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TRAIL STOKE: Helping Fellow Runners in Need

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Trail running is all about community.

We all say that. We all know that. And it doesn’t take much to feel it, no matter if you’re a grizzled ultrarunning veteran or entirely new to the sport.

When I started trail running years ago, I was drawn to the supportive, congenial feeling I felt at races, during group runs and among the heartfelt people who participated in this sport, both competitively and casually. And that’s only increased in my experiences running ultras, going on long adventure runs, traveling the world to run in amazing places and also to write about thousands of trail runners.

Perhaps because we sense the need for support out in the wild and in many of the endeavors we take on, we’re quick offer it our fellow runners when they need it. Maybe it’s because the act of running through the woods is such a primal experience, it’s easy to see when and how we can help other like-minded humans.

As you read on, I’ll be asking you to consider supporting elite trail runner Deanna Ardrey, who recently suffered a tibial pilon fracture, a fibula fracture, as well as torn cartilage in her right leg and ankle after a brutal fall on a training run on Mt. Sanitas in Boulder last week.

As you read on, I’ll be asking you to consider supporting elite trail runner Deanna Ardrey, who recently suffered a tibial pilon fracture, a fibula fracture, as well as torn cartilage in her right leg and ankle after a brutal fall on a training run on Mt. Sanitas in Boulder last week.

But more on Deanna in a moment.

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Three years ago at the Silver Rush 50 trail race in Leadville, Billy Yang, the notable trail-running filmmaker who was running his first 50, stumbled into the Printer Boy aid station exhausted, depleted and somewhat incoherent. Billy didn’t have anyone crewing him and appeared content to just stumble through the aid station without refueling, something that would have been a huge mistake.

Clare Gallagher and I were there waiting for other runners to come through, but we both noticed Billy struggling and without stopping to think, we both rushed to his aid, corralled him for a bit and persuaded him to take in calories and fluids and implored him to keep it up over the final 10 miles. He did and he finished well, and later genuinely thanked both of us for the support and guidance.

Those pay-it-forward favors have been paid back to me many, many times since then, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because there is a shared struggled out on the trails, no matter if we’re running near the front of the pack, suffering to keep moving at an aid station, dealing with anxiety or mental anguish in training or recovering from a difficult injury. We’ve all been there, and yes, it takes a village, both in trail running and in life.

Those pay-it-forward favors have been paid back to me many, many times since then, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because there is a shared struggled out on the trails, no matter if we’re running near the front of the pack, suffering to keep moving at an aid station, dealing with anxiety or mental anguish in training or recovering from a difficult injury.

A few years ago when good friend Dave Mackey suffered a devastating fall on a trail run in Boulder and badly broke his leg, a friend set up a GoFundMe campaign to help offset the massive medical bills that ensued. He had more than a dozen surgeries and 18 months later wound up deciding to amputate the leg, but the $75,000 raised was beyond helpful to Mackey and his family. Dave has returned to action with a prosthetic, completing the daunting Leadman series in both 2018 and 2019.

In recent weeks, the trail running community has rallied immensely to help out Tommy Rivers Puzey, who has been hospitalized for weeks while being treated for an aggressive form of lung cancer known as NK T Cell lymphoma. More than 2,400 people took part in the #RunWithRivs Challenge that served as an additional fundraiser aligned with logging miles running, biking and hiking.

Amazingly, the GoFundMe campaign to help offset Puzey’s medical bills has raised nearly $490,000. That’s in excess of the $250,000 initial goal but there’s a good chance he’ll need more. In Puzey’s gratefulness and humility, he asked that people consider also donating to the Navajo nation to help it fight the impacts of coronavirus and that campaign has raised more than $78,000 thanks to numerous trail runners who have chipped in.

Now there is a call in the trail-running community to support Deanna Ardrey, 37, who is in her first year as a full-time dental hygienist. She spent the past few years paying her own way through school while training relentlessly as an unsponsored trail and road runner.

She’s having a complicated surgery this week that will include inserting pins and plates into her bones, as well as the possibility of a bone graft. But that’s just the first step of a process that might include additional procedures and a lot rehab and physical therapy. Plus, she’ll miss about six weeks of work and won’t get paid during that time off.

She’s having a complicated surgery this week that will include inserting pins and plates into her bones, as well as the possibility of a bone graft. But that’s just the first step of a process that might include additional procedures and a lot rehab and physical therapy. Plus, she’ll miss about six weeks of work and won’t get paid during that time off.

And, no, she doesn’t have health insurance to help cover the costs. While that might be a hard lesson learned or just an unfortunate healthcare reality in America today, we can help make sure it’s not a life-deflating punishment. She’s humble, modest and grateful, and would never ask for help, but she doesn’t have to, either. Her trail-running friend Samuel Forsyth created a GoFundMe campaign to help offset Deanna’s medical bills, which, according to one estimate, could top $30,000.

Deanna is the real deal, a passionate, committed and always-positive soul who trained and competed hard enough to place fifth in the 2019 U.S. Mountain Running Championships and also qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon with a 2:37 effort amid her busy schedule. A few weeks ago, she took second in the Kendall Mountain Run, a 12-mile run up and down a 12,800-foot peak in southwestern Colorado.

It doesn’t matter that she’s an elite runner or that, yes, Deanna is a friend of mine who I have run with many times. What’s more important is that she’s one of us and she needs our support.

Deanna is as tough and resilient as they come and she, too, will come back and continue to be an inspiration to those around her. But for now, she needs a little help from her friends in the trai- running community.

Thank you for your kindness and support. And being part of the trail-running community.

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