Trail Run Like Murakami or Something Fast Like Sally

I decided to head down to Indy and jump into the Vasque DINO Trail Run Series. They offered a 5k and a 15k on trails. Naturally, I went 15k. I don’t do much trail running, but need a tempo run as prep for upcoming marathon and I feel fit right now, so why not? I got up, drank a cup of oily coffee, drove to Indy. I passed corn and corn and also some corn. The moon was very Sally; it looked like a thumbtack in the sky, a white thumbtack pegging the heedlessness of men to the word love. Something. If this was the 19th century, I would have said the moon shone low and clear in the morning air like a shopworn coin. But we aren’t in the 19th century.


Heading down the highway…got my carbs, got my stimulant drink (yes, I use PEDs). On my mirror hangs a marathon metal. I think people who hang things on mirrors are idiots so I am clearly an idiot.

Showed up and got my shirt and my number. I noticed immediately that trail runners were their own breed. Even the cars were a give-away, your Subarus and Volkswagens and door-less Jeeps and even that stupid-ass discontinued car/truck that Ander Monson drives.  The runners were hippy/hipster, grungy and beautiful. Several wore VEGAN on their shirts. Several were attractive, in that glowing corona of fitness and good will. Several were skinny. All were smiling. This wasn’t the suburb white collar crowd you see at most road races. This was more likely a left wing white collar crowd, with a smattering of people who just ran for a living. I saw one pro. His body said to me: I AM A PRO I AM ABOUT TO SWALLOW YOU. I only saw one Republican. He was trying to beat down a small squirrel.


The before…(Note I wear my Boston Marathon shirt to intimidate my opponents)

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had run only one 15k on trails (2 years ago, 59: 25 time), but past performance not so relevant in trail running. Every trail is vastly different. Also, this race was going to be longer than 15k. How did I know?

We gather at the line. The starter walks up to the line with his funky starter microphone thing, and goes, “Guys, the race is actually 9.5 miles long. Sorry.”

Everyone just sort of laughed it off and got ready to start.

Wow. Now this is a perfect example of how trail runners and road runners differ. Road runners FREAK if the distance is off. Here, we were just told we were going to run extra mileage, and no one seemed to care. Cool. I toed the line, up near the start, because I am relatively fast and I don’t like to be trampled. NOTE TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T RACE OFTEN: Do not get at the very front of the starting crowd unless you are relatively fast. You will be trampled. Starter guy hits the button to make his microphone howl like a wounded cow: Woooooooooooooooooooo.

We are off!

OK, this is single track. In the steep riverbank forest rocks up down oh my gods. WTF? Passing will be a challenge in single track. You have to pick your spots, get on the person’s shoulder, scream out, “On your left!” then surge past the runner! Certainly going to be a lot of strategy here; I am a little out of my terrain.


First miles I am just getting used to this narrow trail and focusing on NOT busting my ass (see cool term for this later in blog). Middle miles (5-7) I get into a groove and the runners spread out, so now I get to take it all in, the river flowing by, the lakes, the wonderful feel of rushing through the woods, grinding up hills, flowing down the other side, the lungs working now, the arms and legs all piston and clutch, the sweet inhale of earth, the forest blurring by in greens and brows and blue sky, the body and the trail merging, to run and run and run…alive.

Final miles I go into my “batteries” (my term), the extra I save to finish strong. I like to finish strong. To arrive. I’m glad I had some in the well, because a runner got on my heels the last mile. We battled all the way in. But this is single track and I was feeling good, so he never caught me. After the race I said, “Thank you. You really pushed me there.” He said, ” Trying to catch you made me finish strong.”


Speaking of terminology, in conversation after the race, I picked up a few words:

Front-Country: This means trails right by your house. You didn’t travel anywhere to run the trail. “Oh, I’ve got ten miles of front-country right off my house.”

Slog: Can be the trail condition (“That swamp area was sloggy”) but usually means how you ran, shuffling, staggering, as in the trail got your ass: “That big hill I died, a total slog.”

Yard Sale: Busting your ass. “Dude, I took a total yard sale on mile 7.”


After…me be tired.

I ran the race in 1:02:48. 15th overall.

After the run, I ate watermelon. They gave away shoes and hats. I met runners named Mark and Joy. Joy said, “Why don’t you come out to the next race, Sean?”

I said OK.


“Betting” (Tao Lin quotes) Update.

Lost Ga bet (though we got the under)

Lost Illinois (who “bets” Illinois?)

Won Army


Now, we started with 40 “units” (we only “bet” [Tao Lin quotes]) mystical units) and we have 40 units. So.

The best gambling story was maybe written by D.H. Lawrence.

Thing is you gamble when you roll out of bed.

And gamble if you don’t roll out of bed. Like the Hemingway story where Krebs has PTSD. He wants a life with “no consequences” and by trying to achieve that life suffers consequences…That’s call a paradox. Life is a paradox.

Hemingway first published in a literary magazine.

Elizabeth Bishop first published in a literary magazine.

Cormac McCarthy first published in a literary magazine.

Submit to the Broken Plate Magazine.



8 responses to “Trail Run Like Murakami or Something Fast Like Sally

  1. I’ve always really liked that D.H. story. A band copped the title. They are, unfortunately, not as good as their namesake.

  2. Yes, quite, but more impressive would have been self-taken photos mid-race. Really show off your skills as the world’s foremost jogtographer

  3. Nice race kid.

    This is something I know from years, years: Never, NEVER bet Illinois.

    Unless the pain of loss is a sort of drug you cannot kick.

  4. good blog, I love when you write about shit happening.

  5. Little Grizz (joy)

    Sean, I really enjoyed this blog about the DINO race. This quote in particular was very awesome
    “The moon was very Sally; it looked like a thumbtack in the sky, a white thumbtack pegging the heedlessness of men to the word love. Something. If this was the 19th century, I would have said the moon shone low and clear in the morning air like a shopworn coin. But we aren’t in the 19th century.”
    I can see why you are a writing professor. I’m going to check out your books.
    See you at the next DINO 15K. Email me that picture of Goucher at Boston.
    Peace Out.

  6. See, in skiing we refer to a bad wipeout as a yardsale because skis and poles and hats come off and you can yell from the lift, “How much for the goggles?”

  7. Hey friend. Stumbled across this blog today. I was the one wearing the shirt that said “vegan”. That is also my little Honda Fit in the background of your photo. Neat.

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