The popularity of trail running has exploded in the past decade.
Runners in eastern Idaho have joined the surge with group runs and regional races every month. These are runners who think nothing of jogging through the mountains for miles on end every weekend. It’s part marathon, part mountain scrambling and lots of lungs and legs.
Some popular trail run/races range between 10 and 100 or more miles. If you thought only a few running nuts lined up for the challenge, you’d be wrong. Races now attract hundreds. Some races around the country are so popular, only the early birds get in.
For most trail runners, just participating is a win. It’s enough to challenge their body in a beautiful environment. For a few, it’s also about the competition. They want to win or place well.
With many trail runners it’s a daily obsession — or at least a passionate hobby. Here in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming these runners have a sweet setup. The area is home to hundreds of trails, many of them attracting people worldwide.
Today we take a look at four runners who represent some of the passionate growing throng in eastern Idaho.
Occupation: Human factors scientist
How long have you been trail running? Before May 2014 I never ran unless I was chasing a horse around the pasture.
What appeals to you most about this sport? Experiencing beautiful remote places and to explore just how far I can go. Oh, and the fact that it is encouraged to walk uphill!
What is your favorite trail or race you’ve done? Standhope Ultra Challenge 30/60K in the Pioneers (between Sun Valley and Mackay). It’s a low-key event with a course that is equally gorgeous as it is hard. It was my first trail race and I keep coming back.
How many miles do you usually run in a typical week? April through October, 20 to 40 miles. In the winter I prefer to get my miles backcountry skiing.
What has been your worst injury? None.
What big races/runs are in your future? After completing five 50K races this year I might attempt a 50-mile race next summer.
What advice would you give to someone considering getting into trail running? Find a trail and start running. Forget about splits and pace. Take it slow and enjoy the scenery.
How often do you think about running? Not too much, except that my Facebook feed is full of running related posts. I watch running videos on YouTube, and I’m already planning next summer’s race schedule.
How long have you been trail running? On the trails, I have only been running about a year. I have been road running for about eight years.
What appeals to you most about this sport? The chance to be able to explore new areas and see the beautiful outdoors is the most appealing aspect to me. There are places we go and things that we get to see that are only found and/or seen on foot. I love being outdoors so trail running has been a great way for me to combine two of my loves — the outdoors and running. The friendships that are formed over the miles are lasting, and those bonds are another great aspect.
What is your favorite trail or race you’ve done? It is very hard for me to pick a favorite trail as every trail I have been on offers its own uniqueness and beauty that I love. Over the course of this summer, my feet have taken me many places. At the top of my list, is a run I completed while camping in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness at Crags Campground (by Salmon). I had the chance one afternoon to run the trail up to Cathedral Rock. Time did not permit me to go further than Cathedral Rock, but the crags and vistas were breathtaking and almost indescribable; so unlike the terrain of southeastern Idaho. Another favorite for this year has been climbing (hiking up and running down) Mount Baird with a group from the Idaho Falls Trail Runners Group. At the top, we could see Palisades Reservoir to the one side and the Tetons on the other. It was spectacular.
How many miles do you usually run in a typical week? As many as my life will allow.
What has been your worst injury? From road running, my worst injury has been Piriformis Syndrome. For trail running, I have yet to experience a “serious” injury — though no run is complete without me tripping.
What big races/runs are in your future? Undetermined and nothing specific. I just try to get out and run as much and as often as possible.
What advice would you give to someone considering getting into trail running? Find a great pair of trail shoes, get out, and just do it. I was so hesitant at first to give it a try. I was nervous about where to go and getting lost. Finally, making the decision to give it a try has been something I will never regret.
How often do you think about trail running? Every other second.
Occupation: Potato settlement and financial accountant
How long have you been trail running? Officially as a sport for the past two years, unofficially 20 years. I have always hiked up mountains/trails and then will run the downhills. It has always been a natural and enjoyable thing for me, even before I knew it was an official “thing.”
What appeals to you most about this sport? Trail running is not so much about trails, or even running. It is a metamorphosis of what one thinks is possible. A transition from weakness into strength, doubt into faith, loneliness into friendship and the mundane into wonder. Bonds of limiting anxiety, dampening depression, crippling self-doubt, soul-breaking heartache or mind-numbing grief are released as one is given wings to fly into a new life. A life of growth. Growth in body, in spirit and in mind. A growth that is made with friends and family.
What is your favorite trail or race you’ve done? Anything in the Palisades area is hands down my favorite. Every canyon I explore or ridge I find brings new wonders and sights. I love two of our local trail races, the Gnarly Bear and Spitfire. Both are well-run and fun events, one at the start of race season and one at the end of race season.
How many miles do you usually run in a typical week? During training it will peak out at 50 miles a week but when I am not training it’s around 25.
What has been your worst injury? My pride. It was by far the worst injury I have had. It didn’t happen as a result of actually being on the trail but trying to organize a winter trail fun run and making a huge blunder.
What big races/runs are in your future? The Palisades Ultra Trail Series some of us from the Idaho Falls Trail Runners group are putting on next July will be huge. I may end up running that one. The longest distance is 100 miles. If you ask my wife, I am not doing it, but since I am on the board of directors for the race, I may accidentally slip on my shoes and head out when the starting gun goes off. A major trail run I want to do some at some point is the Teton Traverse in a day.
What advice would you give to someone considering getting into trail running? Find local experts for gear and knowledge and people to run with them. The Idaho Falls Trail Running Facebook community has such a wealth of knowledge. If people have questions or want to go on anything from a 1-mile to a 100-mile run they can post about it on the page and get answers or find others to join them on their run. If you love the outdoors and you want to see a lot of nature then trail running is for you.
How often do you think about trail running? Daily. Even when I am out on a trail run I am thinking about where I will do my next one, where I will get my next “fix.” I guess that’s what an addict does.
Occupation: Health psychologist and creator of mental physio conditioning
How long have you been trail running? Trail running since 2009.
What appeals to you most about this sport? Every time I’m in the mountains it’s an opportunity to dance in the fringes of discomfort while experiencing the most beautiful places on earth. When I am able to experience the mental and physical discomfort and embrace that then I learn more about myself. This helps me push to a better me. Trail running, to me, is about not looking at splits and all that … it’s about enjoying the journey. I don’t consider it “exercise.” Rather, I see it as a form of active rest , which to me is a time when I can step away from all going on in life and rejuvenate in multiple ways.
What is your favorite trail or race you’ve done? I’m not sure I have one specific one. I loved Hardrock 100 even though I had to stop at Mile 70, due to an injury. … I also love the Bear 100, it’s low key and I love point-to-point races.
How many miles do you usually run in a typical week? A typical week of running can range from 40 to 90 miles. When I’m peaking for a big race, the miles go up. I no longer pay attention to miles. I focus on hours on feet and vertical climb.
What has been your worst injury? During Hardrock when I fell 20 feet and separated my shoulder. I still went on another 40 miles and it hurt.
What big races/runs are in your future? My future will actually include IMTUF 100 and getting back to Hardrock. I’m thinking of a couple triathlons next year and probably an iron man 70.3.
What advice would you give to someone considering getting into trail running? Have balance. Enjoy every run and don’t complain. Don’t lose your family and what matters most. Be considerate of those who support you. Be nice to volunteers and race directors. If you are a complainer then choose a different sport — this isn’t the right fit if you don’t take responsibility.
How often do you think about trail running? I think about trail running when I’m planning a good run or reading some good race reports. I remain balanced. It’s not my whole life. I love it and appreciate what it gives me but I keep it in its spot. If I think about it too much then that’s unhealthy, and it loses the positive power it has in my life.