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Zoë Rom, Editor-in-Chief
I loved writing and reporting this article because I got to have many hours-long conversations with women working hard to lower barriers to participation in FKTs. I’m a pretty competitive person, and in the process of writing this article, some of my beliefs and prejudices around what it means to compete or be competitive were challenged in ways that I didn’t anticipate but am so grateful for in retrospect. Hearing other women talk about how competition is a collaborative process re-wired my competitive brain in the best way. It challenged me to think about how I can make competition about lifting others up, and make us all better in the process.
This article by our Senior Editor, Nick Triolo, is simply fantastic. Nick manages to take a somewhat esoteric subject, and turn it into an intimate examination of how geography informs (and transforms) our experiences on the trails. It’s chock full of vivid and evocative imagery that pulls the reader into the trail geometry he’s obsessed with and starts to feel a bit like a circumnavigation in and of itself.
What happens when you send a dedicated trail runner (Senior Editor Nick Triolo) into the bowels of one of the world’s largest road marathons? You get a spectacular meditation on the sometimes overwhelming intersection of running culture and commercialism.
To clear the air: I have no idea how to run the Western States 100. I love this article because it goes beyond a literal breakdown of the course into takeaways for every runner out there chasing their dreams. Whether you’re looking to compete in North America’s premier 100 or simply spend a little time dreaming about alpine flowers and buttery California singletrack, this article is for you.
Nicholas Triolo, Senior Editor
When I first read this piece, it was almost as if someone had gone inside my brain and seen all that I had been thinking about at that time. As someone who cares about minimizing my carbon footprint by not driving everywhere to run, designing “hybrid” runs from the backdoor that link up both in-town road running and mountain trails is near and dear to my heart, and this piece by Ethan Linck really nails its essence. His prose is honest, and his ode to tending to the many wonders in our backyard really resonated. To run trails does not require a trip to Chamonix or dramatic singletrack. It can be that odd patch of dirt right around the corner. All we have to do, suggests Linck, is slow down and see differently.
Just when I was becoming cynical about mountain sports being too individualistic, too set on selfish endeavors, Rom delivers this wonderful love story that I didn’t even know I needed. She really captures the heart of the matter, about two mountain athletes who fell in love with each other over their shared love for one of Colorado’s most formidable routes. The piece builds on itself: you see their two lives moving closer and closer to each other, to becoming entwined, as if they were following a ridgeline from opposite sides and about to converge at the peak. It’s not every day we can find and follow up on love stories in our sport – of deep commitment and admiration – and Rom really nails this one. I was hanging on for dear life to every word of it.
This series was one of the highlights of the year for me. Wisconsin farmer and competitive ultrarunner Jonnah Perkins, also a Protect Our Winters (POW) athlete ambassador travels the country to meet with leaders in the sport who are also committed to local foodways. I’m always a sucker for multimedia storytelling, and Perkins’s combination of podcast, high quality photography, and longform relational narratives brought me there. I even tried out a few of the recipes that complemented each piece, and they were just as scrumptious as each dispatch
I’m always looking for writing that takes me deep into an unusual landscape with an unusual perspective, and Astra Lincoln really delivers here. Featured in our Summer 2022 print issue, Lincoln attempts a 42-mile FKT around Mono Lake, an ancient lake in California, as a way to process, celebrate, and integrate a brain injury she’d healed from earlier. Some of the language about how empowering running can be, how it improves our attention to the beauty around us, really hit me. I’ll leave you with this quote:
“The morning was gooey with yellow light. I plunged my hands into the spring, and the world clattered into pixel-level precision. Burbling water ran over my hands. I gasped at the texture of my skin as it magnified and contracted in the rivulets. New details seemed to explode into being for the very first time. I could not remember life that wasn’t a vertiginous blur. Now, the fine-grain texture of the moment stunned me and broke my heart.”
Gordon Coates, Digital Producer and Writer
This essay spoke to my soul as a naturalist and brought me back to how I learned to love and understand the natural world. It broadened my understanding of wilderness, nature, and how we fit into it all. If you’re dreading pavement pounding this winter, read this for a shift in perspective.
The impact of climate on the trails (and the world) is apparent and tragic, and this article captures the beauty, grief, and hope that drives me and many trail runners to action. It’s an exercise on moving past despair and into passion.
David Roche, Contributing Editor & Columnist
Satire is hard. Political satire is impossible. Somehow in this article, Zoë Rom threaded the needle between funny, serious, and silly. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll learn something about running form and democracy.
Writer Nicholas Triolo profiles Connor Ryan, bringing a new way of training and thinking about running to life. I became a better coach and person after reading this story.