Born to Adapt Trail Races Make Space for Para Athletes
How Zachary Friedley is building an event by adaptive athletes for adaptive athletes
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This Saturday, April 15, marks the 12th annual Born to Run Ultra Running Extravaganza, and will include the second edition of Born to Adapt, the first and only adaptive athlete-specific trail race. The events are taking place on a private ranch near the central coast of California. Born to Adapt takes place simultaneously as the well-known Born to Run Extravaganza.
Zachary Friedley, a professional runner for On Running and above-the-knee amputee is directing the event, and he says it’s unique because it puts adaptive athletes first, rather than treating them as an afterthought.
“This event’s purpose is to create opportunities for both elite and entry-level adaptive athletes in the trail running community, while also advocating to see more of these adaptive opportunities in the biggest trail races of the world. We are providing an opportunity for adaptive athletes to podium and win prizes just like you see non-disabled athletes on top of podiums every week of the year,” says Friedley. “It’s important that these opportunities exist both at the elite level and entry-level. This is just one of the ways to provide equitable sport opportunities.”
We are providing an opportunity for adaptive athletes to podium and win prizes just like you see non-disabled athletes on top of podiums every week of the year.
The three-hour race will occur on a 5K trail loop designed for adaptive athletes of all abilities. Athletes will have the option to run as long or as short as they’d like on the looped course. The trail is designed so that adaptive athletes will be running alongside runners in the 100-mile and 50K ultra races. New to this year is a 10- and 30-mile trail race with a challenging combination of vertical climbs, rough terrain, and mud.
“It’ll be one for the record books!” says Friedley. “These new distances offer adaptive athletes the ability to have our own podium opportunities. Last but not least, we added ADA Porta potties.”
Friedley has been a competitive athlete for years, training for the Paralympics from 2007 to 2014 before discovering the world of trail running in 2020. Since then, he’s competed at UTMB’s MCC and Tarawera 50K.
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“I have always wanted to see elite-level opportunities similar to what the Paralympics created for athletes all over the world. Being able to strive for course records, podium finishes, and sponsorship opportunities in the sport of trail running is my big dream. It’s important that these athletes start getting more visibility for their accomplishments,” says Friedley. “Being visible myself, as an adaptive athlete on the On Trail team, is huge. I’m grateful that On (David Kilgore and squad) have not just seen my vision, but have also actively helped me create space to grow this goal.”
“Born2Adapt is so unique because it is truly an event open to all and is opening a whole new door open for people who never thought they would be able to participate in this type of sport,” says On Running Teammate David Kilgore. “Once Zach told me about the event and the impact he was driving into others lives, I knew that it was something that we had to be a part of and support in any way we could. I want people to know that this event is here. Come join in, spread the word, and be a part of the energy. Inspiring and iconic Born2Adapt brings trail running into a new chapter.”
Runners who want to support the event, but can’t be there in person, can sign up for the Born To Adapt Virtual 5K. Proceeds go towards the Mendocino Movement Project and future Born to Adapt Projects.