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Dear Flagstaff,

Thank you so much for the opportunities you have provided me. Thank you for being at 7,000 feet and having no oxygen in your air. Thank you for your breath-taking mountains, pristine trails and life-giving monsoons in the summer.

Thank you for your people. Without them, Flagstaff wouldn’t be Flagstaff. Thank you for introducing me to people like Vince and Sarah Sherry. Without their mentorship, kindness and friendship I would have never lasted a year in Flagstaff. I could write 1,000 letters about their impact on my life, and the impact they’ve had on the lives of countless people in this town and abroad.

Thank you for introducing me to some of my closest friends and confidants, for steadfast roommates and training partners like Danny Mercado, Forrest Misenti and Adam Vess, with whom I’ve shared thousands of miles and thousands of laughs. Thanks for role models and friends like Nick and Carolyn Arciniaga, whom I admire and love.

Thank you for Team Run Flagstaff and your vibrant running community. The well of support from the club has meant the world to me, and I hope I was able to make a small contribution back to you. Although I know that I could never do enough to pay back the support that has been openly given.

Thank you for being tough and unforgiving. You forced me to put my head down and grind. I had to grow up, and learn how to deal with adversity. You’ve taken me to high alpine summits, and rescued me from dark corners that I thought I would never escape. From injuries, to personal bests, to the Olympic Trials, you were as constant as a northern star.

I thank you, most of all, for the other constant in my life. Flagstaff, you led me to my wife. Through serendipity, fate or maybe just sheer dumb luck, you led me to find my rock, the love of my life. And for that, I can never thank you enough.

I hope that those who come after me have the experiences that I’ve had. I hope they learn to grind, and understand that you never dole anything out easily. You make us work for everything we gain here, but the aftermath is a feeling of accomplishment and pride that is hard to match.

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I hope they dive headfirst into the community and give back, because, at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. Personal bests, US championships and Olympic Trials all pale in comparison to the time I’ve had with my friends, loved ones and teammates here. I may forget what my 1500 PR is some day, but I’ll never forget the love that I’ve felt from this community.

Flagstaff, I know we will cross paths again someday, and I can’t wait to run through your Ponderosa pine forests again, surrounded by good friends and listening to lots of laughs. So here’s to you; I hope you never change.

With Love,

Nick Hilton

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Nick has called Flagstaff his home for the past five years. During his time here, he worked as the manager at Run Flagstaff and was a competitive runner and volunteer coach for Team Run Flagstaff. He is now living in Tucson with his wife and two chocolate labs, and is training for the 2020 Olympic Trials.

Myles Schrag is coordinating editor for High Country Running. He can be reached at myles.schrag@adinapublishing.com. This is the third in a summer series written by elite runners who are bidding farewell to Flagstaff.

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