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We’ve written about a wide array of topics this year, from profiles and culture to politics and history. These are the stories that you, our readers, spent the most time reading.
Whether you’re re-reading these stories, or just discovering them for the first time, we hope you find inspiration (and maybe food for thought) for the coming year.
Big’s Backyard Ultra: A Race With No End
By Andy Pearson
“It’s 6:13 on a mild October morning in October 2016. The sun is about to break over the Tennessee countryside. I’ve already run 98.8 miles. And now, I find myself passing the two giant piles of once-frozen burritos that have been sitting—inexplicably—in the middle of the road all night. This is the 24th time I’ve passed them.”
Origins of the FKT
By Doug Mayer
“… Burrell and Bakwin faced a conundrum. It was a pretty safe bet that Wood’s time was the fastest ever. But it wasn’t a certainty. So, Burrell started describing Wood’s effort as the ‘fastest-known time.’
We needed a term that paid homage to the people who came before,” Burrell says. “We didn’t know what the fastest time was, and so the term was born. By saying ‘fastest-known time,’ you’re leaving the door open for some great athlete who was off the radar and did it in the pre-Internet era.”
No Free Lunch: Trail Running and the Public Lands Debate
By Mike Foote
“We trail runners are a fortunate bunch. As a recreation group, we encounter few, if any, regulations when it comes to enjoying and accessing our public lands. The only public spaces we can’t run through are the hallways of our schools. State parks, national monuments, wilderness areas, BLM land and national parks are all fair game. Let’s be honest, the biggest threats to limiting our access to public lands are our overuse injuries.
Yes, we are light on the land, and leave only footprints in the wild places we love, but could this lack of conflict be lulling us into complacency? While we blissfully tackle miles of singletrack, are we ignorant to movements currently working hard to sell off the trails from under our feet?”
Michael Wardian, the Running Man
By Paul Cuno-Booth
“Michael Wardian bounced around his kitchen in split shorts and a yellow-orange race tee, compiling his breakfast. It was 7 a.m. on a Thursday. From counter nooks and refrigerator shelves, he produced one pear, one apple, two bananas, two packets of instant oatmeal, a cup of baby food, a large brioche-looking bun and a 16-ounce carton of blueberries. He eyed the assortment on the counter. It all had to fit in his running pack …”
Shades of Gray: The Story Behind Top Trail Runner Joseph Gray
By Brian Metzler
“When the blast of a starting gun sent the runners on their way in the first wave of last summer’s Pikes Peak Ascent in the town of Manitou Springs, Colorado, Joe Gray was nowhere to be found.
As Andy Wacker, Eric Blake and other top competitors sprung from the starting line of the fast wave, Gray, one of the pre-race favorites, was uncharacteristically scuffling with his bag of gear behind the hundreds of recreational runners preparing to start in the second wave…”
These Runners Use Built-Out Vans to Sleep Close to the Trails
By Morgan Sjogren
“The ‘Van Life’ sub culture has exploded on social media, especially amongst millenials. For trails runners, the ideal dirtbag rig allows easy access to the best trailheads, affordable travel to races and generally makes it easier to focus on running, whether it’s a year-round lifestyle choice or a getaway for weekend warriors.
Meet the “dirtbag” faces of the current generation of trail runners that call the back seat of their vehicles ‘home.'”
A High Country Epiphany: Running in the White Clouds Wilderness
By Steven Gnam
“First, we smelled the trail builders, their scent a sweet mix of old leather and pinesap. Then we saw them, a herd of elk: mostly cows, with a few immature bulls. They stopped in a meadow. Across from them stood a herd of pronghorn antelope. The elk and pronghorns faced each other, and began to call in their own dialects—antelope wheezing and elk chirping, back and forth.”