Mar 31

Would You Ever Start a Race You Probably Couldn’t Finish?

We race for many reasons. Some of us line up with intentions of holding a trophy at the end. Most of us hit the starting line hoping, most likely planning, to finish. In subsequent races perhaps we are shooting for a PR. Others may be trying to stretch themselves, find fulfillment, support someone else or make it a tribute to the memory of a loved one. Any reason for racing is probably a good one.

But would you ever enter a race you probably couldn’t finish?

The 2015 edition of the 100-mile Barkley Marathon in Tennesse started with 40 runners.

0 finished.

And the race directors were thrilled.

It’s reported that in 30 years, 14 out of approximately 1100 runners have finished in the allotted 60-hour time limit.

So would you ever start a race that statistically, you probably wouldn’t finish? Why or why not?

Feb 26

Movie Review: Run Free – The True Story of Caballo Blanco

Movie Review: Run Free – The True Story of Caballo Blanco

If you, like so many other runners, enjoyed Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run,” you will enjoy the documentary “Run Free.” The movie adds great visuals to the storytelling. You get to see footage of Micah True, “Caballo Blanco,” before he passed away. You see the trails of Copper Canyon and the Tarahumara people. You see the various characters of the book in film.

I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production of the documentary. One of my rewards was receiving a copy of the DVD. We also received an early release viewing online at Vimeo. Additionally, I received a very cool t-shirt with the Run Free logo on it. I have to say, this has been one of my better Kickstarter experiences.

The movie includes various interviews of people associated with different phases of Micah True’s life, from his pre-Mexico days to the end of his life. You also get Micah himself talking about running, the race, and some of his personal philosophies. I really appreciated his minimal and happy approach to life. You see the emotions he displays on various topics, which you can’t quite fully obtain in the book.

It is also fascinating to see the beautiful trails of Copper Canyon. You can see why Micah True fell in love with this place. You can see the people, the Raramuri runners, and their spirit of Korima (sharing). Many runners talk about the culture of running and it is special to see a people embody so many of those aspects.

Sure, there’s a Hollywood movie coming out based on the book and starring Matthew McConaughey. For me, I appreciated seeing the actual people and places, rather than Hollywood’s dramatization.

I’m not sure when the film will be available for wider distribution, but if you enjoyed the book, you will appreciate this documentary.

Feb 23

2015 Oregon Saturday Select Series Race: Newport Marathon

We are happy to announce that the Newport Marathon has been added to our 2015 Saturday Select Series for the state of Oregon.

I (RJ) have a special place in my running heart for the Newport Marathon – it was my very first marathon back in 2010. I was fortunate enough to run it again in 2011 and had a great experience both years. The race is now in its 16th year and continues to improve and respond to an ever-changing running environment.

The race is always held the Saturday after Memorial Day, which this year is May 30th. Limited to 1000 participants, the 2015 race is nearly sold out, but there’s still time for you to jump in!

The gritty details:

  1. The course is USATF certified and sanctioned and a Boston Marathon (and Olympic Marathon Trials) qualifier.
  2. It’s chip timed
  3. It’s flat and at sea level (well, it does actually start at 60 feet, but pretty darn close.)
  4. It’s fast (assuming you actually train)
  5. Most of the course is along Yaquina Bay except for the part you’re running towards or along the Pacific Ocean (read: incredible views for 26 miles)
  6. There’s a post-race party with food, music and everything else you’d expect
  7. Out and back course with aid stations approximately every two miles
  8. All-you-can-eat oyster “shooters” at mile 11 and 19 (I’m not kidding. The record is 80, set in 2009)
  9. Sitting in the Pacific Ocean afterwards makes a great ice bath and feels great on the legs
  10. The medals. Hand-blown glass medals that will be the envy of all your running friends (my mom ran the race after seeing my two medals and deciding she had to have one for herself)

If you’ve never been to Oregon, Newport is a great place to visit and this is a great race to run. Head on over to the race website and get yourself (and a buddy) registered today!

Dec 16

Elemental Running Winter 12 Hour Run

Finish Pic

Pardon the crazy hair and crazy eyes 😉

1st Place! It feels great to win one. There wasn’t a large field of competitors but you don’t expect too many in an ultra race unless it’s a really prominent one.

This was my first experience doing the “time” race format, as opposed to distance. I like the race style. I knew exactly how long I would be out there. I had to just keep going for the allotted time. I would definitely do one again.

