I’ve been trying to do a little more trail running recently in preparation for my 100-miler (that’s only 6 weeks away). I looked for “local” (within 2 hours) trail races over a month ago, based on guidance from my running coach, Ian. I didn’t find any. About 3 weeks ago, Ian recommended I look again. I told him I doubt any had just “popped up” but that I’d check. A day or two later, I get a random email about an “underground” race that would coincide with the end of the world and it was a trail run. Perfect! Plus, it was inexpensive, about $20, for 12.21 miles—appropriate for a race called Mayan End of Days Run.
Yesterday I woke up at 4am to drive the 2 hours and 15 minutes to the race location near St George, UT. I was excited about the race, largely because of this excerpt from the email sent two days beforehand:
“If this is your first “Underground Runner” event a few things will help you out: these are truly underground events, meaning that it’s just you, the road, and few soon to be friends. No gels, or aid stations- you bring your own nutrition. We will have water available at the turn around (6.1 miles) . ****** note. Please bring you own bottles or way to carry water, we will NOT have cups available. This also means no porta potties, be legal and creative! “
After getting there, I checked in and got a smiley face on my hand, which signified I was registered. We were given a brief description of the course route, took a group photo, and we were off. This was my coldest run to date. If you live somewhere that it REALLY gets cold, don’t laugh. Realize that I became a runner when I lived in San Antonio and I now live in Las Vegas. The temperature at the start of this race was 26* and 29* at the end.
There were lots of people wearing weird costumes, which I guess is typical of underground events. Since it was a few days before Christmas, I decided to dress Christmas-y, and I fit in quite well. Instead of explaining what I was wearing, it’s easier to just look at the pics.
The purpose of this race for me had been to gain some confidence on trails. Considering my marathon 7 days prior and the 25 miles since then, I wasn’t in a position to try to race anything. The first mile was paved and the “trail” started. I say “trail” because it wasn’t a trail. It was a dirt road that had uneven areas (including where vehicles had driven through mud and then the mud had frozen) and a bunch of rocks at places, but it wasn’t what I would consider a trail. It was a difficult course, though, as it was quite hilly.
After the first couple miles being sub-10-minute pace, my legs felt quite sluggish, like they just didn’t have energy. This coincided with the start of the hills, too, so I figured I’d just enjoy myself. I ran, I walked, I chatted with other runners, and I LOVED the views. Southern Utah is gorgeous and course and the mountains in the distance were so pretty.
I ended up feeling warm after about 3 miles, so I took off my gloves and jacket. It wasn’t until about an hour later, when my hands started to hurt and the cold went up my arms that I decided to put the jacket and gloves back on.
I felt like I was going quite slow, especially since I took quite a few walk breaks on the uphill sections in the second half, but no one ever passed me, so relatively, I didn’t feel like I was doing too bad. There were only 50 runners (the race was capped at that), so there were a handful of times where I kind of felt like I was out on my own in nature, which was very peaceful.
My finish time was about 2:09, but it didn’t really matter because there were no bibs, chips, timing mats, or even a finish clock. But I had a blast. The one thing we did get were finisher medals which were really neat. Then, afterward, a bunch of people stayed around and just chatted. It was a really neat event.
I talked to the RD afterward and mentioned that while I had no idea how my name had gotten added to the email distro list, I was thankful. Surprisingly, he had no idea how my name had been added to it either, haha. We talked for a while and discussed that there will likely always be an appeal for events like his, even in a time where there is so much focus on bigger more commercialized races with lots of perks. There is something special about paying a small fee, running a marked course, and getting to share the experience with like-minded people who truly just enjoy getting out and running.
I laughed driving home as I thought about this race compared to my 50-miler 3 weeks prior. The 50-miler had cost 5 times more, yet this race had more aid (water at the start, turnaround, and finish) and was way more fun. The only additional things I got for an extra $80 at the 50-miler were a tech shirt, a reusable grocery bag, and some spaghetti, lol. And the extra distance didn’t really justify more money, in and of itself, considering it wasn’t a closed course or anything.
Anyway, I LOVED this event, and I look forward to doing a few more of these in the future. The RD mentioned expanding it to Las Vegas sometime too, if there was interest. The irony in these events is that participation is necessary for them to happen, but at the same time, too much publicity turns them into the same kind of huge races that is exactly what ones like this pride themselves on not being.
My friend Patrick ran the race too and finished a little ahead of me. We took an “air” pic after we finished. We look goofy, but I love the pic for some reason. Below is that pic as well as some other ones from the race. Oh, that’s another neat thing about this race too: great photographer who took LOTS of pics that were all put on Facebook for free!
Recommendation: Run an underground or low-key event in your area if you hear about one. They can be a lot of fun. However, as a warning, it may make you question why you spend so much money on much larger races. (Or, conversely, it might remind you why you like megaraces.)
Yes, sorry, I’m one of THOSE people. 😉