“If I get lost, or hurt, or killed, it’s my own damn fault.” – Micah True (Caballo Blanco)
There is a subset of distance runners that run trails, a subset of those who run ultra marathons, an even smaller set who run mega distances of 100 miles or more.
And then there is Born To Run.
I had read the book and fallen in love with the idea of running for the love of running. I know, there are those who think the book has created a cult following of people who really don’t get it and so they run around barefoot until they develop chronic foot issues and support some podiatrist’s midlife crisis (the upcoming movie will most likely perpetuate that trend) and those people are not wrong, but to see some of the Rarámuri run and the free spirit that surrounds those who truly understand is a life-changing event. Even more so to become one of them.
My first Born To Run experience started when we rolled onto the Chamberlin ranch in Los Olivos. We checked in and found our camp site. Some of our friends were already there and had camp set up. We added our tent to the compound and settled in just in time to watch the beer mile. The party had begun.
The event lives up to its reputation of being a “3 day party, during which a race breaks
out,” but it is not about the party, nor is it about the race. It’s not about the live music, nor the dancing. It’s not about the wares for sale, nor about the games. It’s not even about the Rarámuri who traveled from Copper Canyon, Mexico to celebrate with us.
It is about the gathering of people, from all different backgrounds, to celebrate the freedom we feel when we run, at any pace, for any distance.
The 200 mile runners had started as early as Wednesday night and the party stopped to cheer them every time they passed through camp.
Friday morning we were awakened by loud Mexican music blaring from Luis’ truck as he rolled through camp, firing his shotgun at semi-regular intervals. I guess my alarm clock was not necessary. We were up and ready to go, going through our pre-race rituals and grabbing whatever nutrition we felt we needed prior to our race. My friend John had come along for the camp trip and took care of everything for me, securing the position of permanent crew chief for any future long race I may do. John prepared a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon and english muffin which i washed down with some coffee and orange juice. This is a little heavier than my usual pre-race breakfast, but I wasn’t planning on going out fast and the hunger I always experience while camping outweighed my habit of eating light on race day.
At the start line, the 10, 30, 60, and 100 mile runners gather for instructions and to take the oath created by Caballo Blanco. The shotgun blasts and we are off. The first hill spread us out fairly quickly. The course is in the middle of nowhere, but fairly accessible. The genius of the event is in how the course is set up. All credit goes to Luis Escobar. There are two 10 mile loops and, although the course is described as a “figure 8,” its really more interwoven loops that cross each other and have several sections in common. Being able to adequately support a 20 mile course with only 3 aid stations demonstrates a beautiful efficiency. The stations are at the start/finish/turn-around point at the camp ground, and at two other points where the loops over-lap. This means runners see all 3 aid stations every 10 mile loop, but coming from different directions.
The trail, itself, is a combination of dirt road and single track, winding its way through a beautiful central California coastal cattle ranch, rolling up and down moderate hills, with only a couple significant climbs. I am running the 30 mile race so I see the first loop twice and the second loop once. I connect with a couple of runners who seem to be about my pace and we chat and run together for a while. Soon enough the bacon and coffee have done a number on me and I need to find a big oak tree. I always have the necessary supplies, but the lost time separates me from my new companions. I catch them again just before the end of the first loop, but they are running the 60 mile run and take a longer rest at the end of the loop, so I run on alone for a while. Towards the end of my second loop I come across a couple of guys who are out there in jeans and pacing their brother. I enjoy the company for a while, but I like to run in silence at times and they, obviously, don’t. I try to put some distance between us, but to my dismay, one of them would rather talk to me than pace his brother and he trots along with me. It’s killing my vibe that he is running in jeans, a t-shirt, and cheap shoes. I mean, how can I justify all of my expensive gear when this guy is doing it in every day clothes? finally, he decides he should go back for his brothers and I get to enjoy the trail to myself for a while.
I enjoy running with others, but the solitude and freedom of being on the trail with only God and His creation is really where I find my peace.
The second loop is tougher (enough that I’m happy to only do it once), but also more beautiful. I get to run most of this alone and I’m loving the changes in scenery as I run around the hill. Every turn seems to bring something new. Back through camp the second time, I fuel up on fruit and water and continue on the first loop. I feel energized to see my friends and know there is only 10 miles to go. Some of my friends ran the 10 mile and are already at camp. A few others are somewhere ahead of me on the 30 mile run, but haven’t finished yet.
Some of the highlights of my race, aside from the solitude, and the camaraderie (both of which were needed at the respective times), were seeing Manly Klassen, on his way to a 200 mile finish, bombing past me down a hill on my first loop. He’s been running since Wednesday evening and just keeps going like a freight train, and seeing Miguel Viniegras, from Porchi, Mexico, on his way to his 60 mile win. Miguel is running in traditional Tarahumara running attire and homemade huarache sandals. He is in great spirits and running towards an 8:23 60 mile finish. He glides over the dirt effortlessly with a smile on his face and not looking tired at all. I am finishing up my second loop, so he must be finishing his 4th. I will complete this and one more loop and he will complete this and two more loops and come in about 30 minutes after me. I don’t really care if I am that fast (that’s good, because I won’t be), but I want to develop that effortless form and that sense of freedom.
I finish my 30 miles and get my amulet. There is, understandably, a considerable mount of hoopla for the winners, but also for anyone who is running a given distance for the first time, or who has overcome a particular adversity, but for everyone else, whether you finish 2nd or 270th, the celebration of another finish is still there.
After a little rest and a little food, the party continued. The “world’s greatest wrestling match” to raise awareness for Wounded Warriors spurs impromptu wrestling matches which culminates in the, now infamous, Krista v Crista main event.
The live music continued and I got the opportunity to play with the band. They did a really cool cover of What I Like About You medlied with R-O-C-K In The USA and I got the privilege of playing harmonica and singing back-up.
Nailed it! Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any video, but my friends had a lot of good things to say and there is nothing I enjoy more than entertaining my friends, except running.
The next morning we broke camp and headed home. Nothing left of our adventure except memories and some very full port-a-potties. John commented on the way home tha he is deterined to be back next year and run the 10 mile.
Truth be told, running is contagious and the freedom one feels from just letting your body do what it was made for is addicting. It’s difficult to put this experience in words, which is why it has taken me so long (almost 2 months) to write this, but it is an experience that I want to have again, and one that I think can only be exceeded by running in Copper Canyon… maybe next year.