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Fall in love with trail running

An autumn love story of running in the mountains

Trail running is a love affair between the runner and the trail. An empowering endurance activity with endless benefits to health and wellness, coupled with the peace and serenity of the natural world.

Of course, it can be pretty gnarly too.

We spent a chilly day in autumn at Purgatory Resort's first Mountain Marmot Trail Race, just outside Durango, Colorado, to see how some runners show their love for the fall colors (and a little snow.)

The 11.7-mile course, designed to welcome hearty newcomers to the genre, but also to engage any seasoned trail runner, was a mixed loop of single and double track trail from the base area up 1,900 feet to the resort's highest point, the top of Chair 8 at 10,800 feet, then back down again.

Brett Sublett, a running coach, course designer and owner of Durango Running Company, admitted he wanted to attract newcomers not yet cast under the spell of running on dirt and rock and splashing through puddles.

“I wanted people who maybe hadn't done a trail race,” he said. “It's a ski resort, but when you head towards the back side, you have a really remote feeling, like you're out in the middle of the mountains.”

The midway aid station was perched on a sweeping incline. It got worse before it got better.

“You're climbing from the very start,” Sublett said. “It's just up and up and up. The last bit was a steeper pitch, just to add salt in the wound.”

David Lopez is a true trail connoisseur. In fact, now that's all he does, aiming specifically for trail runs. He came up from Bloomfield, New Mexico, to hit the dirt. ”Running on the street, personally, that just doesn't appeal to me,” he said. “If it's on trail, I'm in.”

Even if there is snow. These are the Rocky Mountains, after all.

Hours before the run a fall storm moved in adding a bright white accent to the blazing aspen and burning oak trees.

“From a race director's stand point it made me really nervous,” Sublett said. “But it was amazing. Nobody complained. The snow just made the colors that much better.”

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