The Free to Run races are some of my favorites. First, they support Free to Run, which is an amazing organization. Second, the races are put on by BURCS. This means challenging, well-organized races with excellent support. Third, these races bring together an amazing community from all over the world!
This year, I traveled to the race with Zahra, who is now famous after being featured in Runner’s World. She was looking to finish her first 50-miler, and I knew she would be able to do it (spoiler alert: she did it!).
I saw many friends before the 5am start, and I looked forward enjoying the trails with them. After the start, I found myself running with John, and we were both content to stumble along in the dark together.
The course is a 12.5 mile loop that you repeat 4 times. It’s mostly singletrack and a few sections are moderately technical. Oh, and the 50-mile course has eight climbs that are close to 1,000 feet each and nearly 10,000 feet of total elevation gain.
Somewhere around mile 20, I took a pause and let John go ahead. My legs were off for a bit, and it caused me to lose my mental focus. I think his lead grew to five minutes or so. Around mile 30ish, things really started to come back. I was flying on the descents, and I knew that I was surely making up time. Sure enough, I caught up to John around mile 37 or so. We were now 75% of the way through the race… and right back where we started (literally and figuratively).
I left the aid station first and slogged my way through the 1,000-foot climb. I glanced over my shoulder at the next aid station (mile 40ish), and John was still there. At mile 44ish, same thing! I couldn’t shake him. The good news for me was that there were two big descents left and only one big climb. I think this played into my favor, as I was still floating down the hills.
I pushed to the finish and managed to take the win in 9:23:23, with John finishing just a few minutes behind me. My friend Farahnaz came through in 12:27 (3rd female and 8th overall) and Zahra finished in 16:56 (7th female and 16th overall).
Full results of the race(s) are available here.
I can’t say enough good things about this race, the BURCS running community and the amazing work of Free to Run.