Caballo Blanco Documentary Run Free: A Call for Support

A documentary about Caballo Blanco, his race, and his legend is in the works. We now have a chance to be a part of it.

This is a story about the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon race through the eyes of its founder Micah True (Caballo Blanco). Because Micah has since passed, this is the only footage of Micah telling his own story in his own words. The footage has been filmed over the course of five years, but we need help finishing it.

From Kickstarter:

WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP

So far we’ve made three trips overland into the canyons and four flights across the USA which resulted in more than 60 hours of interviews and race footage. All of the footage has been logged and digitized. We’ve created a rough cut and our movie is now in the final editing stage. We’ve done everything on our own up until this point but we can’t continue without your help. We are looking for funds that will enable us to pay our crew, equipment rental, graphics, titles, music licensing, audio post production, color correction and distributing the movie through a website and film festivals.

Please consider supporting our fundraising campaign through Kickstarter and remember – if we don’t hit our goal we will receive NOTHING!

LUIS ESCOBAR PHOTO GALLERY

HOW THE FUNDS WILL BE USED

  • FIELD PRODUCTION 15% - Crew, equipment and travel
  • POSTPRODUCTION 60% - Personnel, Edit Suite Rental, Graphics, Color Correction, Music Licensing, Sound Mix.
  • MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION 15% - Photography, Film Festivals, Website, Online Distribution
  • Kickstarter Fees 10%

FROM CABALLO BLANCO’S PAST

Sometimes great stories are missed or overlooked because there isn’t a budget for them. We only have one month left to raise the necessary funds on Kickstarter. Help us tell Caballo Blanco’s story.

Back this project on KICKSTARTER.

Thanks in advance for your support.

RUN FREE MOVIE TRAILER

Run Free Movie Trailer from Noren Films on Vimeo.

VIDEO FOOTAGE OF 2009 RACE START

Direct YouTube Link HERE

BEHIND THE SCENES MOVIE PRODUCTION

Back this project on KICKSTARTER.

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About these ads

Man vs Horse Race Entry Giveaway

man vs horse
Think you could you outrun a horse? Here’s your chance to find out!

Throw your name in for a free entry to the Man vs Horse race in Inyokern, CA on October 11, 2014.

Choose from a 10 mile, marathon, or 50K distance (no horses in the 50K).

Participants will be rewarded with an ice cold beverage of their choice; made on-site and served in a Man vs Horse souvenir pint glass. Choose from an Indian Wells Brewing Co micro-brewed beer, locally crafted Rocket Fizz soda, or delicious spring water from local artesian wells.

Participants will also receive lunch after the race and a custom t-shirt. All finishers will be adorned with a custom crafted finishers medal to commemorate their experience.

The trail consists primarily of fire roads and Jeep trails.

For the marathon distance, 1st through 3rd in each age/gender division will receive a buckle and all finishers will receive finishers medals.

Dogs are welcome in the 10 miler and will be provided with aid.

Runners: Your time stops when you cross the finish line.
Riders: Your time stops when your horses pulse rate is 60 bpm at the finish line.

Learn more:

UltraSignUp: http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=26098

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/manvshorse

Race Website: http://www.desertdonkeys.com/

TO ENTER

For a free entry, leave a comment below answering the following question:

What was one of your lowest or most difficult points in a race that you are proud to have overcome?

For additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or anywhere else online. Each additional share = one extra entry. For example, if you comment below as well as share on Facebook and Twitter, that’s 3 entries. Remember to mention where you shared in the comments below.

The winner will be chosen at random on July 1st and contacted directly.

Good luck!

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Is Commercialization a Threat to the Purity of Trail Running?

mcafeeknobwintersnowPhoto: roanokeoutside.wordpress.com

Last month I set foot on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia for the first time since I took up running in 2007. For six years I had been purchasing books about the AT and accumulating hiking, fast-packing, and running gear. I completed my miles that day with Nathan handhelds, INKnBURN clothing, an UltrAspire pack, and Montrail shoes.

I can’t say how much money I have spent over the years on the sport of trail running, but I do know that as I ran along that famous trail, the last thing on my mind was what to buy next. And yet trail business is booming.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s annual report from 2010, the outdoor recreation industry boasts $289 billion in retail sales and services as well as 6.5 million jobs in America.

To argue that this bad-wolf commercialization is a perversion of the purity of our sport is in some ways ironic. Think about how you first heard or this sport. How many of us would be running trails if we hadn’t read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, Dean Kanazes’ Ultramarathon Man or watched JB Benna’s Unbreakable?

According to a study by Gary C. David and Nick Lehecka, the book Born to Run not only increased the visibility of trail and ultra running, but completely revolutionized the shoe industry. Their study quotes The Economist in 2011: “Ever since Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run hit the bestseller lists in 2009, Zappos, an online shoe retailer, has struggled to keep up with demand for minimalist footwear.” Similarly, Vibram saw sales jump from $470,000 in 2006 to $50m in 2010.

If you have:

  • read Born to Run
  • recommended running books to others
  • read or written shoe reviews
  • accepted free gear or nutrition in exchange for a review
  • listened to a sponsored running podcast
  • paid for a race entry
  • accepted a goodie bag from a race
  • accepted a cash prize from a trail event
  • clicked on a targeted Facebook or Google ad related to the outdoors
  • bought running gear on sale
  • supported race directors making a living from well-run, well-respected events
  • worn a promotional buff
  • supported or cheered for a company-sponsored team
  • become an ambassador for a company you believe in
  • recommended a product to a friend
  • bought or read a running magazine
  • become a sponsored athlete
  • entered a running-related giveaway
  • attended a book signing
  • added a promotional badge to your blog

… then you have already participated in the commercialization of this sport. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Does commercialization prevent us from enjoying the Olympics? The Superbowl? Perhaps it does. Or perhaps we wait for the commercials with anticipation, record them, analyze them, and share them on social media.

According to ultra168.com, commercialization may have more benefits than drawbacks. “Take one look at how well the North Face 100 is doing and what it has done for Australian trail and ultra running. It has attracted the likes of Kilian and Ryan Sandes to our shores and put us on the map as a destination to come and visit. Sure the companies behind this have deep-rooted motivations to sell more gear, but should we begrudge them that if we benefit too?”

It’s trendy to speak out against commercialization but the truth is that most of us are not mountain hermits. We live in a society of mass consumerism and eagerly participate in that system. We love swag. We’ll take free stuff even if we don’t need it. Can we really compartmentalize our sport so it never touches our morning Starbucks, Mac laptops, or Amazon accounts?

As avid trail runners, our job is not to keep the money out, but to keep this sport honest. So far we’re doing a good job.

When Leadville 100 crossed the line from a respected race to a greedy money-grab, we strongly objected. Hardrock 100 removed Leadville as a qualifier for its event, accusing the race of failures in “environmental responsibility, support of the hosting community, and having a positive impact on the health of our sport”.

