on the 19.6-mile Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, it has two out-and-backs with a couple of additional small loops and is hosted by the spirited Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, specifically race directors Alisa Springman and Jim Daniels. The Bull Run Run has been running since 1993, and takes place in April. Info: Vhtrc.org/brr

The North Face Endurance Challenge Series—Washington, D.C. / Starting and finishing at Algonkian Regional Park on the Potomac River and utilizing the Potomac Heritage Trail and the trails of Great Falls Park, this April event offers loads of distances ranging from 5K to 50 miles in length. Info: Thenorthface.com/get-outdoors/endurance-challenge/washington-dc.html

Trails

Rock Creek Park / A go-to park for hundreds of local runners daily, the trails meander along the creek toward the Potomac River. Go all in and make a nine-plus-mile loop that includes the Valley and Western Ridge trails, which are mostly dirt. Take note, the park has a lot of social trails not found on maps and you might briefly meander off course. Don’t worry, you’re in the middle of a city so you won’t be ‘lost’ for long! “Many parks close in the evenings, so it’s best to check before you make the trip,” advises Rick Amernick, President of the local DC Capital Striders Running Group.

Potomac Heritage Trail  / The nine-mile trail lies on the Potomac’s west side, and offers frequent access points via parking lots and side feeder trails. Remarkably technical at its outset from downtown D.C., you will run among boulders and rock outcrops, in and out of side drainages and up and down bluffs. Go in the early morning for solo time.

Bull Run-Occoquan Trail  / This 19.6-mile trail traces Bull Run and the Occoquan River tributaries to the Potomac River, in Fairfax County, Virginia. Designated in 2006 as a National Recreation Trail, it ranges from perfectly smooth singletrack in places to technical in others with roots, rocks and brief steep climbs and descents.

 

From casual beach runs to ultra distances on the Palmetto Trail, the low country of South Carolina promises year-round variety. Photo by Jason Thompson / tandemstock.com

Southeast, The Port, South Carolina
Low Country

12 Number of Sea Islands—a chain of more than 100 barrier islands stretching from South Carolina down to Florida—in Charleston County
1,546 Length, in feet, of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which extends over the Cooper River, the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere
389,262 The population of Charleston County, making it the third most populous county in South Carolina

The low country is a region along the coast of southeast South Carolina that includes many towns, including Charleston. This area offers something that mountainous regions usually can’t: guaranteed year-round running. You won’t find low-country trails closed due to snow. Instead, you’ll find a refreshing ocean breeze, accessible, sea-level running trails, warm southern hospitality and scenic waterways cutting through historic, centuries-old, port towns, marked by cobblestone streets, antebellum houses and new-age restaurants.

When it comes to trail running, the Palmetto Trail, which passes through the Francis Marion and Sumter national forests north of Charleston, is the gem of the region. But whether you’re looking to run a few easy trail miles in an urban setting, catch a coastal breeze on an ocean-side trail or escape into the woods for a lengthy adventure, the low country of South Carolina has you covered in any season.

Insider Info: “The trails here are surprisingly flat yet unforgiving, and most of them are on the remains of plantations from the 1700s, so there’s lots of history all around you. The local phrase to remember is ‘dirt, sweat, bugs.’ Bring bug spray with you from spring until winter.”—Chad Huffa, CEO of Eagle Endurance, which puts on nine trail events in the area

Races

Peyton’s Wild and Wacky Ultra / Laurel Hill County Park opens its gates every March to host a 5K and 50K in honor of Peyton Johnson Moore, a lover of the outdoors and member of several running clubs, who passed away in 2013. Since the course’s 5K dirt loop is flat and fast, the course is perfect for your next personal best. Info: Run4p.com

Delirium Ultra 6, 12, and 24-Hour Race / If you’re looking to run far, take a trip down to Ridgeland, some 80 miles southwest of Charleston, in October. Participants can run the course’s wooded 1.69-mile loop in South Carolina’s low country. A well-stocked aid station provides hamburgers, pizza and pancakes throughout the long day. Info: Groundedrunning.com/delirium

Homestead 10 x 5K Series / This April 50K features a unique race format, which has participants run a 5K every hour, on the hour, for 10 straight hours. The faster you finish the loop, the more time you have to rest before the next one. If you’re not on the start line at the top of each hour, you’re out. How cool is that? Info: Groundedrunning.com/homestead

Trails

Laurel Hill County Park / Located about 15 miles northeast of Charleston in Mount Pleasant, the 745-acre park contains more than 10 miles of mellow trails that wind through open meadows, past oaks and by a small pond. These shaded dirt paths are an urban favorite for runners trying to escape the summer’s heat.

North Charleston Wannamaker County Park / Roughly 19 miles north of Charleston and next to Charleston Southern University, this park has more than 15 miles of trails through woodlands and wetlands. The northeast section of the Wannamaker Trail features technical and challenging terrain.

The Palmetto Trail / The 350-mile trail (soon to be 500 miles) was established in 1994. Located about 30 miles northeast of Charleston, the mountain-to-sea trail’s coastal terminus is at Awendaw Passage, an easy seven-ish-mile stretch of the trail along the coast. Much longer adventures await, as the trail provides access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the western side of the state. 

