|Eric Messing Around at the Start of the Birkie Trail Marathon|
That was my 3rd Birkie Trail marathon and though I seem to get slower every year, my affection for the event only continues to grow. This year was especially fun for the new friends we made while camping out at the start line.
Speaking of that...camping is definitely the way to go. To be absolutely honest, I like everything about doing marathons except for the actual running. But as I've mentioned before, doing the running is necessary to get into that mental place where the pre and post campfire conversation is really good.
Here we are sitting with eventual race winner Marco Sturm:
Marco is a professional runner and it was very interesting to talk to the guy. He'd just done a 100 mile event a week ago, the Run Rabbit Run 50&100 mile event in Steamboat springs where he'd finished 5th. I asked him how long something like that takes, and he explained that his time was a little slow because he took a wrong turn towards the end and ended up running 110 miles (21 hrs 12 min). Although he still finished high enough to earn a cash prize, he said the wrong turn cost him about $3000 in prize money. I think missing out on that $3000 really bothered him since he brought it up a couple different times.
It's interesting to see the sacrifices these pro athletes make. A lot of people are under the impression that a couple good results mean you'll have sponsors flocking to you, but that's simply not the case. I know of athletes who are world-cup medalists who have a hard time making ends meet. Marco works a part time job, and some of the trips he makes to do major events are a bit of a risk because if he misses out on the prize money, he loses money on the trip. He mentioned how he's been in the position where he's been obliged to run injured or at less than full strength. Make no mistake, these athletes work very hard and earn everything they get.
Speaking of hard working runners, Tammi continues her impressive run as multiple marathon champion:
Tammi finished 1st woman and 4th overall. It's so much fun to be at these events when Tammi wins. Obviously I never get to see it since I still had to run another 3 hrs to get to the finish, but just seeing her name at the top of the leader board and seeing her picture plastered all over the American Birkebeiner page is awesome. Tammi has really done something special this summer. Wins at the Birkie Trail Marathon and Eau Claire Marathon plus sub 3 hr finishes at Boston and Grandma's make for a summer to remember. Getting sponsorships is difficult, but if anyone deserves them it's Tammi.
Heading up the "sweeper" division were Eric and I. Eric is chipping away at his quest for 100 marathons, and he knocked out #73 yesterday. Eric actually was being generous to run with me since the months I spent in Peru were spent eating all the great food (and not running much). With the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon coming up we were able to discuss some last odds and ends, and just have a "rolling meeting" to make sure we'll be pulling off another wonderful event.
This year the Birkie Trail Marathon offered an Ultra event: a 100 km race that left at 6 AM. I thought that was nice because it meant the tent wouldn't be torn down by the time I finished the marathon. Just having the Ultra going on was awesome. That's a whole different type of energy. Those guys leave in the dark and return in the dark, and Eric was around to watch them come in.
It's nice to finish your marathon, get cleaned up, have a couple beers, and right when you're starting to feel human again, the ultra marathoners start rolling in. Trust me, they need your support in the last mile or two.
I'm always impressed by the quality people you get to meet at events like this. Everyone is so happy, energetic, and full of energy, and truly it is important to face the world with a quick laugh and an inviting smile on your face. If you can laugh and smile your way through a marathon, the rest of life is a piece of cake.
This year we had an especially great group of people sharing the camping area. I think I've done enough of these events now where just about everyone you meet reminds you of somebody from a long time ago, and making a new acquaintance is like having a reunion with a long absent friend. That Birkie trail always gets me after having spent so much of my life heading up there and enjoying intense experiences: every tree and every turn reminds me of friends and various stages of my life (both good and bad) that have come and gone. I saw Kevin Rodgers at the start and mentioned how I just like going up there. Kevin is a veteran of more than 30 Birkies and I knew he could tell what I was talking about (he went on to kick some serious butt in that half marathon too).
Camping is the way to do the Birkie Trail Marathon. That Ultra brings a serious vibe with it, and it's great to be in the presence of that powerful, positive energy. One of the folks we met suggested that we reunite in one year at Steamboat springs to spectate the Run Rabbit Run. I kind of hope it happens! But I'll be just as happy simply returning for the 2016 Birkie Trail Marathon.