JUMP-STARTING a running regimen is a springtime rite for recreational joggers across the country. But instead of pounding pavement, millions now sprint into the woods, where the growing sport of trail running is bringing exercisers back to nature.
In yesterday’s New York Times, I covered upcoming trail-running races, including the grandfather of all: The Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile race that begins at Squaw Valley, Calif., and follows trails used by gold and silver miners in the 1850s.
This year’s Western States Endurance Run begins at 5 a.m. on Saturday, June 23, and runners must reach the finish 100 miles down the line no later than 11 a.m. the following day.
“I felt just floored at the starting line, thinking of the task ahead,” said Greg Soderlund, 59, from Sacramento, Calif., who has competed in the Western States Endurance Run three times, finishing the course once, in 1992.
More than 1,000 people apply to race the Western States Endurance each year. A lottery system is used to whittle the field to 375, the final number of competitors allowed on the course.
Sterling silver and bronze belt buckles serve as trophies for the finishers.
“The experience was not physically pleasurable,” Mr. Soderlund said of the precipitous mountain course, which gains and loses more than 40,000 feet of elevation. “But it was very satisfying to finish.”
Beyond Western States, this spring dozens of trail-running races are slated to start in states like Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, Connecticut, and New York.
About 6.7 million Americans now run on dirt or grass trails once a week or more, according to a 2006 report from the Outdoor Industry Foundation in Boulder, Colo.
See my full report in New York Times here: nytimes.com