Earlier this year I decided I wanted to host a race of some sort on the Elm Creek horse trails. I love those trails, but mostly, when people think of Elm Creek they think of the mountain bike single track. I love the single track, don’t get me wrong, but I always felt the horse trails don’t get enough attention.
I started putting together some plans a couple months ago, and decided to host a simple fat ass run. For those not familiar, a fat ass is just a big group run, usually with potluck treats at the end. I put out the call to our local groups, talked briefly with the park to let them know about the event, and waited for the fateful day of the run. As luck would have it, we got socked with our first winter storm the day before the run. I went out to mark the trail with Mark and Matt, and it was cold, windy, and totally different than anything we had been running in during the previous weeks. I honestly wasn’t sure if many people would show up with those types of conditions.
I planned on taking people through a 9 mile route of the course. This encompassed our usual 7 mile loop, with an additional 1-mile out-n-back spur to a different parking lot that I knew wouldn’t be busy. This parking lot also had the advantage of being a campground where we could get a fire going and set up a canopy for folks to set their food and get warm.
The morning of the run we started getting set up and soon enough people started pouring in. The weather wasn’t a deterrent at all, and before we knew it, the parking lot was full with 42 cars. I gathered people around at 7:30 and gave a brief overview of the course, and the charities that we were collecting donations for ($250 to split between Defeat the Stigma and Three Rivers Park Foundation!). I then launched people down the course, taking up a spot at the back as the course sweeper.
It ended up being an amazingly beautiful morning. The snow was fresh and bright, and the wind wasn’t bad when you were inside the woods. I hung out with a few folks at the back of the pack, like Mike W. and we slowly made our way around the 9 mile loop. It took me a little over two hours to get back to the start/finish, and when I did all I heard was great things about the day. There was more than enough food for people, and the fire was roaring with a healthy group of people around it.
Everyone said they had a really great time, and loved the run. No one got lost, so the course markings worked well. Everyone managed to stay warm and comfortable despite the sudden plunge into winter. Around 10:30 it was time to pack it up and clean up after ourselves. I made sure that no one dropped any trash on the trail when I was sweeping, and we left the campsite without a trace.
It was a tremendously fun day in the woods in winter. I am so happy that I was able to provide a great experience for people, and that they had a wonderful time in the woods, learning about a trail they might never have run before. It was a great way to kick of the weekend!