Awards for the Rest of Us

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Who among us hasn’t looked at winners atop a podium with a twinge of envy?

Here’s some good news: There’s a path to those hallowed steps that doesn’t involve months of self-deprivation and “Zero Dark Thirty” runs. It also celebrates the heretofore unrecognized among us, who have, in alternative ways, pushed toward excellence.

Welcome to Awards for the Rest of Us. Drumroll …

Order of the Chafing Body Part

Most trail runners have chafed badly at one point or another, usually as a result of ill-fitting gear. Most male trail runners know what I mean in saying we can often dismiss it, right up until the shower water hits the tip of our [redacted], and then we never forget the lubricant again. But we are not alone. Take the case of Hillary Gerardi. Racing last month, she felt irritation around her heart-rate monitor as it hit a sensitive area. A determined sort, Gerardi shoved the strap down to her waist and kept going, finishing fourth in China’s Yading Skyrun.

Post-race, she uncovered a bloodied result, which she displayed to her fellow racer Sheila Avilés Castaño—who lifted the side of her shirt to display abrasions in the identical spot, albeit with different branding. While we hope manufacturers will consider the female anatomy better in the future, for now, slap that lubricant straight on the strap!

Red Cross Donor Commendation

Not all blood donations take place in a gym. Between sharp rocks, sticks and the occasional protruding branch, trail running is an incarnation of another movie title: “Running with Scissors.”

Our winner, David Kilgore, was leading the Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon in the Catskills of New York when he hit his head on a branch. Ben Nephew, in second by a few minutes, knew something was wrong when he saw a pool of blood.

“Not a few drops,” Ben writes in an email, “a pool. I continued up the trail, and there was a stream of blood. Soon I found David with his hand on his head and his face covered in bright red.”

They continued together, Nephew assisting. In time, the bleeding stopped, though it was unclear whether from clotting or exsanguination. Kilgore and Nephew tied for first. One of them went to the ER for 18 staples.

Golden Trowel Award

The Forest Service recommends getting 200 feet off trail when number two beckons. Unfortunately, peristalsis sometimes forces a choice between 50 feet or a warm sensation in your shorts.

Our winner, Robbie Britton, showed both creativity and speed in this event. In the top three in Norfolk, England’s Race the Train, Britton tried to heed the call. Seeking privacy but stymied by a high embankment, he got down to business just moments before a train full of spectators passed his ass. He lost two places and one sock. Take a bow(el), Robbie!

Toenail Trophy

Know someone who has given and given, down to the cuticle? Here’s an award for him or her, simultaneously celebrating what the winner has lost and gained.

I’ll go first. I lost six toenails in a trail race in 2016. It was over 100 degrees, and I’m not known for my self-care. Do I hear seven? (No photos. Please.)

Ode to Timothy Treadwell

Named for the idiosyncratic character mauled in Werner Herzog’s documentary “Grizzly Man,” this award goes to the trail runner with the most dramatic wildlife encounter. Our winning entry, submitted by Paul Kirsch, past race director for New Hampshire’s Cranmore Mountain Race, goes to John Parker and two friends. Working their way through the woods, they lost time when their route was blocked by two bears who were, Kirsch reported, “having a romantic moment.”

“They had to let the bears finish,” Kirsch said, “before they could continue.”

Some Sort of Prize

Unfortunately, not every nominee matched an existing category. Take Brian Tinder. From time to time, the Flagstaff, Arizona, trail runner finds himself running without clothing, up to 10 miles at a stretch, to the surprise of passersby, like the driver coming toward Tinder on a country road one night. When the headlights glimmered off his [redacted and presumably retracted], the car stopped. Tinder tossed a casual hello and hauled ass.

Congratulations to this year’s winners. Find a podium. Wave to the adoring, if perhaps sparse, crowds. You’ve earned it, in your own way.

Doug Mayer always wanted to podium but isn’t so sure any more. He lives in Chamonix, France, and really does want to know how many toenails you’ve lost. Email him at

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