The popular site run100s.com removed any and all mention of Leadville 100, stating that “They’re no longer a part of the sport of ultrarunning, but simply a business venture.”

Instead of hunting down prize money, our top athletes care about and defend our sport. In a Runner’s World article, Karl Meltzer said about the new Leadville: “Life Time is in it for the money. This company is road runner, gym-based folks that do it purely to make a profit.” The gatekeepers of our trails are loyal and effective.

Another point to make is one of perspective. Although our sport has grown by leaps and bounds, it is still comparatively low-key compared to the commercialization around activities like Cross-fit or obstacle racing in the recent years. With the exception of a small handful of races, we don’t see anywhere near the bonanza of sponsors that invest in other booming events.

Still, it is not a low budget that makes our sport pure. It is the care we put into our trails. It is our willingness to move across nature with old friends and new friends, suffering when we don’t have to. Our sport’s purity lies in the value we place on resilience, determination, and giving back. We are trail runners whether we pay hundreds of dollars for gear or just head out with homemade car-tire sandals.

When I motivate people to get on trails, I know full well that my encouragement is directly contributing to a commercialization of the sport. But the payoff is worth it when I see someone finish their first ultra, win their first trail race, or grow monstrous quads.

When the crowds do get overwhelming, I can simply retreat to my backyard mountains and enjoy miles of commercial-free solitude. In a few more years, when my Montrails are completely disintegrated with gaping holes and paper-thin soles, I’ll finally descend from the mountain and buy a new pair of shoes.

 Appalachian-Trail-SignPhoto: appalachianwoman.com

 

This article is part of the April 2014 Trail Runner Blog Symposium. This month’s topic was: Is trail running becoming too commercialized?

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Should Children Run Endurance Events?

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Every time I post a photo of the Redden kids on Facebook, I see the same type of comments: lots of admiration, some shock, some concern, and some downright anger.

Seth and Sabrina Redden are the proud parents of two unusual kids. Tajh (male, 11) and Teagan (female, 9) are both avid trail and ultra runners. Last year, Teagan ran her first 100K and 100-mile distance. She was nominated for the Arizona 2013 Rookie of the Year Award at mcdowellmountainman.com. Needless to say, her competitors were older than her by a large margin…as they usually are.

Team Redden is so mind-blowingly young and accomplished that Outside Magazine covered them in an article, The Art of Raising Young Ultrarunners.

View Teagan Redden’s race results.

Like the Redden kids’ Facebook page.

The debate as to whether children should be running endurance events rages on. However, it is not an entirely new concept. Children have been running marathons for a while now.

Data from the Twin Cities Marathon shows that between 1982 and 2005, 277 children have crossed the finish line ranging from ages 7 to 17 with finish times from 2:53 to 6:10.

Unfortunately, there is little scientific data on the effects of long distance running on children.

This topic intrigued us enough to chat with Seth and Sabrina Redden as well as a pediatrician on the Natural Running Network Podcast a couple of weeks ago. On the show, we discuss veganism for kids, thermoregulation in children, and a child’s eagerness to please his/her parents.

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Direct Podcast Link HERE

Here are some things that didn’t make it into the podcast:

Colby Weltland and Ed “The Jester” Ettinghausen

I had hoped to have child prodigy Colby Weltland on the show. Unfortunately, his family was traveling for a race and they were unavailable.

Colby is a 13 year old kid who has already finished several 100-mile races and aspires to be youngest Badwater finisher. I also spoke to his close family friend and pacer, Ed “The Jester”. An accomplished ultra runner, Ed has thousands of miles of experience and has mentored/paced Colby to most of his finishes.

When I asked for his insight, he wrote the following:

Just for more fodder on the subject, I know one of the concerns people have is that running at a young age will do physical and emotional harm to kids. My four kids have never run an ultra, but have run many marathons, running their first one at the ages of 8, 9, 11, and 14 (and that was because she’s a type 1 diabetic, otherwise she would have run her first one at an earlier age).

They’re all young adults now and are just fine, physically and emotionally. My 21-year-old daughter who was 8 at her first marathon just did the Disney World Half Marathon and works for Raw Threads a clothing company that specializes in running attire. She is a vendor at many of the big marathons and she still loves the running world.

I was told by many people that running a marathon at such an early age would damage her growth plates. I feel really bad now, because apparently it did stunt her growth–she’s only 5’11″!

And for me personally, although I didn’t run marathons as a kid, I did run my first two at the age of 17, and three more at the age of 18. Thirty-four years later I set three American age records: 200k, 24-hour, and 6-day, so I don’t think running long distances as a teen hurt me too much. Anyway, just thought I’d share that with you.

Oh, and one more family of young ultra runners. Brandon and Cameron Plate are from Oklahoma. They’re 12 and 13 and have both completed two 100+ mile races. Colby & I and the two of them ran together at Silverton 1,000 and ATY last year. You can find their stats on Ultrasignup as well.

Jester on . . .

Follow Colby’s blog.

Join the Run Jester Run Friends Facebook page.

Remember: There are many great programs out there like Girls on the Run and the 100 Mile Club that help introduce kids to the joy of running. They don’t have to run extreme distances to stay healthy and find a love for the outdoors.

You can check out our other running podcasts at the Natural Running Network HERE.

What are your thoughts? Should children be allowed to race ultras?
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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

My New Podcast Co-Hosting Gig

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A year ago when Caity of The Caity McCardell Show (also the sultry voice behind The Summit Seeker’s audiobook) suggested I get into podcasting, I told her it wasn’t really my thing. I had always been the tortured writer–surely nobody wanted to hear my whiny voice. However, these last few months I have been a heavy podcast consumer–listening to anything of quality and everything I could find about running–and I realized that I actually have a lot to add.

My perspective is representative of runners you don’t normally hear from on podcasts: female + trail + ultra + nomadic running bum + middle/back of pack + younger generation.

I don’t have the race wins or stats under my belt (yet?) but I think this only strengthens my viewpoint. I know and love the spirit of running and I’m passionate about the outdoors. I’m mesmerized by the history as well as the growth of trail and ultrarunning. As a newer generation, I want to adopt and preserve the sport as well as improve on it.

A few weeks ago I noticed that Coach Richard Diaz of the Natural Running Network was looking for a co-host. I sent him an email introducing myself and yada yada yada… I’m the new co-host for the Natural Running Network podcast. We are live every Friday!

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to jump on board this already-successful broadcast. It basically means I get to gab without all the technical logistics of podcasting or audience-building.

Here are my first three episodes:

Running Obsession with Charlie Engle and Dr. Michelle Cleere

Are you obsessed with running? What constitutes a running obsession? Is it healthy?

obsessed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Run 100 Miles… or More with Marshall Ulrich

What does it take to go long? How much time and training is required? Learn about hydration, nutrition, and mental endurance.

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How to Run Faster

How can proper running form improve your speed without any additional conditioning? Dissect the mechanics of running with a scientific approach.

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Follow the Natural Running Network on Blog Talk Radio.

Be sure to check out the archived episodes as well–some great stuff there for running nerds like me!

Remember, you can call in to each show with your live questions or comments.

LISTEN MORE! Other Podcasts I’ve Been On:

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Trail Runner Nation: Vanessa Runs – Everywhere

Tri Swim Coach: Interview with Vanessa Runs

Supercharge Your Life: Stanley Bronstein Interviews Vanessa Runs

Barefoot Bushcraft Radio: Featuring Vanessa Runs

The Partnerunning Show: Vanessa Runs

Run Barefoot Girl: Micah True and Volunteerism

The Labyrinth: Vanessa Rodriguez

Happy listening!

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Check out my book: The Summit Seeker

Why I Run 100 Milers

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It has been two months since I released my first book, and although I have an entire chapter in there about how silly the “Why do we run?” questions is, it ironically has become the most common question I’ve been asked since then in interviews and podcasts. And so I have been forced to formulate a rough answer.

That, combined with the fact that I am now five days away from running my fifth 100-mile race (the Zion 100 in Springdale, Utah), I find myself in an introspective mood, and very much wishing to answer that question for myself.

Why run 100 miles?

There has been some debate going on in the blogosphere as to the value of racing. Why not just enjoy trail “training” runs, without the pressure of a goal race? Why bother with the entry fee, the crowds, the packet pickup? And I can certainly see some validity to those arguments.

I think of my friends like Jason Robillard or Ashley Walsh, who have questioned the sanity of running 100-mile races and have more or less given them up (for now). On a rational level, their arguments make sense. Yet the 100-mile distance still calls to me, whispering my name through sandy canyon walls and from the top of rocky summits.

Over the months, I have seen friends enter ultras and drop out because it was “boring.” This, I don’t understand. A race can be many things for me, but boring is never one of them. When I was a kid, if I ever complained about being bored, my dad would make me do pushups or clean the toilet, so that may explain my aversion to the state of boredom. Plus I can’t shake my father’s voice ringing in my ears: “Only boring people get bored!”

No, I am never bored on the trail.

I think of my friend Christian Peterson who is forever encouraging me to balance my training with Crossfit-ish supplementation, a detour that I have embraced for Zion 100. My mileage decreased in favor of strength work, core work, plyometrics, and even yoga. Though I enjoy when a workout change leaves me expectantly sore, I can’t help but also think of my friend Nathaniel Wolfe who wisely advises: “Stop trying to get in shape. Just do what you love and let your body take whatever shape is best suited.”

What I love is running more miles. Maybe “balance” isn’t the best thing to strive for when training for a 100? Maybe balanced people don’t run 100 milers.

So why run 100s?

I’ve spent the last couple of days of digging through my brain for a list of reasons. I was hoping for a Top 5, or a Top 10 list, but I could only come up with one thing.

Quite simply, I run 100 miles because it’s the only thing I do that demands my all.

Every.

Last.

Ounce.

Of.

Me.

This distance takes from me all that I have, and the thrill of surrendering myself to the trail—to that extreme—is unparalleled.

I was inspired this week by the music of Joe Pug, who seemed to speak to my 100-mile aspirations in his Hymn #76:

“To love me is to sit upon the mountain.

Every step is harder than the last.

But to find a step above it, is to triumph—is to summit.

Taste the frigid water from the tap.”

I need some things in my life to be hard. I need some things to demand more of me—to insist on everything.

Every so often, I need more than a training run. I need to pour all my heart out… in a race like this.

WELCOME TO ZION

Direct YouTube link HERE

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Answering Patagonia: A Wild Call to an Untamed Land

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Before Alaska and before moving into the RV, there was Noble Canyon. It was while running down this much-loved, familiar trail with my good friend Christine Bilange that my eyes were first opened to Central and South American possibilities.

Christine urged me to not disregard my Central American roots so easily, to reconcile and re-connect with my father and my family in El Salvador, and to seriously consider the possibility of returning south for a cheaper and more natural life.

When my legs are tired, my mind is open, and I had 60ish miles on my legs that week. I went on to run a 100-mile training week at Noble Canyon, summiting every day for five days, and spending several of those miles thinking about what Christine had said. Before that day, I had envisioned myself living in the US for the rest of my life. Why not? We had everything here.

I had even scoffed at Shacky’s suggestion months ago that we look into Central/South American living. “Why would I want to go back there??” I demanded. “My parents worked so hard to get us out…”

But I knew that South American living was cheap, I knew that the land was still rugged and raw, and I felt a strong southern pull on my heart.

“We’re moving South!” I exclaimed to Shacky when I met up with him at the bottom of the canyon. He raised his eyebrows.

Instead, we drove north.

And we continue north—toward Alaska. But the South/Central American seed is still there. Shacky has begun following blogs of American expats who are living full-time in South and Central America. He has come up with places to visit, and spots to camp.

I have begun reading in Spanish and following a blog about El Salvador. We have discussed running across El Salvador (only 160 miles!), and I even had the brilliant idea of running from the northernmost point in Alaska to the southernmost point in South America. This would take us three to four years, but Shacky still needs some convincing (maybe include the PCT?).

This month, my dad is in El Salvador looking into charities and logistics to support a run across that country (this would be the first time it has ever been done). He’s doing the legwork as far as security and supplies, and I’m back in touch with him after almost two years of silence.

Many weeks after Noble Canyon and Christine, I found myself sitting in a Volkswagen dealership in Arizona when a Skype call from Nick Barraza came in. He wanted to talk about the Patagonian International Marathon (ultra distance available), the conservation efforts in Chile, and the Patagonian Ambassador Program. His timing was impeccable.

Listening to him describe Patagonia, I knew we had to go there. Nick took me on as a Patagonian Ambassador and I got this lovely profile page, alongside some awesome names like Krissy Moehl and Dylan Bowman. I am truly honored.

But what excites me the most is Nick’s descriptions of the conservation efforts in Chile, and the mountains there. I have a vision of us spending several months in Chile, working first-hand for this cause, and running those mountains.

I asked Nick for an interview to try to express the lure of Patagonia. Perhaps you will also feel drawn to this wild land.

Interview with Nick Barraza

NickBWhat is it that calls you to Patagonia?

As with any natural area of beauty and wonder, Patagonia speaks to the adventurer in me. The biodiversity, pristine lakes, breathtaking glaciers, and majestic rock formations make this region extremely special. In short, my inner-coyote howls for Patagonia.

How did you get involved with this race?

