Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Top 10 Trail Races

Trails are where the soul can escape, dance, smile, and connect to our deepest thoughts. We can share them together or can find solace in exploring in solitude. The trails are where I find often my happiest memories, craziest ideas, and greatest clarity. 

Below I share my favorite 10 trail races for any level trail runner looking for something in the marathon, half, 5K, or relay distance options. If you like something longer, my favorite 10 ultras are here. Extend your trail adventure and explore the surrounding areas as each have hundreds of miles of magnificence. 

10. Yosemite Half
Location: Bass Lake, CA
Date: May
Weather: 40-70F
Results: 1:50:55 (2018)

If you love the outdoors and want a great list to explore of national parks, Vacation Race series offers an amazing to do list of national parks around the nation. The course is a mixture of fire road and paved road through the Sierra National Forest just outside of Yosemite National Park. Runners can camp at Bass Lake to be conveniently next to the start and then extend your trips for days to camp and explore the national park. As my first visit, my friends and I scored a half dome permit and were able to summit safely, even though it was terrifying in hail. Would I do half dome again? Too soon to say since that slippery climb has had some recent reported deaths. Hike safely friends. 

Location: East Glacier Village, MT
Date: June
Weather: 40-70F
Results: 1:45:56 (2017)

Camp at Red Eagle Campground for the expo and race start/finish, then run through rolling hills (1200' gain) on a stunning beautiful point to point course with miles of mountain ranges. Most of the Vacation Races give options to camp, local lodging, or nearby hotels for diverse options. Afterwards, explore the 1500 square miles of more wilderness inside Glacier National Park. With glacier carved peaks, there is 700 miles to explore and let your soul just be. Wildlife ranges from mountain goats and grizzlies. 

Location: Gallatin National Forest, WY
Date: June
Weather: 30-60F
Results: 2:05:42 *injured (2018)

Enjoy the rolling hills of the Gallatin green forest neighboring Yellowstone National Park. Combine it with the 5K for a challenge medal and extend your stay to camp/hike the 3500 square miles of wilderness. After the race, enjoy canyons, alpine rivers, lush forest, host springs, alpine rivers, and the infamous Old Faithful. Camping and visiting here for the first time was the best.

7. Infinite Trails World Championship
Location: Bad gastein, Austria
Date: June
Weather: 30-100F, rain or humidity
Details: 3-person relay teams (25K/60K/45K)

Nestled within the Austrian Alps, this multi day event will bring together 300 teams from around the world to surmount the peaks amongst great beauty your heart can embrace. Beginning on Thursday evening, all runners run the prologue to seed your teams on race day Saturday. Your three person team will be 1st) 6000' gain in 25K, 2nd) 12,000' gain in 60K, and 3rd) 4500' gain in 45K. Each their own unique challenge and your motivation to bring your A game for your team. I was honored to coach 20 runners to their first international mountain race and dominate out there impressing many AR communities from around the world. 

Location: Anchorage, AK
Date: June
Weather: 60F/75F
Results: 4:22:12 *injured (2012)

For any outdoor enthusiast, Alaska has everything for your tantalizing soul to explore from glacier cruises, hunting, hiking, to city and wildlife tours. In the summer, the climate is pleasant and 24hrs of civil twilight around the Summer Solstice will be a very unique experience. Those heavy hotel drapes will come in handy for sleep. With rolling hills, the point to point course is a mixture of trail on rocky tank trail and mostly road. Occasional bear sightings have not been uncommon. A wonderful city, well organized event, and great state to visit and return. 

Location: Napa Valley, CA
Date: March
Weather: 40F/55F
Results: 3:40:13, 1st FOA (2008)

Calming streams will be your soundtrack as you run along a lush single track within Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Rolling hills, stream crossing, and some technical sections makes it a rewarding oasis in a local treasure untapped by tourists. Located minutes from the area's great restaurants, wineries, and hotels, the event is capped at 300 selling out every year in it's 30th annual. It was a hidden gem my family and I were able to share together in 2008.  

Location: Los Padres National Forest, CA
Date: November
Elevation: 5000' gain
Results: 6:17:02 (2013)

As part of the allwedoisrun series by RD Luis Escobar, the Red Rock trail races, located just outside of Santa Barbara, are miles of challenge. The single track course for the marathon climbs over 5000' through tree covered steep and long ascents. Course support is minimal; therefore, you're required to carry minimum of 60oz fluid. When the RD says it's your fault you get lost, it is in his races. Great painful fun. 

Location: Manitou Springs, CO
Date: August
Elevation: 7K gain to 14K altitude
Results: 7:10:16 (2011, 2013)
** favorite feature: high altitude

As “America’s Ultimate Challenge,” PPM fulfills its name. Claimed as the most difficult marathon in the US (Inca Trail Marathon for N. & S. America), the race begins at 6,300 elevation climbs for 13 miles to the summit at 14,115 then descend back to the start. At this altitude, the mountain controls the day so be prepared for anything as you crush your quads hands on knees to the summit in thin air. Pro tip: try to find your appropriate placement with the first couple miles before it goes into single track. Add 2-4hrs to your regular road marathon time depending on climbing fitness and altitude sensitivity. If you want double pain, you can opt to do the Ascent the day before, too.  

Location: Birling Gap, Sussex, UK
Date: March
Elevation: 4200' gain
Results: 4:55:57 1st US, 4th FOA (2013)
** favorite feature: severe weather

With the world famous Seven Sisters and far reaching views over the English Channel, the marathon shoulders the coastal towns of Eastbourne and Seaford, which lie on the eastern section of the South Downs National Park. Where white chalk cliffs meets the sea, this course has produced one of the most iconic landscapes of Britain. With four distances to choose from, there is something for everyone to enjoy. In 2013, I ran the marathon with 4200' gain where it faced one it's worst race weather on record with risk of being cancelled up until the day before. Race day, we faced 30F, 30mph winds dropping windchill factor to 15F as we pushed through hail that pierced our rain jackets. An joyous punishing that I would do again-- probably the worst weather I raced in, substantially worse than Boston 2018 (record coldest race day). Mountains have a unique offering.

1. Inca Trail Marathon
Location: Inca Trail, Peru
Date: July
Elevation: 10,700' gain
Results: 10:32:57, 3rd FOA (2012)

A backpacker's thru hike dream usually completed in 3-5 days: the Inca Trail can now also be done in one day as the most challenging and beautiful 26.2 miles I have ever done. Race participants camp at the start line at 8000' altitude and prepare before dawn to trek through 5 ecological zones in varying weather of heat, cold, wind, rain, hail as you climb to the highest point on the course at 13,7000' over Dead Women's pass. With a firm cut off 11 hours due to Peruvian government restrictions, two thirds of the field did not finish in 2012 under the cut off and were forced to camp overnight to finish the next morning. Be prepared to ascend over 3000 steps through history as alpaca graze the land around you until you are greeted with your magical finish line: Machu Picchu. 


If you would like to visit more of my top lists, below are some more of my favorite categories. Feel free to email me if you're looking for a new fitness / training program to keep you motivated and accountable through the changing circumstances. 
Thank you for reading! 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tia Nadia! I love it when you post articles like this. You are so smart. I just wanted to say that I love you and I will see you on Sunday for Mother's day. Oh and you forgot a pic of me running a 5k with you. Just FYI. I love you so much. Just so you believe its me here are some nicknames only you and the rest of the family like lita and lito would know. Love, Seena Beena AKA Sunshine