Sit back and picture yourself on a beautiful mountain. The air is crisp, the sagebrush is emitting the scent of the desert as it blows in the wind, and you are staring at a post-card-perfect vista of the Wasatch Back.
Sounds enticing? Just wait.
It is the future, but not far into the future, just about a week from now on September 14, 2013.
You have been hoping for an early fall getaway into the mountains and you heard about this cool trail run in the mountains of Park City. You decide to make a weekend of it and take those closest to you up for a night out before the race and a little pool time after.
Last night, you set your alarm for 6:30, the latest alarm you have set for a race in a while. In the morning, you amble out of bed, brush your teeth, slop on some sunscreen and Bodyglide and head to packet pickup. The sunrise on the drive over is spectacular, foreshadowing of the run to come. You pick up your race packet, all the flyers and swag tucked neatly into the pint glass that you had heard about and think to yourself, I’d take a pint glass over a t-shirt any day. You stride back over to your car and stretch out a little. Not the pre-race geek stretching that is the thing of rookie 5k-ers, the stretching that shows how relaxed you are when your body is trying to tell you that there is a race coming.
You pin your bib number on, head over to the start line and find your spot in the corral. There are a couple hundred other people around but the mood before the race start is lighthearted, even chill. The horn blows signaling the start and you are off with the rest of them. Up the trail and out to the next 13.1 miles and whatever they bring.
Within the first couple of miles, you come to the first aid station. The course is still relatively flat and you think to yourself, this is going to be a cinch! Then you turn the corner and start the first climb. It is only about 1.5 miles to the top and the next aid station but you wonder during those miles if anyone else was cursing the race director under their breath? You splash some water on your face at the aid station and grab a second cup for a small sip and head down the other side of the hill, the steeper side. The switchbacks are fun and winding down the hill reminds you of a bobsled course while the color of the dirt makes you think of a rusty shovel and the yard work you are craftily putting off until next Saturday.
At the bottom of the hill, you meander around the mountain, a false-flat climb that makes you wonder why your heart rate is slightly elevated. At the third aid station, you grab some more water and some ProBar bolt chews. You have never had them before but they remind you of the jam your Grandma made back when you were a kid. You munch on the chews as you make your way up the rocky section of the course. At the top, you feel some relief, especially because it comes with another aid station and an excuse to walk for a few minutes. While you are drinking your water, you catch your toe on a rock and take a few goof-ball steps to catch yourself. You look around to see if anyone saw and realize that the few people around you are just as focused on their footing as you are.
As you make your way back down into the Round Valley you realize that this downhill is easier than the first. You think about your footing less because you’re light-footed, almost like a dancer who touches the ground only because it launches them back into the air. You start to climb, once again, up the mild switchbacks on the newly-cut trail. You look over your right shoulder and have to stop because the view is so magnificent. The entire Wasatch Back is laid out before your eyes. You can see all three ski resorts, from Deer Valley to the Canyons and just then a little breeze brings a chill that makes you excited for the Fall and the snowflakes that follow.
At the top of the hill you realize, you have arrived. There are a few miles left in this race – no not a race, this run that is so challenging but so rewarding at the same time – but you know that the hills are finished. The rest of the course is just a long, meandering downhill. You pass an old rusty rambler on the trail and wonder how it got there, how long it has been there, and what kinds of critters have called it their home. You pass the final aid station and start to pick up speed as you complete the last downhill mile into the finish line. There is no one else around you, the course has spread everyone out so they can experience the trails on their own. You wonder the last time you felt so excited about a finish as you cross under the banner to a small crowd of spectators and volunteers applauding your finish and hanging the medal around your neck.
After the race, you grab some water and wait around for the awards and the raffle, you have heard they have the best prizes around. You pass by the raffle table to check out the loot and see lift passes to ski resorts, free food, running gear, and the likes. As you go back to the food tent for more water and oranges, you look down at your dirty ankles and realize that this is the thing running is made of. This primitive, dirt infested challenge you just completed is the organic way to run and you mentally pencil this one in for next year.
To register for the Park City Trail Series ½ Marathon visit www.r-u-nevents.com/register.
Tell us: What makes you motivated to hit the trails – for a chance to win a free entry to the R-U-N Events Park City Trail Series. Post your comment below to be entered in the random drawing for the free entry! The lucky winner will be selected and notified by Monday afternoon, September 9, 2013.