This was also my first time exceeding my previous distance record of 50 miles. Before the race, I decided I would shoot for 100k.

The course was an approximate 2 mile (mostly flat) loop at a park in Las Vegas. People feel differently about looped courses like this. Yeah, the course gets boring lap after lap. The nice thing is that I was able to fall into a rhythm as I ran the loops and just focus on continuously moving forward. I also liked having access to all my fuel/gear at the aid station every 2 miles.

Elemental RunningВ put on a great event. There was a nice variety of food at the aid station, including hot food. There was always staff on hand. I liked having the big clock next to the timing system counting up towards the end of the race. The race director, Jimmy, said anyone could come out at any time to cheer or pace me. My family came out to cheer and run with me a bit. I must say Jimmy really went above and beyond offering to cook some food for my kids at the aid station (which the kids readily accepted). Very cool. The race environment was really good.

Race Swag

The race and winner swag were cool (pictured). I like the shirt with the date 12/13/14. The stocking was a nice touch. The snowflake medal doubles as a Christmas tree ornament too.


The day provided fine race weather with temps in the 50s. There was a bit of wind but not too bad. It’s a great December race if you’re looking to escape the cold and/or snow up north. I ran in shorts, long sleeve tech shirt with a short sleeve tech shirt over it, buff, and gloves.

At the beginning of the race, everyone lined up at the same time for all the races. There was a 3 hour, 6 hour, and 12 hour race. Everyone had the same style bib too so I didn’t know who was doing what distance. This didn’t matter much to me because I had my own goal in mind and planned on running my own race.

I really fell into a rhythm running along the loops. I had my audiobook going and just enjoyed a day out running at the park. I kept on top of my hydration by rotating my handheld bottles with water and water enhanced with a Nuun tab. I never felt dehydrated.В I mixed up the fueling with gels, Honey Stinger gingersnap waffles, and Mama Chia seed pouch drink. It worked well and I never felt sick, which was a huge help.

After about 6 hours, I had run over 50k, but I was concerned I may not be able to keep my goal of 100k. Nonetheless, I would do my best and would surely exceed my previous distance PR of 50 miles. Around this time, the race director informed me that I was in first place. “Wait? What?! Me?!?” A couple of local running buddies, Josh and Rob, also showed up to run with me. I’ve never run with pacers before. They were a huge help. I didn’t want to disappoint them by barely being able to maintain a light jog so for a while, we maintained a pretty good pace even though I had so many miles on my legs already. Another runner quipped, “No fair, you have two pacers!” It felt good to be well supported.

We chatted and ran. It helped pass the time. One pacer, Rob, had to go and another, Khanh, showed up shortly after. My family showed up and did a loop with me. Josh had to go and Khanh stuck with me until the end (he was there for 18 miles).

I focused on each loop and was pleased to see how much closer I was to the 12 hour finish after each lap. A few hours before the end, I asked the race director how close the runners were behind me. One was less than a loop behind me (about 1.5 miles) and another one was more than a loop behind. They were both still running strong. At one point, I got the two of them confused and thought one was right on my heels! This motivated me to pick up the pace and stressed me out a bit because I wasn’t sure I could maintain it.

I was getting so tired. So many things hurt. Feet, calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, etc. I had to ask myself how much I wanted to win. Do I really want to win this? If I want it, I’m going to have to earn it. Nobody is going to give it to me. The other runners aren’t just going to stop. I need to keep pushing, moving forward, and giving it all I have.

I even said it out loud. “I really want this. I really want to win. I can’t deny it.”

I kept the focus. Each lap I would ask how close the runner behind me was (always the same distance). The race director said that each lap the other runner would ask where I was. He was after me. He certainly wasn’t going to make this easy. I kept moving. I minimized aid station time towards the end, grabbing a gel as quickly as I could.

The last couple laps, it was apparent that I had the win as long as I kept moving. I was elated. It felt great to finish with the win. The second place runner finished only one lap behind me. The third place runner finished only two laps behind me. Both ran strong to the end.


Officially, I did 61.76 miles. Just shy of 100k. Of course, my garmin had a bit more than that with tangents, restroom breaks, and aid station stops. I’m happy. 🙂

Believe it or not, I felt like I could keep going. I actually thought I was supposed to do another lap. Maybe I’m ready for a 100 miler?

