It's Never Sane with James
Rainshadow Running events lure you in with beer, bluegrass and longer-than-advertised races
To know James Varner is to know his donkey-like laugh. To know one of the 12 Washington- and Oregon-based trail races that ...
Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
To know James Varner is to know his donkey-like laugh. To know one of the 12 Washington- and Oregon-based trail races that Varner directs for his company Rainshadow Running is to know insane pain and elevation gain. Treacherous climbs, technical terrain, mud ponds and mutant banana slugs are all staples of a Varner event. "James is the only race director I know who can create a race that always goes up and never goes down," says Varner's longtime friend Herb Reeves, 57, of Olympia, Washington.
But then, there is nothing "moderate" about Varner. This is a guy who lived in a school bus for two years, routinely drinks unfiltered stream water, runs in flame-red 70s-style short shorts, once kicked a marmot out of an oversized burrow when he needed a place to bivy and ate three chili dogs in a row while training on the Plain 100-Mile Endurance Run course in Leavenworth, Washington.
His newest race, the Gorge Waterfalls 50K, features 12 misty waterfalls in an emerald forest with jaw-dropping views of the Columbia River Gorge. This year's inaugural race, which took place on March 12, filled to its 150-runner capacity. Heidi Dietrich, 31, of Seattle, Washington, ran the 50K, and says, "You can count on James to create an extremely challenging (and scenic) course. I've yet to run one that hasn't pushed me to the max."