Now that is a long story! After completing the inaugural marathon in 2012 I had accumulated a handful of ideas along the run. Wanting to aid Nomadas International Group SA (NIGSA) in their quest to promote and aid conservation in the Patagonian region, I initiated contact with the company and offered my support and work in any form possible.

What do you hope that runners will gain from this experience?

I hope runners are inspired to come down to Torres del Paine, Patagonia and partake in this collective and international effort to spread education and inspiration around the conservational efforts taking place throughout region.

Runners will not only be able to see one of the earth’s most precious landscapes, but also dip their feet into Chilean and Patagonian culture. This event connects local Chilean runners with runners from all around the world and brings people together to celebrate the culture and preservation of Patagonia.

How have you been involved with conservation?

Studying and researching as an Environmental Scientist has always led me, in one way or another, to a conservation project.

However, it was not just my degree and path of study that led me to participate in various aspects of local and global conservation. In fact, most of my involvement with conservation has been through volunteering within local communities.

What is your favorite memory in Patagonia?

Ah, now this is wonderful question, and a very special one too! As a result of running the race in Torres (and a long story to follow), I met my amazing girlfriend and partner in crime in the heart of Patagonia.

Little did I know that three months after the race we would both end up leaving our respective jobs to set out on a three-month backpacking excursion through Chile, Argentina, and Peru.

Our journey changed my life in ways I would have never thought possible. The magic of Patagonia is responsible for harboring our initial connection and for that I am eternally grateful.

What is your favorite Patagonia wildlife and why?

Well, I am a big fan of foxes, that’s why I have a dog that looks just like one! However, I am going to go with the region favorite on this one and say guanacos. Let’s just say they have very intriguing personalities and tend to showcase these personalities through spitting at passing trekkers. They are very amusing creatures! Google them!

Besides attending the race, how can people get involved?

For people that cannot make the event, we invite you to join us in our quest to spread education on the sustainable initiatives taking place in the Patagonian region. Connecting with the event on Facebook, Twitter (@PatagonMarathon), and helping us share and promote the race and organizations the event supports.

Also, we invite anyone and everyone to post blog entries, pieces in magazines, local newspapers, etc., to help get the word out there. If you do decide to do this, please let us know, so we can feature your piece on our site and social media networks!

We have also created the Patagonian Ambassador Program. Which seeks to partner with runners, writers, filmmakers, and any one else who is inspired and passionate about our event and conservation in Patagonia. You can view the program HERE.

If you are interested in becoming a part of this amazing team of ambassadors please get in touch with us at info@patagonianinternationalmarathon.com

Patagonian International Marathon Video

Direct YouTube link HERE

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Has Ultrarunning Evolved Past Western States?

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On April 1st, the eyes of ultrarunners across the country lit up when they read about the drastic changes to the Western States 100 course. You can read the article on irunfar here: Western States Announces Changes.

Minutes (hours?) later, hopes were shattered when runners learned the article was actually an April Fool’s joke and Western States was still same old, same old.

But the real joke, it seems, was on Western States.

Tracking the excitement around the changes, followed by the let-down of the prank, I wonder whether ultrarunners are begging for a real change.

The article proposed changes that would make the course harder, the most popular change being a hard 24-hour cutoff.

Western States’ own godfather Gordon Ainsleigh famously ran the course for the first time in under 24 hours, and was thrilled with the new “changes”. His Facebook post:

“It’s great to be a part of this epic improvement in the race I started… It’s finally getting back to the way it was when I did it in 1974: Just 3 aid-station/crew-access points… About time!”

His comment when he found out it was a joke?

“Oh, shift! Was it all a tragicomic dream?”

Jokes aside, Ainsleigh actually has some realistic and innovative ideas to make the race:

a) harder

b) guaranteed entry for everyone

c) more accessible to 55+ seniors

If even a stubborn old man like Gordy knows it’s time to evolve the race, perhaps it’s time we listened.

Yes, Western States has the historic appeal. Yes, it has the hype and the hoopla. But are runners starting to say this is no longer enough?

Sherpa John wrote a great post on his Western States experience that actually made me think that I never want to run it. You can read it here: Western States Thoughts

I entered the WS lottery for the first time last year, secretly hoping that I wouldn’t get in. We had plans to spend the summer in Alaska, and Western States would have conflicted.

Still, it seemed that entering the lottery was the thing to do and I couldn’t be a “real” ultrarunner unless I threw my name in like everyone else, never mind that I have five buckles sitting in the RV.

I realize now how lame this was and I’m relieved I didn’t get in. I doubt I’ll qualify or enter the next lottery. What bothers me the most is that the races I want to run aren’t qualifying races, yet they’re much harder than the qualifiers.

I have my eye on a 100-miler in Alaska this summer and I’ll be running Zion 100 in three weeks (neither are qualifiers). I ran the last Chimera 100, and was shocked to learn that although it was not a qualifier, the Old Goat 50 (exactly half of the Chimera course), was. It makes no sense.

The races I seek out are newer, grassroot events. So my chances of qualifying are pretty low, even though I’ll end up with some rock hard mountain miles under my belt.

I haven’t been around this sport long enough to have an expert, informed opinion. But I do know what ultrarunning means to me. It’s not about the politics, hype, and drama of Western States.

It’s certainly NOT about entering a race because you’re “supposed” to.

It’s about community. It’s about mountain solitude. It’s about accessibility for all who are crazy enough to attempt a race. And if a race can’t be accessible to everyone, it better be extremely hard.

I’m curious about where others weigh in on this. What are your thoughts?

Check out the Facebook discussion HERE.

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10 Overlooked Rights Worth Fighting For

rights worth fighting for

As a Canadian living in the USA, one of the first things I noticed upon moving here was how gung-ho Americans seemed to be about fighting for their rights. Issues like gun control, health care, and other common themes are sure to raise blood pressures and trigger heated debates.

Yet the greatest inhibitions in life are the ones we place on ourselves, and that has certainly been true for me. These past few months I have been attacking the obstacles that have been preventing me from embracing true freedom, and I’ve discovered that these are rights many of us have overlooked. And unlike many major political issues, these things affect us every day, several times a day.

Exercising the following rights has freed me in many ways, and I hope they will also inspire you to live better:

1. I will exercise my right to take my time.

Do you know what the worst part of a minimum wage job is (I’ve had several)? It’s not the crappy hours or the pathetic pay. It’s the 30-minute lunch breaks. Lunch in 30 minutes?! That’s unheard of. I’m a one- to two-hour lunch girl. I’m also a slow eater.

I’m slow at chewing. I’m slow at swallowing. And when I’m done, I’ll probably want dessert. God help you if I make tea—I’ll just sit there sipping until the sun goes down.

When I lived in Mendoza, Argentina, I quickly adapted to their European model of eating lunch. Everyone went home at lunchtime, prepared lunch, took their sweet-ass time eating, and then took long naps. They went back to work at around 3 p.m., and worked until around 7 p.m.. Now there’s a decent life.

The truth is, I’m slow at most things. I’m a slow runner. I’m slow at waking up. And I’m slow at thinking my thoughts and writing them down.

But I like to think that these things are worth the wait. Great things need time to just sit around, like wine or sauerkraut or cheese (more about cheese later). Slowing down also gives me time to make sense of my world, and write posts like these.

Ever since I left the corporate world to bum around the country in an RV, I’ve been less apologetic about taking my time. I’ve exercised my right to move slowly. As a result, I’ve noticed a drastic boost in creativity. I get more and better ideas. My thoughts have time to develop and intertwine. I write better, with more clarity, and I can make better connections.

If you operate in a rushed environment, I strongly encourage you to slow down. I was always afraid to try this, especially at work because everyone around me was moving so fast and I worried I would get left behind. But I wish I had been brave enough to slow down sooner. I would have been better at my job, better at relationships, and better at life.

Practice saying these amazing phrases:

“I need more time.”

“I’m not finished with that yet.”

“Please come back later.”

And every once in a while, take a long lunch. A REALLY long lunch. Make a cup of tea and drink it slowly with a friend. Yes, life is short. But these are the simple pleasures that make life worth it.

2. I will exercise my right to sing and/or dance.

A few weeks ago we were shopping at Trader Joe’s. Shacky was looking for some eggs and I found a little corner where they were giving away cheese samples. CHEEEEESE!! I love cheese, but I’ve been on a mostly-vegan diet since May (plant-based is a more accurate description). It was really good quality cheese though, so I decided to make an exception and try a sample.

I hadn’t eaten cheese in quite a while and it was so freaking good that I wanted to hop up and down and do a little dance. But I didn’t. Cause I was at Trader Joe’s and it was crowded. But I should have.

This wasn’t the first time I suppressed a little dance. I usually feel like singing on the trails, but sometimes Shacky says, “Do you really have to sing This Land is Your Land again??” Still, I don’t want to suppress stuff anymore. If I’m happy, I should do a little jig.

I love cheese.

3. I will exercise my right to make a joke.

When I was trying to be a cool kid back in the age range when being cool was important (Jr. High), Yo Mama jokes were in style. So were any other insult-jokes.

Like this:

  • Yo mama is so stupid that it took her two hours to watch 60 Minutes.
  • What’s the difference between three penises and a joke? Your mom can’t take a joke.
  • Learn from your parents’ mistakes—use birth control.

I loved jokes. I would go to the library to read joke books, but they weren’t insult jokes. My favorite joke of all time was this:

Q: Why was the math book sad?

A: Because it had so many PROBLEMS!!”

HAH. Still a damn fine joke.

But I never got to tell it. Because the exchange below never quite seemed like a natural flow:

Other kid: Yo mama is so fat that when she gets in an elevator, it has to go down.

Me: Why was the math book sad?

As the years passed, I never really grew out of my silly sense of humor. I always had a quirky funny bone, and I would often find myself laughing alone at things that nobody else thought were funny.

I grew up with a sarcastic and teasing sense of humor. In my family, if someone teased you until you cried or until you became raging mad—that meant that they loved you. I have vivid memories of my dad making me cry this way. I can’t say I always enjoyed it, but his sense of humor did seem to rub off on me.

My uncles were the same way. They would torment each other, and that was how they showed love. But at school, they called that bullying.

In Junior High, I had a good friend that I teased in music class one day. I told him that his new haircut made him look like he had cancer. My teacher heard me, and lost his mind. He threw his music stand across the room, screamed at me, and made me leave the class. I was shocked. What did I say?

At that time, my mom was dying of leukemia and it was actually something we joked about at home. Humor was a coping mechanism and I genuinely had no idea that cancer was a sensitive issue.

After that outburst from my music teacher (who I loved and admired), I learned to heavily sensor my humor. Even now, I have a sarcastic, dirty, and hard-hitting funny bone. I still sensor myself a lot.

But I’m learning to let go. To just be who I am, even at the risk of offending others. Yes, I can seem callous and inappropriate. But there’s something to be said about humor as a tool for healing. We are hurting, but it hurts less if we can joke about it. We are starving, but our stomachs can be filled with laughter.

One of my biggest reliefs in life is when I hear someone else make a highly inappropriate joke that I also think is funny. The realization that they have the same sense of humor—and that I can be myself with them—is so liberating.

I can tease others mercilessly, but I can also roll with the hardest of jokes when they are directed at me. The best thing in life is to be able to laugh at yourself. And when someone laughs at me—I still feel loved.

Last month, I took Shacky to meet my uncles in L.A. I was a little worried because I didn’t know how they would act around Shacky. As soon as they opened the door, the first thing they did was tease him about his beard. And they continued to do so for the rest of the night, as new beard jokes occurred to them.

To me, the thought of teasing someone immediately after meeting them, before “feeling them out”, is a huge risk. I think twice. But to see my uncles do it so naturally, I had to smile. They were being themselves.

4. I will exercise my right to look you in the eye.

“EX-CUUUUUSE ME! Do you have a staring problem??!!”

This was said to me by a snarky little black girl in my elementary school class. She scared me a little. But she was right—I had a staring problem. I like to look at people.

What can I say, people are pretty interesting. Faces are cool. But direct eye contact was considered rude.

  • Don’t look at strangers.
  • Don’t stare.
  • Keep your eyes to yourself.

All of these were things I was taught in school and in other social settings. So I stopped looking. Until eye contact seemed weird and uncomfortable. I lost my childlike courage to stare.

But I don’t really believe staring is a problem. I think I have a right to look you in the eye. You left your house this morning. You went out in public. We’re in a public space. So I believe I can look at you quite freely. I can wonder about you or think you’re pretty, or admire your clothes. And who knows, I may even say hello.

I’m tired of averting my eyes. I want to see you and notice details about you, and maybe even recognize you the next time we meet. And if you look back, maybe we can share a smile.

5. I will exercise my right to be silent.

My ex-boyfriend was a talker. I was always more of a listener, so I learned to perfect the art of acknowledgment-noises. Like:

“Yes.”

“Hm.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Interesting.”

Shacky doesn’t have any acknowledgment noises. So when I tell him something, sometimes he doesn’t reply at all. “Did he hear me?” I wonder. So I tell him again. No response. Again?

Eventually he just says, “I wish you’d be quiet.” And I have to laugh.

He DID hear me. But he exercises his right to be silent, and I’m learning to do the same.

Sometimes when I’m running in a group, I feel pressure to talk. It’s pressure I put on myself, thinking I have to fill every silence or people will realize I’m actually pretty boring to run with.

But silence is awesome, and I have a right to shut the hell up. I don’t have to make shallow, meaningless acknowledgment noises. I don’t have to rack my brain for something to say. I can just listen and talk when I want to.

