Born to Run Ultra Marathon Race – May 2013 10 miles, 50k, 100k, 100 miles – The Weekend Report

This is a completely different race than I have ever done before and that mainly because of Luis Escobar. Here are my thoughts.

Have you read the book Born to Run? It is a fantastic book, one of my favorites. It talks about the Copper Canyons of Mexico, the Tarahumaras (the native people of the Copper Canyons), the anthropology of running vs walking, running shoes, barefoot running, insight into the ultra marathon scene, a 50 mile race and the wild ride that accompanied everything listed.

Luis Escobar is a photographer. One of his photos became the cover for the Born to Run book. Now, when he’s not on a shoot, he getting runners together to share that wild ride in the Born to Run spirit.

Even before arriving at the starting line I knew this was going to fun. There are many ways to do this race, all of them fun but I recommend going out all and camp out at least Friday and Saturday nights.

First of all, you have to find “The Ranch.” We really weren’t given the directions, just an address that isn’t painted on the curb. Of course there are no curbs where we were going. It was almost like a secret club and someone had to give you the password to find the right driveway.

Once in and driving on the dirt road you saw a sign that said “Welcome Balloonists and Visitors” and I knew I was in the right place.

You drive up a hill then drop into what I like to call the “Copper Canyons North” because you have left reality and entered into a runners paradise or hell, depending on how you look at it, with only one rule, “DON’T BE A DICK.”

The events start as early as Thursday, setting up campsites. We rolled in Friday afternoon, picked a spot, cleaned up the area (bring a shovel and or rake) then set up our tents.

At 4 PM we rushed down to the starting line for the first official event of the weekend, The Beer Mile. Thank you Patrick Sweeney.

The Beer Mile goes something like this, bring 4 unopened beers and a $10 donation. Put your 4 beers down on the starting line, turn your back away from the course, listen for the shotgun blast, turn-around open your first beer, chug it, run 1/8 of a mile to a turn around point, return to the starting line, open your second beer, chug it and repeat until you have finished 4 beers and 1 mile. That was 4 beers in about 13 minutes for me. And, here’s the kicker. You don’t feel the buzz right way ,but 30 minutes later it hits you and you realize have an ultra marathon to do the next morning.

The spirit of Micah True was among us. Maria gave a little talk about how our donations were helping the people down in the Copper Canyons. Our Beer Mile donation was just a little bit of it. People brought clothes to donate, gave money and you could really feel the sense of caring.

After some music, campfire and more partying, it was lights out at 9 PM. People were still rolling in but being very considerate. Getting to Los Olivos on a Friday afternoon can be bitch dealing with the traffic.

It gets serious at 4 AM when Luis wakes up you up. You have to be there to experience it. I was up but stayed in my sleeping bag because it was pretty cold and still way dark. 30 minutes later I’m up and getting ready. All I’ll say is a few more porta-potties would be nice but it wasn’t a deterrent. Besides this race is about being real, not paying extra for access to private honey wagons.

Speaking about being real, they only have a couple of aid stations on course, so you better carry what you need. At one point, there was a 7 mile stretch in-between aid stations and it gets hot in the afternoon. That is why the oath you take and the release you sign says, IF I GET HURT, LOST, OR DIE, IT IS MY OWN DAMN FAULT.” “AMEN”

The race starts promptly at 6 AM. Watch the video to see my actual experience on the course but a quick recap goes something like this: Run in a cool area, run with cool people, follow Luis directions, don’t get lost, if you are not a fast runner it is totally ok, stay cool, look for shade, walk the hills, support your fellow runner, get a super cool finishers medal, and smile because you are having fun.

After the race is another great experience. The party kicks into high gear. At the same time we are cheering on the runners passing through camp. Some are still working on the 50k while others are running the 100k or 100 mile race.

Because it can take up 30 hours to finish a 100 mile race the party goes all night long. Some people are taking turns pacing the runners through the darkness. While others are drinking all sorts of beverages at the bonfire. And the bonfire rocks, and it is warm when it is cold at your camping spot.

The next morning can be a little hazy as the morning fog lifts from the canyon. While people are packing up, some of the 100 milers are still out on the course and running through camp. It becomes very inspiring.

Then you are ready to roll out. But before I end this I need to emphasize a couple of things. If you are going to do this event, spend the entire weekend on the ranch. Yes, it’s a fun race and the medals are awesome. I know you are in wine country and that entire area is a blast to check out. I know real beds are great before a race. I know going back to an air-conditioned hotel with a hot shower is comforting. But, the Born to Run Ultra races are really about the total experience. Just like if you were in the Copper Canyons. Enjoy the camping, limited running water, a race where you have to take care of yourself, no showers when you finish but maybe a rinse off from the cold water coming out of a hose, cows all around you, cool runners and a weekend journey that you get to escape reality and live a little of the Born to Run experience. Thank you Luis.