Mile-High Motivation - Page 2
The city has one of the nation's most active trail running groups, the Boulder Trail Runners. More than 1400 people subscribe to the group's listserv, its primary means of communication about trail runs and social outings. "The Boulder Trail Runners is a community, not a singular group, which means everyone can find their own place to fit in," says Burrell. "If they can't, they are encouraged to carve one out. Every group run is initiated by one person who just wanted to do something they liked, and asked if others wanted to join in." While Africa, Krupicka, Nuzum and other Boulder-area runners engage in the singular act of trail running, what gets each of them out the door varies widely.
This story explores the individual motivations of six Boulder-area elite trail runners: Darcy Africa, Dakota Jones, Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka, Susan Nuzum and Geoff Roes. These are the fast folks who are rewriting the history books of our sport, winning races and setting course records all over the planet.
You may find that what makes you a trail runner resonates among the words of the sport's elite. You might also realize that your own inspirations are unique. But, when the sun next rises over you and your hometown trails, know that we trail runners have one very important commonality—we're all just doing what we love.
Darcy Africa's Freedom
"It's that feeling you get when you're on the trail, when you look around at the beauty, and suddenly you just feel light," says 35-year-old wife, mom and wicked-fast Boulder trail runner Darcy Africa about why she runs.
Africa discovered the literal lightness of trail running in her early 20s while working for Outward Bound. After days of lugging heavy backpacks and teaching young people outdoor skills around the mountain west, she began trail running in her free time. "I realized that, without a loaded pack, I could cover 10 times the distance."
The figurative freedom of trail running came next. When Africa wasn't in the backcountry working, she lived in Breckenridge, Colorado, with its community of balls-out mountain athletes. Africa began hanging out with runners and soon ran her first trail marathon and ultramarathon, in rapid-fire succession. "We had this kind of young-person enthusiasm," she says. "We signed up for races the week of. We were invincible."
As well, Africa discovered she was good at trail running. In the 2003 Breckenridge Crest Mountain Marathon, her first long-distance race, she finished second, just minutes behind the women's winner. Though she didn't run competitively until adulthood, says Africa, "I grew up playing sports, and that competitive streak was always in me."
Africa does not have a running coach or schedule, and doesn't keep a running log. "When it comes to running, I'm not a planner," she says. "I want to have fun first. If I'm having fun, then I can focus on my running." This no-plan plan clearly works for Africa—she's finished at or near the top in scores of ultradistance races.
Among her biggest achievements are wins at the Wasatch 100 (two), Bighorn 100, Cascade Crest 100 and San Juan Solstice 50. If you ask her which achievement she's most proud of, she says, "Finishing the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning [running the Leadville, Hardrock, Wasatch Front and Western States 100-milers in a single season]." In the summer of 2006, she ran those four races (combined times) faster than anyone else—including all the men.
In the fall of 2008, Africa and her husband, Bob, also a successful ultrarunner, added a daughter to their family's mix. Africa quit her job as a counselor and took on the new role of full-time mom to Sophia.
Through this life change, Africa was still pulled by the siren call of running. With a healthy pregnancy, she ran non-competitively up until just days before giving birth. "I ran a few 10Ks on the road, just for fun, and spent a lot of time trail running and hiking. I got a few goofy looks with my big belly, but a lot more smiles. I definitely didn't feel physically light, but I enjoyed the freedom of being out there."