Most Recent Posts for ultrarunning

I’m doing this race again less as an endurance competition, more as an opportunity to revisit and revere this region up close, and ultimately do what I can to help protect it.

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Why I’m thinking about parties, ropes and chainsaws—and what they have to do with procrastination, running, parenting and aging.

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Training &amp Racing aging Featured parenting procrastination sarah lavender smith ultrarunning

Justin Simoni calls fastpacking “the space between ultra running and backpacking.” If you’re curious about fastpacking and want to know how to get started, read this excellent overview by UD ambassador Jen Segger. Jen has been planning and leading fastpacking trips for years, even running a dedicated company for it (Run BC Adventures). Here’s how to pick the […]

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With increasing cultural acceptance and awareness of transgender persons, there have been more conversations within the trail running community about how to categorize these athletes in competitive athletic events. Over the past several years, international governing bodies and national federations have introduced policies regarding transgender athletes to attempt to clarify rules and regulations within events... Read more »

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Any runner that’s been through a prolonged period of injury and no running will know just how hard it is to get back into the routine. Your fitness disappears down the toilet and the everyday monotony that you’d made a Read More ...

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Tollefson (pictured above) earns second USA Track & Field 50 km Trail title; Moreno wins her debut at the distance. Storm clouds overhead, intermittent rain showers, and temperatures below 40 degrees greeted runners arriving at Overlook Park in Auburn, California — dubbed the Endurance Capital of the World –for the 7th annual FOURmidable 50K host... Read more »

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On Saturday, February 16, Singletrack Running’s FOURmidable 50K will host the USA Track & Field’s 50 km Trail Championships for the second time. First organized in 2013, the FOURmidable 50K hosted the 2017 championship with 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Max King and 2016 U.S. Trail Team member YiOu Wang winning their respective titles. FOURmidable... Read more »

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Rene Villalobos is less than halfway through the 2016 Rocky Raccoon 100 in Huntsville State Park, Texas, when the pain in his back returns. A year earlier, he had fallen on a patch of black ice late at night during Arkansas’ Run LOVit 100K and slipped a disk. The doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to run long distance anymore but, well, here he was.He grimaces as pain shoots up his back. Soon the sun will sink beneath the canopy of oak trees and sweet gums overhead and out of sight. Villalobos uses a few unprintable words to gripe to his “friend” Sal (James Salvador), an Italian ultrarunner who encouraged Villalobos to quit dropping the F-bomb on long miserable runs and find the joy in running.

“Look at this and this and this,” he would tell Villalobos, pointing at the scenery. “And don’t worry about anything else. Enjoy it! This is all a gift.”

Salvador had passed away nearly 10 years prior, in April 2002, during a low-risk planned surgery. He and Villalobos had been running together for 20 years by that time, and were planning to run several ultras together in the coming weeks. Instead, Villalobos found himself and his sister, Clara, with Salvador’s family as the priest read his last rites.

Villalobos says he’s “not really too much into superstition.” He doesn’t have pre-race rituals or lucky socks. But he does have a lot of running buddies like Salvador who have passed away over the years, and he still communicates with them.

“That’s probably about the weirdest thing I do,” he says. “I always say, ‘Well, I’m going to take my angels for a run today.’”

Miles on Miles

Rene Villalobos (who pronounces his name “Rain-E,” with a delightful Texan twang), 59, of Fort Worth, Texas, is not your typical runner-looking dude. He has dark skin, bronzed by hours in the sun, salt-and-pepper hair and a goatee to match; until a few years ago, he weighed over 200 pounds and possessed a hefty paunch.But looks may be deceiving in his case. Villalobos has run over 350 ultras, and over 150 100-milers. At one point, he ran nine 100-mile races in nine weeks. Counting unofficial races, by August 14, 2018 Villalobos says he had run 1,117 marathons. On the Mega Marathon List, he is ranked number five, with 1000 official marathon finishes. Let those stats sink in.

“Trying to explain Rene is almost as difficult as trying to explain trail running,” says Joe Prusaitis, the former longtime owner and race director of Tejas Trails, a collection of respected Texas races that includes Rocky Raccoon. Prusaitis has a long history of racing with and hosting Villalobos at races. “And I think the more you understand trail running, the more you would understand Rene.”

While not a household name or podium contender, Villalobos epitomizes a passionate approach to trail running. His training weeks might make even the pros blanch (see page 62 for Villalobos’s weekly running schedule), especially because, for over 30 years, he worked digging ditches and fixing pipes as a plumber, often in 110-degree Texas heat, before going on his weekday runs.

Things changed in 2004 when he got a job as Master Inspector for his hometown of Fort Worth. While he appreciates the air conditioning, being what he calls a “blue-collar runner” makes him proud, and he still does plumbing jobs for friends on the side.
“Once a plumber always a plumber,” he says. “Kind of like once a runner …”

Villalobos’ house is spartan—there’s no TV and few wall decorations.

