Wandering Spirits - Page 2
In the first two days, we’d travelled through fields of scrub brush and cactus, climbed up rocky cliffs to a pinyon-pine forest and come back down soft sand to arrive at our roving make-shift city of white tents, footstools and hot water. There, we’d retreat to our tents to lie numb and content, elevating our feet and sucking down powdered recovery drinks.
As cowbells rang at each day’s finish line, we cheered for other racers and waited like doting mothers for our tent-mates to be safely in. At dusk, G2G camp manager Dan Stake would build a fire, and we’d shuffle our tired bodies out to the circle to absorb the warmth and swap stories over freeze-dried dinners. At home, I would have been showered and back on my laptop, but here, sweat and dust became just another layer of varnish, and the only option for evening entertainment was human connection.
Back out on the trail, the long third day turned to night, and I found myself alone again. Following winding pink flags, now augmented by glow lights, I ran smack into a giant sand dune. A few racers were sliding down the unstable mass, trying to find purchase in what felt like a pile of granulated sugar.
Imitating the stance of a sumo wrestler, I planted wide, then heaved myself up using my poles. It was inelegant, but effective. I flopped over the first dune crest, panting with exertion and relief—only to see hundreds of glowing markers stretched out on the desert peaks ahead of me like a string of twinkling Christmas lights.
Far off in the distance I saw a blinking red safety light—mandatory for all racers to wear. I honed in on this beacon and spent the next hour steadily reeling in the mystery racer. When I finally reached him, he said calmly, “Good work, girl. I’ve been waiting for you.”
With no anger over being caught, the man squeezed my arm and welcomed me into his solitude. His name was Brian. We became instant comrades, glad to walk together for a bit and share a sky full of stars and a fat pumpkin moon. Tomorrow, we’d all have to find the strength to conquer three more stages of racing—but tonight, we were simply trail runners, united by a common sandy purpose.
(The next G2G will be run September 21-27, 2014. Visit grand2grandultra.com for details.)
Jenn Hughes is a Washington-based ultrarunner and owner of RunPrettyFar, a women’s running-apparel company. She finished as the 5th female at the 2013 G2G.
This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue.