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2021 was a heck of a year, for the world at large as well as the trail running community. Often, we find the best stories come when we’re in the toughest places, because that’s where we find ourselves sharing our raw humanity and realizing that we really are all in this together.
As the year comes to a close, Trail Runner’s writers, editors and contributors selected their favorite stories of 2021. Find the list below, and here’s to more amazing stories and brighter days in 2022.
I wrote this piece while getting ready to run my first (hopefully) 100-mile race. Getting ready to tackle something so big and scary is a vulnerable place to be, but it gave me space to explore what I love about competition. I’m not the best or fastest runner, but I love connecting with the trail running community through competition, and working through my feelings around my own competitiveness helped me show up more fully and authentically on race day.
Zoë Rom, Trail Runner Editor-In-Chief
Who among us hasn’t gone on a run to deal with emotional upheaval or loss? We all handle the trials of life in different ways, but to say that “running is therapy,” is an oversimplification of the complexities of emotions and processing hardship. Race director Elizabeth Reese shows powerful vulnerability and openness in sharing with author Yitka Winn how running played a role (alongside other mechanisms) in helping her process loss, shame, and mental health struggles and discover a new version of herself. It’s a piece that viscerally reminds us that everyone we come across has their own struggles and pain.
Reagan Colyer, Trail Runner Assistant Editor
All the struggles she has overcome (including addiction and an eating disorder) to become an “unstoppable force, an effervescent Rainbow Bright who goes out for solo hundred-mile runs for fun.” It’s a feel-good story about the human spirit and I’m also a sucker for her awesome rainbow gear!
Erin Douglas, Trail Runner’s Art Director
One of my favorite articles was “Beating the Boys” by Zoë Rom! In challenging the way we talk about race results and gender, she brought some light to an essential topic. Plus, it’s full of her amazing writing and perspective!
David Roche, Trail Runner Contributing Author
I absolutely loved Brian Metzler’s piece on Tommy Rivs. It’s exactly the kind of story that I love in Trail Runner. It’s not just about trail running, but about how the lessons we learn on the trail can be applied when life throws us great— existential, in this case— challenges. There’s a lot to learn from Tommy, and Brian told the story wonderfully.
Plus…not all stories have tidy endings. Tommy’s story is unfinished. The outcome is uncertain. That, too, is very real. How much of life ends with a happy ending? Usually, it’s more complicated than that.
Doug Mayer, Trail Runner Contributing Author
Zoë’s article presents an important perspective on environmentally friendly eating with some simple yet impactful steps athletes can take to help improve their environmental footprint. It helps to simplify all the information out there in a way that is applicable to anyone wanting to try and make a difference in our future.
Kylee Van Horn, RDN, Trail Runner Contributing Author
I really appreciated this story because I got to know Stevie Kremer at the front end of her rise to the elite level of international trail running. She was so happy and joyful and full of life, but then she disappeared for a bit. I appreciated how Doug told Stevie’s story, especially how trail running helped keep her afloat in her darkest hour. Trail running and all it offers, with its inherent challenges and physical, mental and spiritual immersion into nature, can offer healing pathways if we let it. I’m happy for Stevie that she’s back running at a competitive level, but mostly that she’s found a calm, grounded place of happiness in her life.
Brian Metzler, Trail Runner Contributing Author