“You know what minimize is?” Villalobos asks. “That’s me. Anything I have over a year, I get rid of it.”

The exceptions are his race bibs, including marathon-and-under bibs and medals, dispersed throughout his home like tiny monuments to his countless miles.

True Grit

During the 2016 Rocky Raccoon, Villalobos is using his best sailor mouth to complain to his angels, and “they just sit there laughing,” he says. “They’re probably saying, you paid for it, you dummy, why you out there? You ain’t got nobody to blame but yourself.”The Rocky Raccoon is made up of four 25-mile loops. It’s getting dark by the time volunteers and spectators catch sight of a Hispanic guy using a thick stick as a cane, moving slowly into the clearing. He’s obviously struggling—his stride is off, and he’s using the stick only halfway into the race. But he doesn’t stop. Villalobos hobbles back into the woods for his third lap, and, when he emerges again, he goes right on for the fourth.

Volunteers watch with concern and hope. The finish line looks increasingly like a ghost town as people pack up and go home.

In the woods, Villalobos repeatedly thumps the stick beside him like a third leg, occasionally griping to Sal, when no one else is around. He shuffles down the singletrack, over little wooden bridges, through brush and pine needles and endless roots as the sun rises.

“Pine trees and roots, that’s all it is,” Villalobos says. “What happens is you do four laps, and on the last lap all the roots have grown a foot.”

When he exits toward the finish for the last time, he is hunched over his stick, barely taking steps. He looks like he’s aged several years in a single night. In the miles since the last aid station, he’s fallen 20 minutes behind the cut-off time.

But he has “finished.” Racers and volunteers have tears in their eyes as he crosses the line. He doesn’t get an official finish time, but the race organizers give him a finisher’s belt, “because they said I was tough,” Villalobos says.

“When he sets out to do something, he just finishes it,” Villalobos’s running buddy Gerardo (Gerry) Ramirez says. “We’ve been through some races, in snow, like knee-deep snow, races where we’re drenched in mud; we’ve been hailed on, but I’ve learned not to give up because of him.”

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I made a mental list of circumstances that make a long training run extra challenging. What happens when all these things conspire on the same run? Let me tell you.

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Training &amp Racing Featured running in the rain sarah lavender smith Sibley regional park ultramarathon training ultrarunning where to run in Ojai

Welcome to Part 2 in our series designed to motivate and inspire you in 2019. Next up: How to Prepare for an FKT.  –– It’s the start of a new year. As runners we’re busy conceiving new goals and challenges to motivate us in training and racing. Targeting and preparing for specific events will certainly […]

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Here at the American Trail Running Association (ATRA), we’re proud to announce “Trail Running Responsibility” as our theme for 2019. This important topic follows our recent annual themes including last year’s Trail Stewardship: Leaving a Lasting Legacy, and the 2017 theme, Community: Building Trail Running Connections. Starting in January, we’ll be publishing a series of... Read more »

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This article was written by Ashley Brasovan, 2007 Foot Locker Cross Country Champion, Duke University graduate, and most recently a “MUT” convert with two USATF Championship titles to her credit – 2017 Trail Half Marathon and 2018 30K Trail Championship – and a USATF team appearance at the 2018 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships.... Read more »

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This article first appeared in our Trail Times newsletter Issue #12 from 1999. We’re tapping into our archives to bring back trail running articles from past issues of Trail Times. As we head into 2019, enjoy this first installment of “From the ATRA Archives” by Ian Torrence, which he originally submitted for Fishin’ Tales, a... Read more »

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The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience, by Jennifer Pharr Davis. Viking, 2018. Book review written by trail runner Laura Clark for the Fall 2018 edition of our Trail Times newsletter. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a... Read more »

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In a battle of fight or flight, ultrarunner Camille Herron considers herself a fighter.

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Two-time 100km world champion and Western States 100 record holder, Ellie Greenwood joins regular guest Ian Sharman to talk about what has changed in their Ultrarunning since they began: Gear Nutrition Training Bonus topic: what race would you gift a running friend this Christmas and why? Sharman Ultra – Endurance Coaching

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Follow these tips to successfully get through your first overnight race.

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USA Track & Field’s Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Council announces the following 12 races scheduled to host National Championships in 2019. A total of $56,000 in prize money will be awarded and medals will be presented to the top 10 overall USATF athletes and top three in each 5 year masters’ age group starting at 40.... Read more »

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Press release from USA Track & Field’s Mountain Ultra Trail (MUT) Council. ATRA Executive Director Nancy Hobbs is also USATF MUT Council chairperson and ATRA Director of Marketing Richard Bolt is a member of the council and MUT executive committee. Based in Indianapolis, USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track... Read more »

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To breathe deeply, to see the horizon clearly, to talk to old friends, to move your legs up and down a mountain—how marvelous and precious this life on earth is, the more imperiled it becomes.

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No, our dog is not part of this gear/gift guide, but something in that photo is! This time of year, I like to share recommendations for worthwhile running- and outdoor-related stuff I discovered over the past 12 months.

