Keith and I ran the Mesa Trail again this Saturday, but in the reverse direction. We started and ended at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. This enabled us to breakfast at the Chautauqua Dining Hall. This place doesn’t get much press, one of Boulder’s hidden gems. We didn’t feel under-dressed in our sweaty running gear and muddy shoes. Although I’m not sure it’s possible to under-dress anywhere in Boulder, except maybe the Flagstaff House restaurant. We were here because of Susan’s (Keith’s wife) birthday. She was running with Jabe’s Running Group – an incredibly social network of runners in my neighborhood. They launched from the South Mesa Trailhead and joined us for breakfast at Chautauqua. With seven runners and several other hikers and friends, we pwned the place.
This running-centered, real-world social event leads me to think of the virtual social discussion from the Trail Runner Magazine’s current blogging topic: Social Media – Bane or Boon to Trail Running. It seems unlikely any blogger would respond “bane”, and I’m no exception. I’ll tell you how I leverage social media. When I plan to run a trail, as part of an event or otherwise, I query hiking and running blogs for trail descriptions. It’s the rare trail race web site that describes an event to the detail I desire. I’m happy if they provide an elevation chart, but those can be misleading. Many event web sites are so poor in content I wonder why they bother. I’m waiting for the year the Boulder Marathon figures out how to add links to their sponsor logos. Even the good ones though, like the IPR from Ouray to Telluride, are no substitute for a verbose, segment-by-segment writeup by a good blogger. I want more than a description, I want to read the experience.
The information I look for in a running blog includes advice on how to prep for the event. How to optimally run the course. Especially tips on the best eateries in the vicinity. It’s difficult to say exactly what detail will turn out good-to-know. Copious comments might contain content that I would not have thought to consider. This is where the social aspect comes into play. Social media is a boon to communication. And communication expands the potential of whatever it’s focused on.
I can imagine worse case scenarios wherein word-of-mouth leads to more popularity than a trail or event can support. You see this with some big road races; they start out small and become huge as a consequence of their successful operations. Trails generally control this by setting limits on participation. I don’t know how trail events establish these limits – probably experience. I think the Imogene Pass Run has a weather related cutoff time to get runners over the pass. Regardless, I don’t think trail running suffers any adverse affects from social media. It’s all good.
From the WordPress stats my blog receives, I find many readers come from searches on upcoming events. No doubt, they query blogs for the same reasons I do. Search terms contain the race name along with the word “training” or “review”. Immediately after the event, searches contain the race name along with “results” and “photos”. Of course I don’t see as many searches for this as I do “sexy trail runner” and “runner porn”, but that’s the Internet for you.
My runner’s story is a prime example of running related social media. It extends my enjoyment of trail running with another enjoyable hobby of writing. Perhaps posting these pics of my friends on the trail today enhances our collective experience. That’s Keith in the first two pics, he’s navigating a treacherous snow-covered bridge in the second. The trail was more mud today than dirt from Wednesday’s half foot of snow. We could only average a 12 minute pace for ten miles. Eve, in the third photo, dared to wear brightly-colored gear despite the mud. She later said the conditions made her feel like a kid. Jabe is clearly enjoying herself as she wades upstream on the trail in the fourth photo. And the final pic captures our birthday runner Susan leading Jen in both conversation and running on the snow covered trail.
I missed snapping a shot of Suzy, and unfortunately she didn’t have time to join us for breakfast. It was a two hour run. I will say the real world social aspect of running beats this virtual social media stuff hands down. The girls told hilarious stories and the food at that place was awesome. So were my two Bloody Marys. The virtual world is no substitute for drinking after a satisfying ten mile trail run through snow, ice and mud. Sharing pictures is a nice benefit of social media. It helps to remember the experience. Not as good as being there though.