Get Busy Living
Every trail runner's life list begins here
What do trail runners share in common with Morgan Freeman? More than you think. For starters, we're all going to die ...
Photo by Chris Hunter
What do trail runners share in common with Morgan Freeman? More than you think. For starters, we're all going to die one day.
OK, maybe that's harsh. But as all things must come to an end, so too will our days running free on gladed singletrack. In fact, many physicians subscribe to the idea that your legs, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments have a finite quantity of miles in them. Some of us (see David Horton or Diane Van Deren below) are just blessed to have more genetic miles than others.
Trail running lacks the urgency that faster road races inherently possess. In fact, many trail lovers eschew tracking miles in favor of logging only time run and maybe elevation gain.
But, whether your feet strike asphalt or soil, time is a terrible thing to waste, and Trail Runner surveyed many devotees of the sport, asking the question, "What are the must-do experiences for every trail runner?" Here is the list, in it's dirty, idyllic glory.
As Morgan Freeman advises in Shawshank Redemption, "Get busy living or get busy dying."
#1 Run the Grand Canyon
Trail running summons images of cushy paths meandering among towering pines and across windswept alpine ridges. So it's perhaps ironic that nearly every off-road runner expresses passion for running across a gigantic hole in the ground. Yet crossing the Grand Canyon is a rite of passage for trail runners.
Beginning on the South Rim, runners hit the Bright Angel trailhead well before sun-up to avoid the crowds. For six miles, the switchback route nosedives toward the canyon bottom, more than 4000 vertical feet below. What follows is a rolling, curling tour through rock formations and camera-summoning vistas. At roughly mile 8.5, a silver suspension bridge ushers runners over the Colorado River, in many ways the Canyon's mother, and eventually up the North Kaibab Trail for an eternal ascent to the North Rim, grinding up 5000 vertical feet to the turnaround point. All said, the Canyon is roughly 23 miles Rim-to-Rim (often called "R2R").
Many runners pause only briefly before heading back, making for a tough, 46-mile R2R2R day. If you're not an ultrarunner, don't sweat it. There's the Grand Canyon Lodge at Bright Angel Point on the North Rim and it's relatively easy for a friend to pick you up. Just do your research: summertime R2Rs can be hotter than Hades and the North Rim gets socked with snow in the winter. Also, it's advisable to reserve rooms at the lodge several months in advance.
Dave Mackey of Boulder, Colorado, has R2R2R-ed twice, once in a record time (6:59:57) that still stands. The other time, he covered it with friends and admits he enjoyed the views and whole experience much more. "The Grand Canyon is the most beautiful run I have ever done," he says. "Nothing anywhere matches its grandeur and sweeping vistas."