Silence doesn’t mean that I’m mad. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong, yet often that’s what we assume. We think everything is cool as long as someone is gabbing.

In journalism school, one of my professors gave me a valuable tip that I never forgot. I’ve used it often with tremendous results. It’s this:

When you’re interviewing someone, ask them a question and let them reply. After that, there’s a lull. A short silence. The interviewer’s instinct is to fill this silence with a response, or by asking the next question. But if the interviewer is brave enough to remain silent, the interviewee will start speaking again. They will answer the question a different way. Because they’re out of their standard reply, what they say next is usually genuine, raw, and often the blatant truth. More often than not, they reveal something truly insightful and fascinating in an effort to fill that silence.

My professor was an expert with this technique, sometimes staying silent long enough for the interviewee to provide two or three answers. The key is for the interviewer to be comfortable with silence. They must perfect the ability to look at someone and just smile, knowing that they are waiting for you to say something, but refusing to utter a word.

I have been trying to eliminate wasteful words from my daily life. I want to stick to words that come from the heart and that mean something. Words with intention.

And if I have nothing to say—I will exercise my right to say nothing at all.

6. I will exercise my right to get excited.

Getting excited is never cool, especially when you’re a teenager. As a teenager, I would get excited about most things, so I was a pretty big nerd.

I would get excited about books, about nature, about learning, and even about homework. I would wonder how things were made, and I would get excited about that too. The cool kids were indifferent and unimpressed. That’s what made them cool. They would roll their eyes at me, so eventually I learned to stop showing my excitement.

I still get excited about a lot of things, but I’ll also still catch myself suppressing my excitement (see section above re: cheese dance). It’s a bad habit formed over time that I need to shake off.

I miss getting really excited about stuff. I miss jumping up and down and clapping my hands. I miss high-fives. I miss lingering at a rock formation or a sign, to examine them thoroughly and then get excited about them.

In my mind, I still see the rolling eyes of those judgmental teenagers, even though they’re no longer part of my life. It’s time to exercise my right to excited about dumb stuff.

7. I will exercise my right to experiment.

Jason Robillard has just written a book (to be released soon) on trail and ultrarunning. He calls it a “Guide for Weird Folks” because it contains a plethora of lessons and experiences he has accumulated over years of experimentation and doing the opposite of conventional running wisdom.

As a result, his book is full of tips that you will not find anywhere else. Jason has experimented with various forms of sleep deprivation training, stomach training (how to run on both a full stomach as well as an empty one), and even when it’s best to wear cotton instead of tech clothing. He has done everything from running in a sun hat to duct taping his gonads (sans instructional video). He even covers grooming in the nether regions for endurance runners (hair, no hair, or some hair?). It’s quite a read.

The success of Jason’s blog, and the pending success of his book, is a great example of the power of experimentation. I’m a big fan of guinea-pig-style writing, and I’m strong advocate of experimentation.

It used to be that ultrarunning was such a niche sport that participants HAD to experiment to find what worked for them. These days there is so much written about training and race tips, that you could easily follow conventional wisdom and, in my opinion, miss out on valuable knowledge.

Our society isn’t set up to encourage experimentation. We are consumers of the tried and true. We want someone to tell us what works so we don’t have to try new things. But experimentation is still the best way.

My ultrarunning experience can be summed up by stating that I’ve had great success by doing all the wrong things. I increased my distance too fast. I don’t taper. I almost always try something new on race day, including shoes. One thing that experimentation teaches me is the incredible skill of adaptability.

And really—what is an ultramarathon finish if not a successful adaptation to all the challenges faced throughout the day? Experiment, experiment, experiment. In this sport, there are no rules—same with life.

8. I will exercise my right to do my best.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?… Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you… As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

This is a quote that resonates with me. Often, I seem fearless on the outside. But my deepest fears are rooted in the fact that I’m afraid of what I could become if I did my absolute best.

It all started in elementary. I would do well in class, and get labeled a nerd. So I learned to hold back. I learned to do well, but not too good. I learned to never do my best.

When I started running ultras, I quickly learned that I was pretty good at it. I ran my first sub-6-hour 50K early on in my ultra career. I jumped from the 50K distance straight to 100 miles. I finished 100 miles on my first attempt. And in that same year, I finished four 100s.

Even so—I still hold myself back. During races, if I’m running fast and feeling good, I think:

  • I shouldn’t feel this good. Something must be wrong. I should slow down.
  • I don’t deserve to finish this strong. I should move slower.
  • People with more experience are further behind me. I should slow down.
  • I’m not hurting, but everyone else is walking. I should walk too.
  • I’ve had a really good running year. I should finish this, but not push too hard.

Deep down, I’m afraid of what I could become if I truly did my best. Like that elementary student, I want to do well but not stand out. I’m terrified of my limits. Not because they will hold me back, but because I may discover that I actually have none.

Little by little, I’m conquering those fears. I’m signing up for harder mountain races. I’m starting to expand my training: more core and strength work, with the purpose of getting stronger. I’m experimenting with more uphill running, instead of just power hiking. It’s a slow process, and sometimes I’m still very afraid. But I know that I don’t have to measure myself by anyone else’s standards. I can do my best, and soar to new heights.

And yes—I do deserve it.

9. I will exercise my right to fail.

From an early age, we set up our children for success. We try to give them every advantage, every head start, and the smoothest road possible to an easy and profitable life.

But don’t we learn better from a face full of dirt after a hard fall? From scrapped knees and bloody hands and hot tears? We learn from our failures, and we learn fast.

That’s how I grew up: with the face-full-of-dirt technique. That’s how I learned to ride a bike, to run on trails, to attack life’s challenges. Yes, some things were harder, like fitting in at school, but there was one thing I learned from growing up this way that has brought me great success: I lost my fear of failure.

I’m not sure it’s after your 100th time, or after your 1000th time of failing that you lose the fear of failure, but eventually it does go away. Failure just becomes a way of saying to yourself, “Try again another way.”

I have said before that when I registered for Chimera 100, I knew deep inside that I could not finish it. I embraced the possibility of failure, and started training my ass off. Had I been terrified of failure, I never would have registered. I never would have finished.

You know that feeling right after you register for a race, or take on a huge task where your blood pressure starts to rise and you think, “Dear God, what have I just done??!!” That’s good. That means you’re exercising your right to fail.

At my second 100-mile attempt, I failed. It was Nanny Goat 100. I only made it to 55 miles, and I felt pretty dumb because it was supposed to be an “easy” course. But the course was a 1-mile loop, and after 55 miles, the loops really got to me. I just gave up mentally. I just didn’t care anymore.

I learned so many things from that failure. I tried a few more looped courses, like Across the Years 72-Hours (1-mile loop for 3 days), and confirmed what I learned at Nanny Goat: I’m not really built for these types of courses. Give me mountains. Give me water crossings. Even give me mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and bears. But if you give me a loop where I’m going nowhere, I’ll want to shoot my brains out.

