An Important Issue

And now, for a change of pace (yes, that is a running pun; an ‘rpun,’ perhaps?).

I’ve just finished reading Trail Runner’s 2020 ‘The Dirt Annual,’ an extra-thick magazine filled with stories about running and runners, and want to shout its praises.

While it naturally contains impressive tales of distance and exertion, this year’s selections have clearly been chosen to illustrate what the cover’s tag line aptly calls “The Soul of Trail Running.”   Mira Rai’s upbringing in a remote Nepali village nearly untouched by industrialization or ’modernization’ is eye-opening, and contrasts wildly with Ricky Gates’ crew sharing a magic-bus style run adventure starting within arm’s reach of Silicon Valley. The free-spirited deep-dive of Italy’s exhausting Tor Des Geants is buttressed by the ritualized extremities of Japan’s Mount Hiei monks, whose run/walk feats dwarf any ultra-marathoner you have ever heard of.

Claire Walla’s quick anecdote about abandoning all pretense of good sense for a spur-of-the-moment R2R2R of Arizona’s big ditch and then the ‘Parting Shot’ page featuring a child’s inspirational note during her father’s Bigfoot 200 endurance run both dilute any taint of hero worship with their humanity, reminding us that humor and connection are critical ingredients of the trail running recipe, as well.

Throughout, the stories place the head trip above the physical. Whether it is Tom Riggenbach dedicating first his teaching career to the Navajo Nation and now his post-career life to running as a way of enhancing their community, or Jim Eisenhart sailing the world to find new places to run in solitude and nature, the point is clear and the evidence broad: running regularly, and long, is a common feature of human culture, a way in which diverse folks experience the world in all its variety and a path (rpun alert, again) to becoming and remaining as fully alive as one can be during our brief strut upon the stage.

It’s not for glory, it’s for the journey. Trail Runner issue 139/2020, ‘The Dirt Annual.’ Get it. Read It. Live it.

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