While I had been a part of 3/8/12-person teams in relay races (lap-based or not) in the past, I had never done a time- and lap-based 12 (or 24) event before. Getting to be a part of it so close to home and doing so in the company of many friends made it very appealing … and started swinging my mind back towards the first edition of the Back 9 Endurance Run held on the premises of the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. To say that I showed up late to this party is an understatement. Many in my family of friends had signed up, been training methodically and spreadsheeted their laps in detail for weeks, if not months … and then there was me, needing a special invitation from the kind-hearted race director to sign up. It was special (and not special) because I had waited until three days after the registration had been closed to make up my mind.
This festival had been a known entity for the last few years. For what it’s worth, so had been my excuses and explanations to not be a part of it. Persistent nudging and encouragement from Ronda, one of the friendly and familial members of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF), and the t-shirt design (thanks be to Craig for showcasing his t-shirt from a prior year) were the clinchers and I signed up in early August. As with most events of this type in 2020, there was a chance that this too would/could be virtual. Building on their success from the Lumberjack Run, the parent organization did a remarkable job of complying with guidelines from relevant authorities, exercised due diligence and as a result, facilitated an in-person event.
the 100 mile version in the Golden State, the Mid-Western States Endurance Run). It certainly has taken on the flavor of a family reunion of my trail running friends. Even with a good number of familiar faces missing in action this year, the weekend offered a lot of what I’ve come to learn: trail running etiquette and friends that are competitive while being the kind, cooperative, caring and the very embodiment of the said etiquette. It’s a retreat away from the grips of electronic communication-overloaded civilization and nudging us to have humane conversations, and a lovely little platform to learn from the immovable mountains and never-stop-moving runners alike. The weekend also almost always offers something new, and with lessons about my own self and new friendships, this year wasn’t any different.
Great Turtle Trail Run Half Marathon was one of those events that got on my bucket list during the early formative years of my running … like 5 or so years ago. Around those days, I had wanted to do every half marathon within 6-8 hours of Houghton, if not anywhere and everywhere. I let life get in the way and I put this event on the backburner of bucket list items. Then again, the stove in those days had so many backburners that it was too easy to forget what I had on them … and needless to say, I forgot all about it. That is, until a week or so ago when Stephen Eles brought it up in a conversation, explained the course profile and expected low temperature and encouraged me to sign up!
Running events for the most part are solo endeavors — runner against the clock, runner against an older version of her/himself, and occasionally, one runner against another — irrespective of whether another runner knows about it or not. Relay events of the running kind have a knack for blending the individualist aspect with the concept of a team. Though the very reason I took to running many moons ago was to move away from team sports, there’s a part of me that enjoys the team concept every once in a while, necessary to instill a sense of accountability: that I need to do my part, and have the confidence that others on the team will do theirs. Being the runt of the litter when it comes to running, there is never a doubt about my teammates and the onus is always on me.