The Flagstaff running community mightily celebrated the marriage of the ultimate ultrarunning dynamic duo Ian Torrence and Emily Harrison.
To kick off the festivities last weekend, Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association (NATRA) hosted the Ian and Emily Happily Forever After Run on the Fort Valley Trail System.
Not surprisingly, a record 70 runners turned out for the Saturday group run, with only a handful aware they were keeping pace with Ian’s groomsmen that included the legendary Scott Jurek (seven-time Western States 100-Mile winner and featured in Chris McDougal’s best-seller "Born to Run"), Hal Koerner (Hardrock and Western States 100-Mile winner), and Karl Metzler (Fastest Known Time for traversing the Appalachian Trail).
While the groomsmen came with many accolades, none of them has ever competed at Flagstaff’s wildly popular Soulstice Mountain Trail Run, where Ian and Emily have both left everlasting impressions.
In the days leading up to the third edition of the Soulstice Mountain Trail Run in 2002, many were excited by rumors that ultra-legend Ian Torrence (then living in Moab, Utah) had thrown his name into the list of entrants. Ian had just completed the 2002 Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (four iconic races in one summer: Vermont 100, Western States 100, Leadville Trail 100, and Wasatch Front 100) in 78 hours 22 minutes, setting a record for the fastest Grand Slam (since broken by Jurek).
When race day arrived, we were all eager to glimpse the ultrarunner phenom. We figured he would look like a pretty serious athlete, yet turned out to be just another face in the crowd. At the halfway point trailhead aid station, I took out my camera hoping to catch a snapshot of Soulstice’s famed participant. When he rounded the corner, I was speechless. Ian donned the most colorful polka dot tights, putting my beloved purple ones to shame. In the flash of a second, I knew I was going to have a longtime friend.
That day, local triathlete Michael Olson edged out Ian. At the fledgling and now legendary post-race party, Ian was thrilled -- not about his outstanding finish, but that he and his dad, Paul, were the fastest father-son duo at the race.
They were bookends, Ian chuckled. Ian was second overall, while Dad came in second to last. At last Saturday’s wedding, Pops Torrence and I enjoyed a deep belly laugh in recalling it.
Many moons later, Ian’s sweetheart Emily, an outstanding collegiate runner from the University of Virginia, arrived in Flagstaff and quickly acclimated to the local trails. Emily skyrocketed to being one of the top ultrarunners in the country, and Soulstice made her bucket list. In 2014, in their first head-to-head Soulstice, Emily beat Ian by nearly five minutes, setting the new women’s course record while taking third overall! Emily remains undefeated.
A few hours after last Saturday’s group run, Ian and Emily hosted their wedding ceremony at the bucolic Kendrick Watchable Wildlife Trail. Dashing Ian and a stunningly beautiful Emily shared their vows with family, friends and our enormous running community. Everyone shared their vows, in promising to help guide and support Ian and Emily for the rest of their trail-running lives.
We look forward to the day Ian catches up to his wife and they cross the Soulstice finish line together. Happy trails to Ian and Emily!
Neil Weintraub is the voluntary director of NATRA, which hosts group runs of five to eight miles every Saturday morning at different trailheads. NATRA hikes, runs and explores the history of the forested trails surrounding Flagstaff followed by post-run coffee. Visit http://www.natra.org to learn more. Neil thanks his wife Diana Weintraub, six-time Soulstice champion Sara Wagner, and of course Ian and Emily for their editorial comments of this column.
Myles Schrag is coordinating editor for High Country Running. He invites submissions on any aspect of the local running scene, as well as submissions for the “To Imogene: A Flagstaff Love Letter” book project. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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