Some of my fondest running memories of the past 15 years have come in small, low-key, off-season races. This time of year, especially, I find myself reflecting back fondly on three races in particular that were wonderful little events and that are, sadly, no longer with us.
The San Juan Trail 50k in the Cleveland National Forest outside San Juan Capistrano, California was a long-time staple of the Southern California running scene. Beginning and ending in the Blue Jay Campground, the SJT50k was joyfully directed by the inimitable Baz Hawley for years. I recall running it back in March of 1999 along with a who’s who of ultrarunning at the time. Among others toeing the line back then were Ian Torrence, Nate McDowell, Tom Nielsen, Ben Hian, and Scott Jurek. I was sad to see the race discontinued but also heartened to know that the memories live on.
In January, 2000, while living in Arizona, I had the pleasure of running the Phoenix National Trail 50 Mile in South Mountain Park south of downtown Phoenix. This great race, directed by Joe Galope, was only around for a couple of years but garnered quite a following. I recall that year in particular being impressed with a young 24-year-old kid who came down from Colorado for the event. He was a tall guy with a hat pulled down over his eyes. Over a couple beers at the finish line he introduced himself. Little did either of us know that seven years later Hal Koerner would snag the first of his two cougars at Western States.
Perhaps my favorite off-season winter race was the Ghost Town 38.5 Mile in Hillsboro, New Mexico. I traveled down from Idaho twice to run this little gem in 2009 and 2010, finishing second both times, including to the up-and-coming Nick Clark. Susan Reynolds was the race director and she did an extraordinary job of welcoming us all into this wonderful little corner of the world. From her tremendous pre-race hospitality to her extraordinary post-race, green-chile enchiladas, Susan knew how to put on a first rate, low-key, old school, boutique ultra.
To me, it’s always sad to see races discontinued but there is also something neat about it. When a race is gone, the memories seem a bit more rich. Capturing a moment in time that cannot be replicated somehow makes the impact meaningful. And, in the end, isn’t that one of running’s greatest gifts? I tend to think so.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio. They have produced what is to me the perfectly balanced Porter, the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. And, what’s not to like about a beer named after one of the legendary road ultras of all time. A race that, too, is sadly no longer with us.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What races have gone from your local communities and do you miss not running anymore?
- Can you share a story from a now-gone trail race?