Extreme running. In my opinion there is nothing better than extreme running. Extreme running can be a variety of things ranges from simple trail running to all-out off trail adventures. Whatever it is though, it is HARD. If your heart rate isn't in zone 4 and 5 for at least part of your run - you cannot call your run an extreme run.
There are extremes to extreme running that are just plain fucking crazy. Take for instance, The Barkley Marathons. This is a 100 mile race in the woods of Tennessee that consists of a 20 mile loop run five times alternating directions each time. The race has a 60 hour cut-off time which may seem generous until you hear about the course. The course itself really isn't a course at all. It is a cross-country trek during which you must find a series of books from which you rip out the page corresponding your race number. This is to prove you actually did the course. The Barkley Marathons has almost 60,000 feet of climbing which is more that any other endurance race in the world. Here is the kicker - only 14 people out of around 1,000 who have started the race has ever finished. This is only 1 finisher every two years since The Barkley Marathons started in 1986. Here is a flyover of where the race takes place - good luck seeing the trail.
I WANT TO RACE THE BARKLEY MARATHONS!
Okay - The Barkley Marathons is extreme but there are many other types of running that can be considered extreme running. These include 24 hour - 200 mile team relay races, Hash House Harriers events, trail endurance races, and just plain old fun runs. I promise to write blogs about relay races and the hash in the future since these events helped drive my passion for extreme running. But I wanted to start from the beginning talking about my career in extreme running and end with a new event called the Harsh 10K - North.
I started extreme running as a kid racing through the woods as fast as I could. Nothing was a barrier - logs, briar patches, creeks, and rocks were just obstacles to jump, duck, splash, or push through. This was just pure fun at its all time best. No cares - I just ran through the woods clearing the obstacles as they attempted to slow me down.
|Finishing a leg of the Colorado Relay|
I then took a long hiatus from extreme running - girls, soccer, girls, school, girls, and girls took me away from my extreme running passion. I found it again in college and it has never left me since. In college, I joined the hash. No - not a hash smoking group but the Hash House Harriers or drinkers with a running problem. The hash would set a trail through the woods to a stash of beer using flour. Hashing became a part of my life even after college which even included me founding and serving as Grand Master of the Hog Mountain Hash House Harriers in Georgia. I am proud to say that even today after I have been gone from Georgia 6 years, the HMHHH is still running extreme trails through the deepest shiggy and beaver ponds in the Atlanta area. The HMHHH was famous for running through beaver ponds so much we earned the motto - "our beavers are always wet!".
|Hog Mountain where Beavers are ALWAYS Wet! The best and deepest shiggy in the area that prides themselves on trails that are always dog friendly but never stroller friendly. You'll get wet and best of all drink your down down with the Hogs.|
After leaving Georgia and the HMHHH behind, extreme running took a new direction for me. I began to foster my love of trail running. I often have lost my way and quit running for months or even a year at a time but what always brings me back is a good trail run. I am BLESSED to have excellent trails right in my backyard but also have some serious trails just a few miles away in the foothills and even more extreme trails in the Rocky Mountains. No matter what my mood, I can find solace and comfort during a long trail run. No matter what my pace or fitness level, a good trail offers extreme running conditions that will test my legs and heart.
|View from the high point of the Harsh 10K - North|
|Runner's ladder on the Harsh 10K - North trail|
|Bridge and Prairie Dog Hill #2 on the Harsh 10K - North trail|
|South Boulder Homestretch Harsh 10K - North|
|Harsh 10K - North Finish Line|
I ran the Harsh 10K yesterday and began thinking about how much I loved the course. This is great but I just wasn't satisfied because I couldn't share this fun and challenging course with others. Sure - there are lots of people who walk and run the trails in the North Open Space but have any of them put together a 10K course as challenging as the Harsh 10K. Maybe they have and chances are I will probably never know. Well tonight I went for a night run to clear my mind in the10 degree weather and snow from today. Even though we had roughly 3-4 inches of new snow I could still see the single tracks of the North Open Space. I quickly found myself running the easy sections of the Harsh 10K before angling off to come home with just a 4 mile run. An idea grew in my head during this run that cannot be ignored. Why not make a race out of the Harsh 10K - North route?
|Harsh 10K - North Route|
|Harsh 10K - North Run Profile|
So during my run tonight, I brainstormed a way to make a real extreme race out of the Harsh 10K - North and I came up with a brilliant idea that has been used before during equalizer challenges. A reverse-seeded time trial start! What this means is that the slowest runners start first and the fastest runners start last. All the other runners start at a pre-determined time interval in-between the fast and slow runners based on their running ability. If this system works (and it should work), the staggered time trial start will create a collision at the finish line with a mad dash consisting of the slow, fast, and middle pace runners. A reverse-seeded race isn't judged on time but about who crosses the finish line first. Talk about an exciting race that increases pressure on all runners to go all out for the glory of finishing first. Even a walker could win the race if we handicap the fastest runners with the correct time.
|A better view of the Prairie Dog Hill #2 climb|
I also decided that there should be two versions of this race - a winter and a summer race. This will allow runners to test their will in potentially extreme cold and hot weather. The summer version will occur sometime in July or maybe August so it is guaranteed to be hot.
|Sometimes the Harsh 10K - North can be flooded|
How do runners find out about the Harsh 10K - North? I have started a Facebook page for the race which will allow us an avenue to find and recruit runners. I am also going to have to start running with the meet-up group here in Louisville that I discussed in my blog Southern Fried Chicken. This is going to push me out of my comfort zone and meet people. I will also have to develop flyers to hand out at the schools, gym, and any other place I can find. Even if I can only get 2 or 3 new runners to try the Harsh 10K - North on January 1, 2014 - my quest to share this extreme running adventure will be a success.
I am going to part with this blog with a video I found on youtube that really captures the feel and energy of extreme running. I hope you will watch it and get excited about your next run and how you can make it extreme.