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How to watch the country’s oldest ultramarathon this weekend. Here’s our interview with last year’s JFK mens champ Eric Senseman. Lots of other top talent this year…should be great to watch. All eyes on Zach?  The contest between Leah Frost and Kaci Lickteig should be a good one too. Here’s …

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An average training day for Camille Herron might include eating a burger, dancing to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” in the car and a run along a winding mountain trail, her … Continue reading "Camille Herron’s Comeback"

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This article was written by Ashley Brasovan, 2007 Foot Locker Cross Country Champion, Duke University graduate, and most recently a “MUT” convert with two USATF Championship titles to her credit – 2017 Trail Half Marathon and 2018 30K Trail Championship – and a USATF team appearance at the 2018 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships.... Read more »

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I wanna run and feel like I did in that photo from 2015. I can’t recall a time I felt this degree of ambivalence about running, which is supposed to be my passion. Perhaps I’m fitting the profile of burnout, but burnout usually follows overtraining, and since September I’ve been undertraining.

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After another exciting season of mountain, ultra & trail (MUT) racing it’s time to recognize outstanding runners who are members of our Athletics federation – USA Track & Field. Nominations are now OPEN for athletes who are current members of USA Track & Field and hold US Citizenship. Many athletes have been nominated automatically based... Read more »

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Under a gibbous moon in the dry desert of Kanab, Utah, Jax Mariash climbed, hand over hand, up a pink sand dune. Then another. Then another. She climbed up and … Continue reading "Jax Mariash Continues to Take the Stage"

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After registering for his first trail ultramarathon, a 100K in Northern California, Ron Nowland, a consistent runner with several marathons under his belt, began tacking more miles onto his Saturday … Continue reading "Is Your Training Unproductive?"

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It was Sunday, 10 in the morning, in the vicinity of the finish line of the Stagecoach 100 mile race. I was not functioning well as a human person. “Hey, I couldn’t find you!” said Geoff after I’d wandered off for another unplanned nap in the back of the enormous …

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Because I face the move back to California and some big decisions about our home, I am mulling, “What next? What will I do after I turn 50?” To plan ahead, first I look back and reflect. I reminisce about life one decade ago…

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Written by Andrew Simmons for the Fall 2018 edition of our Trail Times newsletter. Andrew is the Head Coach for Lifelong Endurance. Many ultra-distance events – typically 100 milers and longer – allow participants to have a crew on course at various points, as well as pacers who typically join their runner mid-way through a... Read more »

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Kasie Enman (Huntington, VT) and David Sinclair (Peru, VT) kept their powder dry* early in the race and lit up the trails over Ragged Mountain to bring twin victories home to Vermont at the USATF 50 km Trail Championships. Fresh off a win at the Speedgoat 50K, Sinclair moved into the lead at mile 16... Read more »

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Cody Reed and his rat pack of ultrarunning heavy-weights have one goal in mind: win as many ultras as possible.

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On Sunday August 12 in the Lake Sunapee region of Southern New Hampshire, SIX03 Endurance’s 2nd Annual Ragged 50K will host the first ever ultra-distance trail running national championship held in New England. This strong mountain & trail running region has hosted more than a dozen USA Track & Field (USATF) Mountain Running Championships at iconic... Read more »

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I decided to turn my sour grapes into fortified grape juice and attempt an upstart, scrappy race the weekend after Hardrock 100, on the same mountain range, that’s arguably even more difficult—a race so miserable in its first year on the current route that the RD admits, “I don’t think it was a good experience […]

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Written by USATF Championship liaison Lin Gentling. Under almost ideal conditions for a summer race, the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championship held in conjunction with the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile was contested in Robert Treman State Park, NY. The partially overcast morning was cool with a gentle breeze. Just outside of Ithaca, New York in... Read more »

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“For these three days,” I told the group gathered for our inaugural San Juan Mountain Running Camp, “I want you to encounter and experience challenges on the trail that you don’t expect, and that perhaps intimidate you, because you’ll discover that you can get through and handle more than you think you can. And you’ll […]

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RaidLight is an ATRA corporate Switchback member and sponsor of our View from the Pack series of articles. Park City, Utah — Since 1999 RaidLight has served the trail running community with the best products to enhance your ability to connect with each other, nature, and to share the trail running experience. Born in the... Read more »

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2018’s Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run will be one for the history books—and not just because Jim Walmsely finally broke the men’s course record. Courtney Dauwalter, 33, (find her interview with Trail Runner before the … Continue reading "Phenomenal Female Finishers at the 2018 Western States"

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Legend has it that Buzz Burrell once hitchhiked 80 miles away from his home in Boulder, Colorado, and ran back on remote trails for two days carrying not much more than a straw and a … Continue reading "Father of the Fastest Known Time"

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Harvey Sweetland Lewis is making his way across the Appalachian Trail in hopes of setting a new FKT of 45 days and a few hours.

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