Running is something that makes me happy. I never feel more free, more joyful, than when I’m running through a beautiful landscape. It’s probably the main reason I love trail running.
I recently ran in my first trail race, the Palo Duro Trail Run. It was also my longest distance to date, 50 kilometers (31.1 miles). I enjoyed the experience tremendously and loved running in the desert, even though it meant seven and a half hours of running and 95 degree heat at the finish.
That’s Texas in October for you.
Trail races are very different from marathons. You have to bring a lot more gear. I always compare trail running to a small military operation.
It was 38 degrees at the start under a clear sky filled with stars. By 5:00pm the temperature would rise to 108 degrees.
Bagpipes played as people prepared for the 50K start at 7:00am. Away from the lights of the start area it was pitch dark. Headlamps were used for the first 45 minutes of the race.
What you run in is important. Skirts are always a comfy, cool alternative to shorts. Even for men.
Almost everyone carries their own water, either in their hand . . .
. . . or on their back.
You learn to eat on the go. It takes a lot of energy to run 20K, 50K or 50 miles, and the aid station tables are loaded with lots of goodies.
Some runners are able to resist the temptations of the aid stations and run straight through.
The early morning sun coats the canyon and those lucky enough to run there in a beautiful golden glow.
Even the parking lots are scenic.
The sky was a brilliant blue the entire day, with not a wisp of a cloud anywhere to be found.
There are man-made treacheries that need to be carefully navigated in trail races. These stairs were never fun, but especially not on the final loop.
Muscles tighten and protest in the harsh terrain. Sometimes it’s necessary to stop and stretch.
Trail running can be a solitary endeavor, but at times small trains of runners would come together and infuse the trail with conversation.
A lot of times walking up a steep hill is actually faster than running. By the third loop I enjoyed every opportunity to walk, even if it was uphill.
People run ridiculously long distances for a multitude of reasons. Some to challenge themselves, some to fight their demons, and others to remember someone they loved.
Some of the fastest runners stay so focused they barely register anything around them. Others make it look much easier than it really is.
Nothing means more to a runner than seeing the finish line–except maybe having their husband waiting there for them.
All photos taken by my awesome boyfriend, Michael Friedhoff, who spent the entire day lugging heavy camera equipment up and down the course. He fell asleep before I did that night.