 

Dodging a puddle atop Enchanted Rock in the Texas Hill Country. Photo by Turner & Fitch / Tandemstock.com

South
Hill Country, Texas
Rough and Tumble

25 The number of Texas counties that make up what’s colloquially called Hill Country
1848 The year in which many German citizens left Europe in revolution, with some emigrating to the U.S. via Texas, and settling in what’s now Hill Country, leading to the strong German influence still felt there
Texas Hill Country American Viticultural Area’s size, in millions of acres, which is the U.S.’s second largest wine-making region, containing over
50 wineries

Texas outdoor enthusiasts lovingly say that everything in their state stings, scratches or bites. Texas is a rough-and-tumble state and the Hill Country region, which refers to the hilly uplands in the central part of the state that includes the major cities of San Antonio and Austin, is not an exception. Abundant trail-running opportunities exist throughout the Hill Country, mostly on state-park lands and some private land open for public use, but they generally aren’t for the faint of heart.

Related: 28 People Started the Hottest 100-Miler in Texas.  One Finished. 

Races

Bandera Endurance Run / This 25K, 50K and 100K event, which has frequently served as the USATF 100K Trail National Championships, takes place in Hill Country State Natural Area in February, and exudes the essence of Hill Country trail running: rocky and rugged trails, brief-but-steep climbs and descents, spiny plants everywhere and a passel of local trail runners who are as friendly as they are tough. Info: Tejastrails.com/bandera

Cactus Rose Ultra Trail Run and Relay / This mega-tough, unsupported event features a relay, 25-mile, 50-mile and 100-mile races in the Hill Country State Natural Area. Info: Tejastrails.com/#/cactus

Lighthouse Hill Ranch Trail Run / Run on the private Lighthouse Hill Ranch located south of Johnson City, which contains quintessential Hill County rocks and punchy hills. The event hosts 10-mile, 20-mile and 50K races in September. Info: Runintexas.com/lighthouse

Trails

Colorado Bend State Park / Hugging the Colorado River, northwest of Austin, is this 5,300-plus-acre state park and its 35 miles of trails. Don’t miss the greenscape of the Gorman Falls Trail, and be ready for a big dose of rocks and spiny plants along the way.

Pedernales Falls State Park / Straddling the Pedernales River, this gorgeous park offers meandering, rocky singletrack with decent amounts of shade. You can run an ultramarathon distance on trails here without repeating any terrain—don’t miss a recovery soak in the river afterward.

Hill Country State Natural Area / Located southwest of Bandera, this 5,300-plus-acre park has a primitive feel and plenty of Hill-Country-style rugged and rocky trails on which to get lost. Highlights are the Vista Ridge and Ice Cream trails.

 

Eric Senseman is a freelance writer with publications at numerous websites and magazines. He calls the American West home and explores its many peaks, canyons and valleys for business and pleasure.

Meghan M. Hicks is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor and a Contributing Editor for Trail Runner. She lives in Utah’s Canyon Country and loves using trail running as a means to explore the USA.

2017 Trophy Series Final Results

The Trail Runner Trophy Series, presented by Altra Running, is a points-based race series, with 186 events of all distances, all around the country. The series begins in March and culminates in September. Grand prizes are awarded to the runner who logs the most miles, and the runner who runs the most races. The “Mile Mogul” wins a Run the Alps trail-running tour through the French and Swiss alps, while the “Trail Fiend” wins a coveted spot on the cover of Trail Runner magazine.

Final results are in for the 2017 Tophy Series.  Check the full list here, or look below for a recap of grand-prize winners and winners in ultra and non-ultra categories.

Run most races

First Dale Reicheneder, Malibu CA, 490.17 miles, 52 races
Second Samantha Weaver, Jersey Shore PA, 538.66 miles, 44 races
Third Gerald Bailey, Glencoe KY, 477.61 miles, 22 races

Run most miles

First Samantha Weaver, Jersey Shore PA, 538.66 miles, 44 races
Second Dale Reicheneder, Malibu CA, 480.17 miles, 51 races
Third Gerald Bailey, Glencoe KY, 477.61 miles, 22 races

Ultra Standings

Male
First. James Barnard, Clinton TN, 1056 points, 1 race
Second Cory Logsdon, Omaha NE, 864.4 points, 4 races
Third Georg Kunzfeld, Frankfurt Germany, 800 points, 1 race

Female
First Donna Loparo, Winter Springs FL, 1080 points, 2 races
Second Debbie Bulten, Cambridge ON, 900 points, 2 races
Third Elaine Stypula, St Clair Shores MI, 700 points, 2 races

Non-Ultra Standings

Male
10-19 RJ Bascom, Front Royal VA, 509.2 points, 9 races
20-29 Matt Lipsey, Kersey PA, 597.2 points, 12 races
30-39 Norb Baier, Port Matilda PA, 187.1 points, 7 races
40-49 Steve Templin, Muncy PA, 247.3 points, 6 races
50-59 Dale Reicheneder, Malibu CA, 1446.49 points, 52 races
60+ Michael Ranck, Deer Lake PA, 681.94 points, 15 races

Female
10-19 Mallory Lovell, Georgetown KY, 145.96 points, 9 races
20-29 Johanna Ohm, State College PA, 452.6 points, 8 races
30-39 Brianna Bair, State College PA, 276.1 points, 5 races
40-49 Samantha Weaver, Jersey Shore PA, 695.76 points, 44 races
50-59 Carole Dudukovich, Port Matilda PA, 644.4 points, 14 races
60+ Jane Kone, Howard PA, 558.8 points, 12 races

A Day With Fell Runner Ricky Lightfoot

Rickey Lightfoot is one of England’s best fell and mountain runners, with wins at  many of England’s most competitive fell races, as well as a win at the 2013 IAU Trail World Championships.

This video, by Salomon, follows Lightfoot through a day of running and work as a firefighter.

Related: Tackling the Bob Graham Round, England’s Epic 24-Hour Challenge