• It's a Game, not a Race

    You won't win, or maybe even finish, but you will smile!

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Become a Patron! PC: Mindy Littlefield

I have not been racing much since the pandemic. And let's be honest, I usually say "event" instead of "race" because working towards time goals is never the fun part of the challenge for me. I like to see how far I can push, to discover how I can handle new trails, to adventure in new places and to enjoy the camaraderie. In fact, the camaraderie is what I can't recreate on my own, in solo adventures. 

And trail running camaraderie, especially as the miles go by, is its own special community. We're bonded--even  before we have even met--by our ability to find strange joy in challenge and just the right amount of suffering. On Saturday, I joined a group of trail runners in southern Maine to run laps, low-key torment ourselves and each other, and have a blast doing it. 

The rules were straightforward: Keep running laps until you roll the right combination on the dice or  until the clock expires. Do stupid shit to earn bonus rolls. Trash talk everyone, but deep down build and strengthen the community. 

Now, my ability to run all day is only matched by my ability to do stupid shit. I ran a lap wearing five race medals clanging on my chest--the locals with whom we were sharing the trails did not know what to make of that (or of the guy portaging an inflatable boat, or a nearly life-size Wookiee...). I ran a lap carrying an Easter basket full of eggs, always one stubbed toe away from comic disaster. My only plan was to pass on eating challenges until 11:30, in hopes of running enough laps by then to justify the commute. So, at 11:37, when I was challenged to chug a Flamin' Hot Mtn Dew in two minutes, I had that cracked open and half-down before another player, who was thinking more about my health than I was, yelled at me to shake it first to release the carbonation. I paused, thumbed-up, and just finished the can. I can't say it was truly flaming hot because I didn't taste it going down, but there was a spicy burp as I trotted off to my next lap and then an unusual awareness of my organs for the next mile. Had I puked, there was a trophy for that, so stupid shit can be the gift that keeps on giving.

I ran this with a friend whom I never get to run with. We're just vastly different athletes. She has a competitive drive and a capacity for speed that I just can't match. I spend more time on trails than she does. We're never well matched to train for an execute a race together, but we always enjoy sharing a run when we can. I was stoked, planning to see her occasionally on my laps, and stunned when she decided to take the game at my pace and just hang all day. By noon, she'd set a new distance PR. 

Now, playing the game means that you hang out at base camp between laps, doing stupid shit and cheering on other people doing their stupid shit. It gives you recovery cycles that you don't get in races, moving efficiently through aid stations and onto the next segment. And the laps weren't competitive because we were all hanging out and chatting on the move. It meant that our bodies were processing the heat, humidity and mileage super well--even in spite of some questionable eating challenges. The low-key vibe and some strategic walking meant that I got to witness something bonkers awesome: HER FIRST MARATHON! Once the other runners realized that she was close and that a marathon was totally possible, the kindness and support they offered was a perfect introduction to the generosity and stoke you find among trail runners. 

It was a perfect day. It felt so refreshing to enjoy community without competition. We're already planning for whatever stupid shit we might contribute next year. I need to find something that makes even worse running nutrition than carbonated yogurt. Any suggestions?



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