So first of all: How Big Is It?
One of my brother’s good friends has the initials BTG. He made the rather epic mistake of putting those initials on the license plate of his Truck. He then compounded the problem by putting a license plate holder over the top that managed to obscure the top of the T in BTG. Making appear to say BIG.
This would have really been a problem if he actually had one of those huge lifted trucks that guys tend to buy when they’re overcompensating for something. But even given the very modest size of his truck, the results were pretty hilarious.
Needless to say, he’s heard the question “How big is it?” many more times than he’d care to remember. And to this day, I love to ask him that question (in the highest, girliest voice I can manage) whenever I get a chance.
Over the years, for whatever reason I have signed up for an overwhelming majority of large scale runs. By large scale, I don’t mean they are particularly long, although most have been half marathons as of late, but I mean how big the field of runners is.
I have been a part of runs as big as 20,000 racers, and most have been at least a few thousand, so it can really start to skew your perception of what would be considered a “big” race. It’s hard to tell in this picture but this is me waiting to start the Austin Half Marathon in 2011, which between the Marathon and Half Marathon had a field of about 20,000.
This really hit home for me when I was training for the Tough Mudder back in 2011.
Don’t worry, for those of you looking to tackle the mother of all mud runs, I am planning to dedicate several blog posts this month to my experience with that one. It is another of my favorite races, and definitely one of the most fun to talk about.
But I digress…
So my friend Jane and I were looking for something we could use as a training run that was similar in length and altitude in the months leading up to TM, and we somehow managed to stumble upon a race called “The Thin Air Distance Festival”.
The Thin Air Distance Festival was a really cool concept. A marathon run over the course of 4 days. Runners had their choice of a 10k on day one, an 11k on day two, a 10 miler on day 3 and a 5k on day four, or you could opt to run as many of the legs as you wanted included all four adding up to a whole marathon. The race Jane and I chose was the 10 miler held on August 14, 2011.
It sounded like a perfect warm-up for TM, and it was a relatively inexpensive fee as races go, so we decided to go for it. The race started at Montbleu Resort in South Lake Tahoe in the parking lot and went south from there. It was a meandering route through mainly quiet residential neighborhoods before hitting a section of beautifully wooded trail, then back the way we came.
When Jane and I arrived that morning and easily found parking in the Montbleu parking lot a scant 50 feet or so from the starting line, it started to hit us that this might be a smaller scale race than we were typically used to.
It probably should have keyed us in that packet pickup was scheduled for race-day morning too.
By the time we had arrived at packet pick-up, I began to realize that this was not like the races I was used to. And when I asked one of the volunteers the size of the race and she said “oh it’s pretty big this year, well over 70.”
That pretty much blew me away.
Here you can see the mob of all 70ish of us getting started…
It ended up being a great race, it was actually fun to try and follow the course as my typical strategy of “follow the mob of runners ahead of me”, wasn’t going to work this time. They were pretty creative too, they had chalk arrows on the ground and when we headed off into the woods, they had occasional trees marked with yellow caution tape.
The neighborhood sections were pretty easy to follow, and just in case there were any stragglers, one of the race coordinators “Coach John” was cruising around on a scooter to locate and guide any lost runners.
The wooded area was amazing. By the time we hit the woods, the field had become very thin indeed, and it was almost like a scavenger hunt in places as you tried to locate the next caution tape marked tree while not losing sight of the trail and getting hopelessly lost in the beautiful but dense wilderness.
All-told it was a great race, but unfortunately it hasn’t been held again since. I’m just hoping maybe someday Coach John will decide to bring it back?
The Thin Air Distance Festival was definitely a race worth running, and proof that size doesn’t always matter.
Do you have any suggestions of small but amazing runs? I’d love to hear all about them, please comment!