Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Running with Strangers

(As originally written for and posted by Rogue Expeditions

Almost exactly two years ago I joined my first training group at Rogue Running in Austin, Texas and was invited by my coach to come listen to an informational meeting about a run based traveling company called Rogue Expeditions. I sipped on a beer and watched intently as this couple named Allison and Gabe described how their love for running and traveling had led them to start this company, which included trips to locations such as Kenya, Patagonia and Morocco. I remember being struck by how passionately the couple talked about wanting to create memorable adventures for those who signed up for their trips. Going on one immediately went on my bucket list.

Flash forward to two weeks ago, as I was boarding a flight to Reno, Nevada where I would be picked up along with five other first-time Rogue Expedition trip takers to be the 2016 group to #RunTahoe. I had hardly slept the night before due to excitement, yet ultimately still did not really know what to expect. I would be staying in a cabin with strangers, visiting a part of the country I had never been to, and logging my longest week of miles this calendar year (not to mention logging those miles via trail running which was also not something I had done a lot of). So the sleepless night of excitement may have also had twinges of nervousness mixed in. However, I managed to make my short connection at LAX and arrived safely in Reno (as did my checked luggage) and was greeted at the baggage claim by a very cheery Allison and other runners in the group. The excitement from everyone was palpable, and even one participant whose luggage had not arrived with her flight was still in great spirits as we all began to bond in the car ride to our lodge for the next five days. Pretty quickly my nerves about vacationing with strangers began to subside.

            For runners, bonding is not a new concept. There is the bond created from sharing the misery of training runs. There is the amazing atmosphere created before, during, and after races in which there is always a feeling of celebration. There is that shared runners high when sharing a drink or meal that feels truly earned. I have also found that it is often easy to bond with other travelers. When you meet other people away from home, you get to share stories, and people seem to really open up when they are out of the comfort zone of their daily routines. These two different ways of connecting with people are merged in this environment cultivated by Rogue Expeditions.

After arriving at the cabin and getting to meet everyone in the group, we set off on our first run of the trip. The Donner Lake Rim Trail would give us amazing views of Donner Lake, where the infamous Donner party was stranded in the 1840’s, and we would get to cross over the famed Pacific Crest Trail. Running at altitude can be a bit of an adjustment, but the amazing views and perfect weather distracted us.

 Gabe, Allison, and our other guide Sarah were all very gifted in the kitchen, and each meal prepared by them provided perfect fuel for the adventures we were having during the trip. We had everything from Thai food to fajitas to steaks, and being able to have home cooked meals only added to the family vibe of the trip. On day two, we ran the Rubicon Trail, ending with a picnic on a secluded beach right on Lake Tahoe in the popular area of Emerald Bay. The cold water was refreshing as we ate and took photos of the amazing views around us.

            Day three was the long run, which consisted of 14 miles on one of the most popular trails in the world – the Flume Trail. The views of Lake Tahoe from high up on this trail are incredible, and neither my words nor my pictures can do them justice. The pace for everyone on this run was slow, as we knew we would be stopping frequently to take pictures. We once again ended with a picnic on a beach, this time eating Argentinian styled wraps and climbing on the boulders of Chimney Beach. Back at our cabin, the group bonded over Cards Against Humanity and crossword puzzles, and the atmosphere continued to feel more like a family reunion then a house full of people who had just met days before.

            The fourth day was meant for recovery, but multiple people got up early to go on an extra run before the scheduled trail so that one of the group members who had to leave early from the trip would not have to run alone. The scheduled run took us through the abandoned tunnels of the transcontinental railroad. It was incredible to see the amazing graffiti artwork within the tunnels, and seeing tunnels carved and/or blasted through the sides of mountains was impressive. After another picnic, we headed to the Truckee River to go whitewater rafting. Truly living up to their promise of epic adventures, the hours on the river were a great change of pace from the trail running.

On the final morning, everyone woke up and run the “optional” last run to Moriah Point overlooking the Royal Gorge. Once again, the views did not disappoint, and it was hard knowing we would have to say goodbye to our little cabin on the Serene Lakes. As we began departing, genuine hugs and warm wishes were shared, and plans were already beginning to circulate for when we could all get together again for a reunion. It was not surprising to any of us that a lot of people end up signing up for multiple Rogue Expedition trips. I recently wrote a blog post for Rogue Running about joining a running group and finding a family, and that theme again permeates my feelings towards this trip. The connections shared, the experiences that Rogue Expeditions cultivated for us will never be forgotten by everyone who attended. Every detail was taken care of for us, and all we had to do was show up, run, and enjoy the views. I can’t wait to sign up for my next trip, and hope my words will inspire others to do the same.

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