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HIGH COUNTRY RUNNING

High Country Running: How High Country Running changed my life

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Kahtoola

Racers take on the hill at sunset during the 2018 Kahtoola Uphill, an iconic Flagstaff event.

In May 2009, when the Arizona Daily Sun published the very first High Country Running column, I was living in Phoenix. I had started running a few years earlier at the encouragement of my chiropractor.

A runner himself, he said running would be good for my “bad” back. Tentative, nervous about getting hurt, I tried it, exploring the alleys in my suburb.

My neighbors kept not just dogs in their backyards, but also chickens, horses and sheep. The enchantment of discovery kept me moving, and eventually I told my chiropractor he’d been right.

After I moved to Flagstaff in 2010, I continued to run. High Country Running, with editor Karen London in charge, had just turned a year old. Columnists in the first year included Jack Daniels, Vince Sherry, Neil Weintraub, Greg McMillan and Mike Smith; a who’s who of our running world.

I started reading the column in 2011. It introduced me to elite racers who train here and to other runners just like me. It consistently made running at high elevation seem fun, a fact I appreciated when I struggled to stay motivated.

In 2013, Myles Schrag replaced London as the coordinating editor, and the column kept going strong. Readers heard from local heroes such as Nat White, Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, Abe Springer, Sarah Wagner and many more.

In one column, Schrag wrote, “The variety of voices is what gives HCR its best quality—it’s a montage of stories that collectively make up our singular running community.”

In 2015, I joined Team Run Flagstaff and the Flagstaff Trail Divas. I felt very much a part of the running community, and I read High Country Running -- that montage of stories -- to keep tabs on friends and stay up on the latest news.

In 2017, I read Schrag’s column describing a book idea that would celebrate Flagstaff’s participation in the Imogene Pass Run. That’s the day High Country Running truly changed my life. I wrote to offer my help with editing. In September 2019, he and I -- and more than 70 members of this very running community -- published “To Imogene, a Flagstaff Love Letter.”

By then, I’d become coordinating editor of this column. Schrag handed me the position in 2018, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. It’s an honor to take part in the high country running community in this direct way.

Looking back at this list, I’m astounded by how powerfully this weekly column has impacted my life. I hope it’s entertained and informed you, too. That’s why it exists: to offer runners a regular space where you can share stories and news, and celebrate this community and what it can offer.

If you’ve written one of these columns in the past 13 years, thank you! Send me another. If you haven’t seen your name in this space yet, 2022 is your year. Write 500 words and send them my way. I can be reached anytime at runner@juliehammonds.com.

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