January 11 2018
A runner shares a personal essay documenting her years as "the runner" in rural South Dakota.
Since the majority of the miles are completed at night, runners miss the breathtaking views of jagged mountains and the aptly named Emerald Lake. But that’s what the drive back the next morning is for—you have to get back to Skagway somehow.
Instead, the mid-race scenery comes from inside the RV, which takes on the feeling of a moving camp-site, complete with sleepy storytelling, granola-bar meals and weary hikers (or in this case runners) returning one by one after a long, hard trek.
The beauty of the mobile home is that you can stay up all night thanks to the easy access of a coffee maker. Or if you’re tired like I was, you can curl up for a full seven hours of sleep. (In retrospect, not the best teammate move!) Warning: You will be woken up by the Canadian authorities and asked to deliver your passport when the vehicle makes its way across the border.
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When it was my turn to run, the sun was up and the day had already started to warm. By this time, the teams were strung out along the road, so I concentrated on little specks on the course and tried to reel them in until a person appeared. Despite my seven-hour sleep performance, my team stopped along the way to cheer me on as I strode down the street lined with lovely yellow trees.
Now giddy off adrenaline (and maybe some nips from their trailer’s fridge), all of the teams were becoming boisterous. A group of runners in sailor hats stuck their heads out the window of their RV to shout ahoys of encouragement. From a different vehicle, I heard a “woo-eee” and looked over to see a full moon pressed against a passenger window.
Many teams return to this event year after year, developing a collective persona that shows itself on their decorated vans or race-day costumes. With a bit of rain and a tough 10-plus miles, I was happy I didn’t opt for jean shorts or a red dress and heels like some of my competitors—and I was even more satisfied to see the finish-line chute where I’d hand off to our final leg.