There are a tribe of runners ones that do not play by the rules, that run not for the medals or the trinkets. They run for something else something more primal and something that words can hardly describe. Every tribe has a leader who may or may not still be with us. They have their guru, their shaman, or whatever figurehead name we feel we need to assign. A couple times a year this tribe gathers to run, drink, experience life on a deep level. Born to Run Ultra Marathons is one of the biggest gatherings of this tribe welcoming all who want to come and run free.
The Born to Run Ultra Marathons has been described as part running race, part burning man, part festival. The last part about it being a festival is probably one of the most accurate descriptions although it is hard to put into words what really happens on a Born to Run race weekend.
My boyfriend, dog Bliss and I arrived to the ranch in Los Olivos, California for the 3rd annual Born to Run Ultra Marathons for a weekend of activities and some running long distances. Upon our arrival a friend, Patrick Sweeney was just finishing crushing the world record for the Beer half marathon (13 beers in 13.1 miles) finishing in less than 2:30. This would set the stage for the weekend. I was quickly handed a beer and a glass of wine. For the rest of the day we would set up camp, eat some tacos another friend Tyler had made up, hang out with Mas Locos (those who have been to the Copper Canyons) catching up as well as hanging out with the Tarahumara who had come from the Canyons to run, race, and share their culture. Lots of eating, drinking, stories and Fireball from Whiskey Jerry was passed around the campsite.
We woke up Friday morning moving a little slower and spent the morning watching the Run Archery race, where participants had to shoot bows and arrows at a target and run (penalty loops for each missed shot). This event was put on by Tom Norwood from Luna Sandals. It was morning but the beer and wine was already flowing. More and more people began to arrive on the ranch set up their tents until over 600 participants and family would arrive. The rules were simple for the weekend, be kind, don’t be a jackass, and pack out all your trash, otherwise it was a Burning Man or Woodstock vibe of free spirits floating around the venue. Midday there were ball races in which the Tarahumara showed the crowd how to play and then participants could play to help raise money for Norawas de Raramuri.
After these games came one of the highlights of the day the Beer Mile. The Beer Mile has gotten a lot of publicity recently but in this crowd it is common place at races. This tribe brings the beer mile event to event. However this might have been the largest Beer Mile I have ever participated in with easily over 30 people drinking, burping, and running trying not to puke. Nick Coury would take top honors (then the next day run a new PR for his 50K and win the race) for the day with Tyler Tomasello taking second. Shortly after the race it seemed Fireball made it’s way around then a running scavenger hunt put on by Patagonia with a bunch of mostly drunken runners trying to follow Jenn Shelton.
While we were drunken running around in the scavenger hunt the band Metalachi was setting up. They are the first and only heavy metal mariachi band and a must see if you can! Soon racers were dancing around singing, and singing along to classics as well as at least one rendition of Viva Chihuahua. If a stranger stumbled upon our tribe dancing and singing on this ranch they would be hard pressed to believe a ultra marathon was to take place at 6am the next day. We danced, we sang with no disregard for how it would feel at the starting line the next day. As evening fell into darkness the band ended and people partied on or found their way to their tents.
Saturday morning it was time to race. Everyone made their way to the starting line, some feeling fresher than others. The race began Forest and Bliss took off on the 10-mile course and I began my day of running the 50K while others began their 100K and 100-mile races. The morning was cool and over 600 toed the line. Early on in the race Josue Stephens and I fell into stride together and ran for about 20 miles of the race. Around mile 15-16 I had my back begin to seize up and ran the rest of the race with a knot from just below my right shoulder blade into my right butt cheek, blame it on the camping, drinking whatever, stuff happens when you are racing and you adapt. But it was a day to run and run I did. A few times chatting with people along the way. I felt my feet carry me as the pain grew, by the time I finished the last mile and crossed the finish line I could no longer hold the tears of pain, but in this pain and hungover state also ran a new 50K PR on the rolling course. A good soak in the kiddy pool and a nap helped release the back a bit.
After the race was over for us, we hungout for the afternoon. Ate burritos from a Luis’s (the race director) sister who kept this tribe fed all weekend, cheered for runners, watched Tattoo Mike work his magic with a needle giving tattoos on site. Compelled by the weekend, the spirit, the canyons, Micah True, my Mas Loco family and a very powerful vision while running found myself walking away from the weekend with some permanent ink. That night Drive-in Romeos and another band of utlra runners would play, we would all dance around fueled by PBR, wine, Jack and Fireball.
Sunday morning as the 100-milers were finishing up their races and the rest of us sipping strong coffee it was time for the tribe to begin to disband again until the next time we all came back together. This is a unique race as it is not just about running, but it’s about living. The group was originally brought together by one person, Caballo Blanco or Micah True and race director Luis Escobar has continued to bring the spirit of Micah and “Corre Libre” or “Run Free” to life and pass it along to all who choose to gather on this weekend. As I posted before I left for the weekend, “ready to head off to spend a weekend with all my favorite freaks and geeks in trail running. The amount of awesomeness in one area this weekend might be too much to handle.” And it is true in the truest sense of the word Awesome – the energy all weekend was palpable. The spirit alive and strong. The freaks and geeks banded together and we all let our guards down and for a few days put the cell phones away, no mass selfies hitting the internet, and just lived. We lived with one another and felt the spirit fill us and carry us on the trail and beyond.
A weekend at Born to Run is a vacation and a chance to just be, to find out maybe a little more about yourself among the company of extreme positive vibes. Oh and take a few shots of Fireball and drink a lot of beer. My love of our strange little tribe is stronger than ever and the essence of “corre libre” stronger than ever. As we all hugged our goodbyes it was true we all knew it was ending but yet it never really ends. Until next year…