I may have mentioned once or twice in last week’s column that I run marathons, usually close to my Southern California home. Those are done on city streets with water and Gatorade every 2 miles. As I found out while running last year’s Stagecoach 100, my first-ever trail race, this trail-running thing is a whole different beast.
Running from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon as part of an eight-person relay team was an amazing introduction to northern Arizona. I absolutely loved the scenery and the trail, and even the whole up-hills-and-down-hills of my 17-mile segment. Admittedly, starting around mile 14, I was thinking more about how I was going to survive the final 3 miles and less about the amazing scenery, but I was still enjoying myself.
A highlight of my run? A much-needed, much-appreciated water station roughly halfway through my segment, manned by the two nicest people I’ve ever met at a water station. They made sure I had enough of both the water and the electrolyte drink they had on hand, and even offered me my choice of popsicle (I chose orange). I thanked them profusely and resumed my run, only to quickly return to the station to ask them to pose for a selfie to remember their generosity.
Once I made it to the exchange station at Cedar Ranch and passed off the metaphorical baton, I spent the rest of the day (and part of the night) traveling with my team. At some point, I showed my teammates the photos I had taken before and during my run. When I got to the water station selfie, Emily gasped, “Do you know who that is? That’s Rob Krar!”
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Rob (as I soon found out) is quite possibly Arizona’s most famous ultrarunner, who has himself been featured in this very column, and who is, I can vouch, a super nice guy. I now follow him on Instagram.
When I wasn’t running or taking selfies with the trail-running elite, I chatted with other participants and learned a little of the race’s history. The 100-mile route traces the old stagecoach line tourists took from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon back in the 1890s, until the railroad took away the tourist trade. I fantasize about traveling back to that decade, standing by the side of the trail, and telling the stagecoach passengers, “One day people will be running this whole thing in brightly colored shirts!” just to see their reaction.
History, exercise, trails, hills, the beautiful scenery of northern Arizona, and the company of good people. If you are a runner and have ever wondered if this event might be for you, I can heartily recommend that you do it.
With or without a stagecoach.