This pain is suppose to feel good I kept telling myself. “It’s just type 2 fun, that’s all!” Someone in the line of runners yelled out behind me. I was struggling up a monster canyon on North Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado when I began to fall back as the nimble, fast stepping guys behind me flew past me with quiet breathing and ease. I finished that run in the back and had gotten my legs crushed, lungs burned, and face sunburned - but never had I felt better after running, I tasted for the first time a ‘runners high’. I was hooked.
Ultra running has evolved over the past ten years, becoming increasingly popular with more participants finishing Ultra Marathon's (50km, 100km, 50 miles, and 100 miles) than ever before with 69,573 finishers in 2013 compared to 15,500 in 1998. This doesn’t take into account the actual participant finish rate of 45% for Ultra Marathon’s across the board.
I was drawn to the sport because of its mystic and superhuman prowess. Who can actually run up and down 14,000ft peaks in Colorado and crush craft beers afterwards - many of whom will go take their dog for a walk and push their newborn around in a stroller for a few more miles that evening? These runner’s can. Men and women who are able to push their mental capacities and overcome the crushing pain of punishing, drawn out trails full of rocks and loose dirt with an elevation profile that looks like a roller coaster. The funny thing about trail running, and running in general is that it can be considered rough on the body in younger years, and good for the body in your older years. So when do you choose to get into running? The science behind it is becoming more advanced in modern time but it is still difficult to pinpoint the exact benefits of running on the human body and how it can negatively or postively affect someone's health.
Trail running in Colorado is a thing - and it is here to stay. I host a trail run club at the New Terrain Brewery in Golden and attend the Front Range Cross Country run club weekly; it is astonishing to see how many new faces show up week after week to run trails and immediately become apart of this tight knit community. Running on long trails into the wilderness and high peaks has a way of allowing people to disconnect from their daily stimulations and be with themselves. We cherish the time we can truly focus one one thing and immerse ourselves in the environment. In today’s world, it’s a task to find the zen moments and have the time to truly take a breath - stop and smell the roses per say.
Altra's, vest, gu, bladder, buff, sunnies, trucker, shorties - these are some of the things you'll need to actually run the sweet, smooth buttery like single track found in Colorado. Want to know what else you'll hear while gutting out that 12 miler with 3k vert after a weekend of drinking craft beer and hanging out at crawfish boils? Vert, FKT, CR, PR, DNF, nut butter, pace, traverse, buster, bomber, touchy, toe grabber, bonk, bail, crush, flew, techy, tempo, taper, cooldown, glycogen, and finally, splits. I couldn't possibly tell you what all these mean. My advice? Join the rest of us out on the trail and find out yourself.
Elliot Couch is a runner, photographer, and story teller. His travels include 5 continents and spans the outdoor community to school districts.