I still love the challenge of looped courses and greatly admire the folks who can buckle up and knock them out, but my failure at Nanny Goat taught me what my strengths were.

Failure is a shortcut to learning. The greater the failure, the stronger the lesson is reinforced. Embrace it.

10. I will exercise my right to dream ridiculously big.

“What the hell are you trying to do, run 100 miles someday??”

The biting words of my ex-boyfriend still ring in my ears. His tone was one of such deep disgust, and I knew he meant for me to be offended at his suggestion. It was right after I had come home from a long run, and he couldn’t understand why on earth I needed (or wanted) to be out running all day.

But I did want to run 100 miles. And how do you even begin to explain that to someone?

In life, I have learned that there are dreamers and there are dream-killers. Associate with dreamers.

Dreamers will not care WHAT your dream is or how ridiculous it sounds. They think you can do it, and will cheer you on.

  • You want to run a 50K on little training, Trisha Reeves? Oh ya, you totally got it.
  • You want to run across the country with no money and no shoes, Patrick Sweeney? Easy peasy. Go for it.
  • You want to backpack across Central America by yourself through dangerous places, Jess Soco? Totally doable.

It doesn’t matter how ridiculous your dreams are, or if they’re even about running. Dreamers will cheer you on. That’s because dreamers know just how possible the impossible really is. And they’re often right.

Despite what others think of your skills, capabilities, or experience: You have a right to dream big. Not just a little big. Ridiculously, that-makes-no-sense, you-must-be-insane big. The kind of big that everyone—except for dreamers—will scoff at.

It’s your right to hold on to your dream. To nurture it, protect it, and grow it.

I threw myself unreasonably into my first 100-miler after only a small handful of 50K finishes. It was senseless and crazy and unheard of. But the dreamers in my life said: “You want to race 100 miles after only a few mediocre 50K finishes? You can do it.”

And so I did.

I have to smile whenever I read ultrarunning how-to articles that caution you on going slow, staying safe, and “never do anything new on race day”-type advice. Of course, this is all very reasonable advice. I cannot deny these tips, and it is your right to follow those wise words.

However, it is also your right to take a huge chance. To be reckless and completely crazy and just dream big. Really really really big.

You can do it.

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YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:

Seeking Dispersers: A Call to Embrace a Wild Life

East Jesus in Slab City: Finding Community in the Desert

Alaska-Bound and Other Adventures

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CHECK OUT THE SUMMIT SEEKER HERE:

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Seeking Dispersers: A Call to Embrace A Wild Life

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A few months after quitting our jobs and hitting the road, Shacky and I have had the unique experience of meeting many people and noting their reactions to our new lifestyle. We are carefree, scruffy, and drawn like magnets to the most remote and off-the-grid locations. We don’t shower often and are sometimes mud-splattered. Frankly, we expected some disdain from civilized society. But these have been the reactions:

One older gentleman stared at Shacky from afar, then approached him and said, “You look like you lead an interesting life.”

A weed-loving hippie spotted us at a trailhead, and greeted us warmly like life-long friends.

A couple of young men hover around the RV and try hard to look inside. When they see that we own it, they yell, “Well done!”

People say we are living the dream. Not the American dream of working hard and building a comfortable life, but the other dream of wandering the planet with little possessions and no plans to speak of. When people hear of our lifestyle, their eyes light up.

Are we all drawn to a nomadic life?

A few months ago I read a great article by Mike Miller about our genetic disposition for high risk and high reward. Suddenly, everything made perfect sense.

Miller begins by telling the story of seven of his friends whose lives ended early. Many reaped some amazing rewards in their short lives, but walked dangerous ground. Miller then goes on to examine our own human draw to a lifestyle of high risk.

He tells it better than I can, so here is his article:

By Mike Miller

I’ve had a lot of time lately to reflect on Micah’s life and death. I’ve shared some of those thoughts in other venues but I’ve also had the opportunity to step back and ponder the bigger picture, because for me, Micah was not the first larger-than-life, charismatic, dynamic, inspirational man to enter my life, change the way I think, and leave again far too early.

For me, he was the seventh.

There are many commonalities amongst all of these men, and I’ve been thinking about things like:

  • What makes for a well-lived life?
  • What makes for a good death?
  • Why does it seem like the best among us leave far too soon?
  • What is it that made these men who they were?
  • And what drove them to do the things they did?

I would love to tell you stories about all these great men, because there are amazing stories to be told, but I don’t think I have eight days to speak so I’ll try to keep it brief.

I’ll tell you about a biologist friend of mine who studied the world’s greatest carnivores, grizzlies and Siberian tigers. In the end, he was killed and eaten by a bear at age 49.

Another friend was one of the world’s best mountain climbers. He was killed in an avalanche at age 40.

Another was an endurance athlete who didn’t own a car, but rather rode to races on his single speed road bike. He was a Hardrocker, and a finisher of a race where he ran 700 miles in 12 days. He died in the last mile of the Tucson marathon at age 40.

My own father was born into an Amish family, but when he was 12 his neighbor took him for a ride in his plane. Four years later, my father left his family and the Amish community to pursue his dream of being a pilot. When he died, he was a pilot for a commercial airline, captain of the 747. He was killed in the crash of a plane that he wasn’t even flying at age 58.

These five men all died doing the things that they loved. Every one of them however, had taken great risks in their lives. In the end, they died doing things that for them were relatively easy and safe.

For most people, the things they were doing would have been impossible, dangerous, physically demanding, lonely, and frightening. But for these men it was what they did every day of their lives. They were doing what they loved, but that’s not what killed them.

They died not because their activities were dangerous, but because they spent so much time doing those things that pure statistical probability made it likely that they would be doing them when their time came.

That’s beautiful, man. I hope we all live lives like that.

I miss all these men greatly and would gladly give a year of my life for one more week with any one of them. But they led amazing lives and died well with no regrets. I cannot feel sad for them, only for us who have been left behind.

But I said there were seven and I’ve only mentioned five.

Another friend who had also been a grizzly bear biologist left that field and became a computer programmer because he thought it would be a more secure future. He chose safety, but he always regretted that decision. He used to tell me “Bart and Alex are out there making a life and I’m stuck here making a living.”

He was making plans to move to Alaska and join his friend Bart, but instead died in front of his computer late one night of a brain aneurism. He was 45.

Sure, Bart got eaten by a bear and Alex died in an avalanche. You might think they died because they lived risky lives. But they had no regrets and they outlived my friend who had chosen safety and regretted it. That is truly sad.

Safety is an illusion, my friends. It doesn’t exist.

We cannot control the timing or manner of our passing, but we can control our lives. The lesson of this is to live the best life we can and not get so caught up being afraid of death.

