Trail running has an interesting appeal among runners. Looking at it logistically, there doesn’t seem to be much of an advantage to ditching paved roads in favor of dirt paths. The trails can be treacherous, oftentimes overtaken by patches of thick mud, large roots, or overhanging tree branches. It’s not uncommon to see a runner disappear beyond the treeline, only to emerge some minutes or even hours later with one half of their body covered in dirt and bruises from a nasty spill. You’re more than likely to collide into a few spiderwebs face first, and the unpredictable turns and hills can make it difficult to get into a groove or move at a quick pace. With that being said, why bother with a ten mile trail race when there are plenty of road races to be found? Well, as I’m sure several dozen runners who found themselves out at Bogue Chitto park on Saturday morning, June 18th would tell you, it’s addictively fun.
In running and racing, it can be easy to get caught up in the times and paces, comparing performances and seeing where you stack up. Comparing times across trail races is a bit of a fruitless endeavor though because, well, it’s a type of running that forces you to slow down. If you don’t, you’re likely to suffer one of the nasty spills I mentioned before, something I’m sure many experienced runners have been through once or twice. Your pace ebbs and flows as you bound around turns, climbing and descending hills, stutter stepping past sketchy footing, and hopping over standing water. It’s the kind of all consuming task that makes time disappear as you get wrapped up in the moment and you're forced to be totally present. No two trail’s are the same, but they each bring a unique kind of enjoyment. It’s an experience that is seldom had, but well worth any price of admission.
Bogue Chitto state park offers a little bit of everything. The path is covered almost entirely by trees, providing a welcome respite from the harsh Louisiana sun. Though it may be marred by roots, each was diligently marked and covered with more runner-friendly material. The path went up hills, around bends, and even across small bridges. All around was gorgeous Louisiana foliage, as well as some tranquil ponds and snaking creeks.
This particular trail race had more going for it than just the location though. Put together by race director Cesar Torres, this event had a level of personal touch that is hard to achieve and sorely missed at bigger events. Armed with a big and friendly personality, Cesar Torres has been putting this race on among others for over ten years. Time hasn’t dulled his sense of excitement for the event though, as you’d be hard pressed to find someone who gets as enthusiastic for every single finisher in a race the way Cesar and his wife do. Their excitement spreads into their entire staff, infecting even volunteers at their events. Each finisher crosses the line through a banner to the cheers of many, and receives a handmade pottery medal as their badge of accomplishment.
Saturday’s race saw just under 100 participants covering a wide swath of running experience and talent. The top runners finished with impressive times squeaking just under 90 minutes for the ten mile race, but each finisher was celebrated from the bottom up. The event was run as well as any large road race, but it had them all beat if you’re comparing charm. Trail running is a niche part of the running community, but it’s a niche worth exploring to be sure.
To See our full photo album from the race Click Here.
For Full Results of this year's Run to the Hills Click Here.