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18-hours of trail running: A conversion story

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 23 2011 3:47 p.m. MDT

Amy Donaldson's team, Reasons 2 Run, celebrates after finishing the R-Scape relay race.

Amy Donaldson

OGDEN — Getting ready for last weekend's R-Scape relay race felt a little like those nightmares I used to have on the eve of every new semester of college.

In these dreams I failed to attend a single class. Then I frantically went about trying to figure out when and where the final was, and of course, completely distraught about whether or not I could pass without doing any of the course work.

While I knew about the 18-hour overnight relay and wanted to run it, we didn't actually put our team together until two days before the race. We didn't plan who was bringing what for our campsite until a few hours before the race started. Swamped with work, my 12-year-old packed my bag for me (thus the three sweatshirts).

And on top of all of that, there was the question of training.

First, I did absolutely NO trail running in preparing for the race, for which the motto was "Lose the road, run dirty."

I have done a little trail running here and there and decided last year this would be the summer I would take up the more rugged version of my favorite sport.

At first my excuse for not making my way into the mountains was the super soggy start to the summer. I didn't, after all, want to get my new trail shoes muddy!

Then my excuse morphed into my favorite standby excuse — no time. Most trails are 20 minutes from my house. That's 40 minutes of drive time — minimum. I could barely find time for training runs, so my summer turned into a perpetual discussion of how I'd make time later in the week.

I'm sure it surprises no one that I never made it to the mountains until the night of the R-Scape relay.

Second, one or two of my three 10K legs would be at night. The last time I ran on a trail at night, I had scabbed hands, skinned knees and a very bruised ego.

It's difficult to admit that age is stealing more than my ability to read fine print. I didn't need a headlamp, I needed a streetlamp to help me see the difference between a hole and a shadow.

Thankfully, my first leg was in the early evening — which was a little warm but very well-lit.

It was amazing. It is hard to be a runner and a gawker, but I managed without a single wipeout.

I was grateful to be familiar with the trail when I took off for my night run, somewhere around 1:30 a.m. under a full moon.

Despite dressing too warm, it was unlike anything else to be running in the mountains at night by myself. Unlike most of my other relay experiences, my final leg was my fastest. I took off in the morning about 7:30 a.m., and despite a little rust, was energized by the beauty of the trail.

I asked one of the race organizers if he was worried about whether or not people would get bored running the same trail several times. He said no trail is ever the same if you run at different times of the day.

It was a different gift each time I took my turn. There wasn't the camaraderie or endless party atmosphere of a Ragnar Relay, but there was something else.

Trail running is as amazing as I dreamed it would be. It requires more focus, more energy from your entire body and more agility. In return, I felt the peace of a great run more quickly and more completely.

Then again, maybe that's because skunks and squirrels might startle you, but they never honk and yell obscenities.

Bring on the dirt!

Twitter: adonsports

email: adonaldson@desnews.com

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