Check out some of these well-known challenges that runners take on in our national parks.
Toby Guillette has long been a fan of Joshua Tree National Park, having camped, hiked and rock climbed there for close to a decade. As he became more and more familiar with the land—exploring, studying maps and researching online—he realized that there was an epic trail running adventure waiting for him and his friends to explore.
Guillette was ready for something new anyway—he had finished 100-mile ultramarathons, road races of every distance and Ironman triathlons. His adventurous spirit needed more, and he soon realized that Joshua Tree had what he was looking for.
It took him and five of his friends more than a year to plan, accounting for everything that might go wrong in the unforgiving desert terrain. With the logistics in place, the six of them used the California Riding and Hiking Trail and did a 37.3-mile traverse of Joshua Tree. They finished in 7:49.
“There’s a section in the first half that we discovered on our first run there,” he describes. “It’s a long, narrow ridgeline like the backbone of a giant sleeping animal that slowly snakes downward as far as the eye can see.
“When our group stood together at the top of that section and took in the view below, the wind kicked up and we all dropped in for one of the most perfect sections of trail I’ve ever run. Words will never do it justice.”
More and more runners are discovering that America’s national parks hold running adventures that are hard to top. Unofficial records of the more well-known challenges are passed around online (known as FKTs, or fastest known times—there’s even an online community that keeps track). New ones, like the Joshua Tree Traverse, are drawn up every year.
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Runners find that these challenges test their limits, but more importantly, these challenges reenergize their spirit. The national parks are considered some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country and only the adventure runners have seen so much of them in so little time.
“Running across a national park is a very intimate way to experience the biggest, highest and deepest sights in our country,” said Guillette, who lives in San Diego.
These adventures are everywhere, from the breathtaking terrain of the west to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the famed Appalachian Trail in the east. Here are some of the more well-known challenges that runners take on in our national parks.