Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

After finishing my first Pikes Peak Roadrunners Fall Series in many years, I have to say that I feel renewed, fit and happy. Sure, I finished in 52nd place overall and only 9 of 14 in my age group, but I was graciously allowed to infiltrate a winning team, consisting of three of the most dominant women runners I’ve ever met.  Plus, there is the simple contagious camaraderie of the series itself and a true joy found only in the unique, sharing suffering of this challenging trail series.

I enjoyed all the races and always looked forward to the friendly faces at the start line and the new friends you make along the way. While I have a great respect for the amazingly talented runners at the start of the pack, there is a certain comfort in what I call the Oompa Loompa pack – the portion of the race in which I typically find myself.  The Oompa Loompas are a happy people who typically have no Garmins or impressively toned thighs. We simply plug along at the trail, hopeful for the next beer stop and blissfully pondering whether or not we’ll have cheese or pepperoni pizza at the finish.  Oompa Loompas don’t worry about who’s in front of them, or typically even who is behind them.  This, of course, sometimes leads to frustration for those outside the Oompa Loompa  species, particularly during a trail race with lengthy single track portions. I made a few notes for those who find themselves amidst my people and wish to navigate to a more talented pack of runners toward the front:

  1. If you want to pass an Oompa Loompa like an Olympic sprinter, do so at the beginning of the race. If you decide at mile 3 or 4 that you wish to improve from your 12-minute pace to an 8-minute mile, don’t be surprised that the seas don’t part in your favor.  You’ll have to either be more consistent with your time and start the race with runners more commensurate your ability, or wait patiently and pass as the trail allows.  Grunting and throwing elbows in frustration is likely to get you turned into a giant blueberry, or at a minimum, pushed off the trail by a giggling Oompa Loompa.
  2. Similar to driving a vehicle, if you choose to pass, do so quickly and ensure that you maintain the faster speed you have implied you wish to run.  Passing and then immediately slowing down in front of another runner, particular on single track, is simply rude and again, likely to get you shoved off the trail, or at a minimum, cause significant joy for the Oompa Loompas when you trip over the next root or rock.
  3. Lastly, if you are the type who employs the “sprint-walk” technique, save it for the road races. You’ll find that once you scream “Passing on your LEFFFFFFT!” to the same Oompa Loompa for the tenth time in two miles during a trail run, that particular Oompa Loompa is unlikely to accede to your demand.  Again.

I hope this helps give you some insight into the happy world of the Oompa Loompas and similar back-of-the-pack runners. Remember, some of them use to run in the front, and some are still working their way there  -- however, they are out on the trail and that is all that matters.  I am grateful for my health and that I have the privilege on so many weekends of running with some of the best people on the planet.  Runners are an awesome breed and whether I continue to finish races in 52d, 118th, or 5th, I will always be glad to simply finish with a smile (or at least a not-so-painful grimace). Good luck to all those who will brave the Winter Series.  This Oompa Loompa is purely a warm weather breed, so I’ll see you at the party in the forest after the last race! If you don’t know what I’m talking about – give me a shout. I’ll be keeping the soup hot and the beer cold. Come on over!

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