Dec 02

Winter Marathon Spotlight: The Phoenix Marathon

The winter months can be a rough time for us marathon runners. Training in the rain, snow and/or ice (depending on where you live) along with shortened daylight hours can be difficult. If you’re anything like me, having a race on the calendar keeps me motivated and gets me out the doors on days I would rather stay in my warm bed a bit longer. ButВ Spring 2015 is so far away. Too far to keep me motivated through the darkness and cold of December, January and February.В But therein liesВ the problem:В finding a quality winterВ road marathon. Luckily, there are a handful of races that are worthy of your attention, your dollars and your sweat. We’ll be spotlighting a handful of them here in the coming weeks.

Our first winter marathon preview is The Phoenix Marathon, our Select SeriesВ race for Arizona, which will be held on February 28th, 2015.

If you need five reasons why you should run, not walk, to their website to sign up (before it sells out), here you go:

1. The Race Director is an active marathon runner herself

I’ve run more than 50 races of varying distancesВ in the past five years (17 of them marathons). Almost without exception, those that have Race DirectorsВ who are also runners are great races.

Jamie, the Phoenix Marathon director, travels to expos all over the country on behalf of the Phoenix MarathonВ and runs many of the races she attends. She even qualified for Boston this past June at the Utah Valley Marathon (congrats, Jamie!). Everything good about this race stems from this. She’s a runner. She knows what runners want and need and when they want and need them.

2. The course is begging you to run a PR

Due to a friend’s pre-race injury, I ran the course last year on zero training.В None. I took November,В December and January off,В completed exactly three runs of about six miles and one 13-mile Saturday runВ in February — and I STILL ran my average marathon time on this course. It made me excited to think about what I could do if I actually trained for it. It’s a gentle downhill for 24 of the 26+ miles. Just enough to propel you to a PR, but not so dramatic to cause your quads to curse your name for days afterwards. It’s scenic, you’re not out in the middle of nowhere for hours, there’s crowd support nearly the entire way after about mile seven or eight and you’re never worried about being mowed down by some idiot driver.

If you want a more detailed mile-by-mile course preview, this is the best one I have ever read HERE. Below is the elevation chart.

3. Attention to detail

How annoying is it when you’re planning on (read: desperately looking for)В an aid station to appear at mile 20.7, because that’s where the race website said it would be, only to find that it’s actually closer to 21.1? None of that here. Starting at mile 3, there are stations at each odd numbered mile marker up to mile 21, where they appear at each mile marker to the finish. Bananas and oranges are provided at four of the stations and Clif Shots are provided at an additional three. First aid station volunteers get you in and out on your wayВ like an Indy 500 pit crew. There are so many other little things that I noticed were done right (likeВ ample port-o-potties all over the place, starting line gear-drop, a party at the finish line, music, happy and enthusiastic spectators, etc). Too many to mention here. Just know that from the time I arrived at the bus pickup to the time I got in my car and left afterwards I felt like the race had been put on exclusively for me. The shirt is one you can wear proudly on a run or to the grocery store, the medal is unique, heavy and high quality and the arm sleeves in last year’s swag bag are my go-to accessory item when it’s a little chilly outside.

4. Arizona in late February? Yes, please

Remember that rain/snow/ice/darkness thing earlier? Welcome to Arizona. Enjoy it. I will say that it did rain on us as we awaited the start of the race last year. No matter, it wasn’t cold. The on again/off again light mist throughout the morning was actually great to keep my body temperature down. But race days was beautiful. Slightly overcast, temperatures that warmed up to the 60’s and sunshine in the afternoon after finishing.
5. This race sells out. And it’s no surprise why

I should mention at this point that this is only Year 3 of this race. It’s sold out all 3,000 marathon spots each of the first two years. They’ve been able to increase that number to 4,000 this year, but don’t wait. When the spots are gone, they’re gone. I can’t recall another race that has grown so quickly in its first two years (there’s also a half marathon with a 6,000 cap and a 10k with a 2,000 cap as well as a kids 1k race). That only happens because of the reasons detailed above. Hurry up and get over to theirВ registration page now!

With just under 90 days left until race day, there’s still time to train for this race. So give yourself (or someone else) a gift, secure your spot now and book your reservations to Arizona. It’s not a race you’ll regret running.