You didn’t see anything. We were never here. Underground races are nothing new…to those who know about them. For those who are unaware, that is the whole idea, that they remain unaware. While Salt Lake City hosted the ever-popular Salt Lake Marathon and half Marathon this month, the Wasatch Mountains felt the feet of hundreds of runners in a trail race many of you have never heard of. The organizers and participants aim to keep it that way. Some people may disagree with me writing this, but don’t worry; your secret is safe with me and the specific details will remain unwritten. The information does exist for those who know where to look or make the right social connections.
Knowing a few people deep in the SLC running scene alerted me to the existence of such events, unadvertised and unsanctioned races that are kept quiet and out of the eye of the general public. Initially, my reaction was to scoff at the arrogance of such a thing and the elitists who would exclude the larger running community, but I have it on good authority that this clandestine nature stems more from permit issues than puffed up egos. My intention was to run a portion of the race route, maybe 20 miles of trail for my weekend long run, but coerced by a coworker, I ran the full 26.2 (plus a mile in search of bowel relief off-trail at a nearby facility).
The route included some intense climbs and even more intense downhill. My quads nearly blew up on one of the seemingly endless downhill sections, but somehow stayed intact to arrive at a fellow runner’s car near this section parked as a “private aid station”. One discrete “official” aid station was strategically placed on a looped section of the course so we encountered it twice, the second time being about six miles from the finish. Following a water refill and fueling up on salty chips and ginger snaps, the final climb led to a never ending trail winding across the hills and finally, back to familiar ground and the finish. There were no balloons or inflatable finish line markers, no signs, no crowds of cheering family members, no trophies or medals or shirts. The end consisted of a man with a clipboard and a stop watch asking for names and marking down times, then a few moments of loitering with other runners commenced before heading to the car and home for a shower and food. Going in to this run, I had only one other marathon under my feet, that being on road and a couple of years in the past, which I knew was very different than what was ahead of me. Surprisingly, after finishing this trail marathon, I felt better by far than I had at the finish of my single road marathon. This race was mentally stimulating, physically challenging, and most of all…non-existent. The next time you are out on the trails and encounter a large herd of runners, who seem to be racing, it is likely just a bunch of friends out for a long trail run. If it seems otherwise, you didn’t see anything. We were never here.