The seventh one pains me most of all. Another spectacular, larger than life personality. He grew up in Jackson Hole in the 50s and became a mountaineer and skier, putting up many first ascents and first descents.

He had to move to Canada because his conscience wouldn’t allow him to fight. When he came back to the States many years later, he became my friend. We skied and climbed together for a couple years before he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer and given six months to live.

He beat that by three years and we got to climb a few more mountains together, but in the end he suffered a long, painful death that was terrible to watch, fighting with insurance companies and kept alive by drugs and machines.

Although he lived longer than any of my other friends, I would not have wished that on any of them. It would have been a fate far worse.

I’ve thought a lot over the years about these men and what made them different. As a biologist, I can tell you that in every population of animals there is a small segment of the populations that are prone to disperse.

These dispersers don’t stay at home and fight for a territory to defend. They head off into the unknown by themselves. Many of them die lonely deaths in wild places, but occasionally one succeeds. They find another population or an empty patch of habitat where they can be wildly successful, spreading their genes far and wide. That keeps the dispersal gene from going extinct.

It is a high risk, high reward strategy, but it is critical. Without these dispersers, populations would not be able to expand, or adapt. They would become inbred and stagnant and eventually extinct. Dispersers keep populations vital by connecting them.

Humans have a dispersal gene too. Throughout history, humans have struck out in search of new lands and new people, undaunted by the risk they take. In today’s world there are no undiscovered lands, but there are still empty places in the world and people to connect to.

Dispersers are out there climbing the peaks, studying the wildlife, flying the skies, running the trails, and connecting with new people. They can’t help it. It’s in their genes.

Unfortunately in today’s world, there are fewer and fewer outlets for dispersers and many of them end up stuck in cubicles trying to shoehorn themselves into a life that somehow never seems to fit. They have an innate, deep-seeded need to get out, so they go outside before or after work.

They dream of travelling the world and seeing new places and meeting new people. Their non-disperser friends will never understand why they can’t help themselves.

If you are a Disperser, there are some qualities that you’d better have if you’re going to be successful:

1. You better be strong because you are going to encounter some hardship and you may have to defend yourself.

2. You better have a positive attitude because you just have to believe that the grass is greener on the other side.

3. You better persevere because you have a long way to go.

4. You better be comfortable alone, because you’re going to be alone a lot.

5. You better be smart so you can adapt to changing situations.

6. You better be peaceable because when you get to where you are going, it will be you against everyone else.

7. You better be charismatic because you’re going to want the people you meet to like you.

8. You’d better have love in your heart because the whole point is to spread genes, right?

Have you ever watched nature shows on TV? You’ve seen the dispersing wolf trying to ingratiate themselves into a new pack. They don’t come in aggressive and belligerent. They come in humble and submissive, wagging their tails. You see the same thing amongst children on a playground or musicians entering a picking circle at a bluegrass festival.

This too is a trait of dispersers and I suspect that if someone had been there to observe it, it would have been the way that Micah approached the Raramuri, humble and submissive and wagging his tail. It works.

We know what Micah did for the Raramuri. The race provided food and money to many but Micah didn’t want to just give them handouts to meet their material needs. He also wanted to show them that they were respected and honored by many other people and that they should be proud of their culture. That is not a lesson that they heard very often. The Raramuri responded.

Micah did the same for many of us. Us Dispersers. He gave us a name. He called us Mas Locos, and when the world was at war he brought us together in peace at the bottom of a canyon in Mexico, because that’s what Dispersers do. They connect us.

He taught us, like the Raramuri, that we are not alone. That there are others out there like us who have never really felt part of this modern world. He provided a venue where we could express all the innate qualities we share: strength, perseverance, peace, love, humility. He instilled in us a sense of pride in who we are, and we went home changed people.

Now that Micah has left us, I hope that we will take his lessons to heart and we will disperse out into the world with peace and love in our hearts and strength in our bodies. I hope we will find ways to make it a more connected and vital place.

Micah showed us one way, but there are many others. It’s up to us to find them. While we are searching for our own path, I hope we keep in mind one last trait that all of my friends have shared: They gave back far more than they ever got out of the world, and they never bothered to collect much in the way of material wealth.

Instead, they collected experience and relationships. When they died, they were wealthy and happy men. It’s a high-risk strategy, but the rewards are also great. Giving is more powerful than getting.

I’d like to finish with a word to the non-dispersers out there:

You will never understand us. We know that, just as we will never understand you. The things we do seem risky and frightening to you. You are going to give us advice like:

  • Never run alone.
  • Always tell someone where you are going.
  • Be prepared for anything and always carry a massive pack loaded with rain gear, warm layers, extra food and water, a huge first aid kit, a flashlight, a cell phone, a GPS, and a SPOT.

It’s good advice and we should probably take it, but often we will respectfully ignore you because we are Dispersers. Our destiny lies in places beyond the reach of cell phones and search parties. We have to travel light, and we have to be free to adapt to changing conditions.

We are comfortable being alone and we are comfortable with a little risk. The things we do are not frightening to us. We don’t do them in order to face fear. We do them because it is what fuels our spirit and recharges our soul. We can’t help ourselves. It’s in our genes.

Sure, some of us will die out there in the lonely wild places, but we are OK with that because we are more concerned with living than dying.

Dying in the woods does not frighten us. What frightens us are cities and paperwork, car crashes, and sitting on a sofa watching TV. We fear dying a long, slow death trapped in a bed, and becoming a financial and emotional burden to our loved ones.

I’m not here to tell you to be stupid, take risks, ignore safety, or be unprepared. But nothing in that advice would have kept my friends from dying. It may have shortened the search, but it wouldn’t have saved their lives.

Ultimately, everyone is responsible for assuming the level of risk they are comfortable with, and there is nothing wrong with being safe. But there is nothing wrong with an occasional calculated risk either.

If Micah had listened to that advice, he would never have gone to Guatemala in the middle of a civil war and would not have gotten the name Caballo Blanco. He probably would not have become a trail runner because there were no other people to run with in those days.

He would not have met the Raramuri in Leadville, traveled to Copper Canyon to live with them, and he would never have started his race. Many of us would not have been inspired and the world would have missed something beautiful.

If Micah hadn’t done these things, he would never have met Maria or Guadajuko. His last few years might have been lonely and sad rather than full of love and peace and joy. I want to say a special thanks to Maria for providing that to him in his final years.

So please, let us go.

Let us explore, connect, and inspire. Head off into the wild, lonely, empty places with wild abandon. Let us go beyond the range of cell phones and search parties. We know what we are doing; we are listening to out hearts and following our destinies.

RELATED ARTICLES:

How I Retired by Age 30

Ultrarunning Through 2012: My Year in Review

East Jesus in Slab City: Finding Community in the Desert

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