Running, fitness & working out at Burning Man?! What?! Yes, really. Some people, like us, love running and working out especially when on vacation and visiting new places. Including the craziest and best place on earth, Burning Man!
This year will be the 6th annual Burning Man 50K Ultramarathon, and this will be my third year running it.
There's no other running race on the planet like this one, so we wanted to tell you more about it (although it's had it's share of press, including a big spread in the 2015 Trail Runner Magazine's special "DIRT" issue, Wired, and more)...
This is a slightly altered re-post of a race report on the New York Flyers blog from 2013 - enjoy!
We're tempted to call this a "rave report", but the Burning Man Ultramarathon (aka "BlackRock City 50k”) was a real race! Not just another running race, but an incredible experience unmatched by any other race I've run in my life.
Our friend Cherie Yanek is a world class ultra runner and the founder/race director for the Burning Man 50K, who some might know (or at least recognize) as the fast lady who runs in pink tutus, who graced the cover of the NYRR magazine in August '13 (which she didn't see for a couple weeks since she was at Burning Man). She'd been asking me to come to Burning Man and run the race. Other friends also asked to go to Burning Man for years (not to run). But we always said no, or had an excuse not to attend. Always felt there was no "good reason" to go...until was finally convinced after we ran our first 50K, and after she had got an extra ticket to Burning Man.
Long story short, the Burning Man 50K was hands down the most fun and best running race there is, ever. "THIS IS WHY WE RUN!" pretty much sums it up -- it's the definition of a true, FUN race! While it's competitive (what runners are not!?), it's NOT a USATF certified course, you can NOT BQ (well, you can run a BQ time if you want, I suppose), there are NO race entry fees (well, you must have a ticket to Burning Man) and it's 100% amazing because everyone contributes, everyone just has fun, and we are out there running for one thing -- fun -- the pure enjoyment of running together with amazing people!
If you don't know of Burning Man, Google it. And watch this or this to see what it's like. Pretend you didn't see GoogleImages of girls in those sexy outfits and fuzzy boots, you didn't hear that it's "crazy hippies, drugs and parties" and just listen to me when I say "not true!" Well, some of it is true. But it's much, much more than that! It's 68,000 people in a mind-blowing, fully functioning, hand-built "city" for one week, and then all burnt down (and taken down) at the end. It's in the middle of nowhere in a dry, barren desert a few hours outside Reno, NV. There is no water, no food, no electricity, nothing. Nothing for sale, no money exchanged, except $3 bags of ice. It's carry in carry out, with a super strict "Leave No Trace" policy (grrr, I wish other running race organizations and all big marathons, would learn a little from the Burning Man organization!)
The 50K race is 4 x 7-mile loops around the “outer playa" (i.e., the perimeter of BM), plus a 3 mile out ‘n’ back at the end (why are those always the hardest 3 miles ever?!). It starts at 5am, before sunrise, as many parties wind down. Many head back to their camps, knowing they need a little sleep, before doing it all over again tomorrow. Some are still wandering the playa to enjoy a relatively quiet moment, waiting to watch the stunning sunrise. Some are sobering up, some are not at all sober. Many are still out dancing as the night continues on.
This contrast with the +100 ultrarunners makes for a super fun, friendly group of "race spectators", with a constant soundtrack of techno, house, and dub step music playing throughout the run, and some quite unusual "aide" offered up along the course -- drank a few beers (hit the spot!), had a few sips of vodka-Redbull (not so much), and passed up an offer to eat something "magical" around mile 19 (!!!). For the record, I have had beer and/or bloody mary’s during regular ol’ marathons out here in non-Burning Man world (including at mile 8 and 13 of the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon, so it's all good! For real…remember why we run? Do you win millions at races? Neither do I. So, have half a beer with your friends at mile 13 next time you’re not trying to BQ, and just enjoy the experience!
Seriously, back to running...this is a 50K race. There were world class ultra runners on the field like Ray "Ray K" Krolewicz, former US record for the 48 hour distance runner of 500 ultramarathons and just hilarious to be around, and 2-time Western States 100 winner Kathy D'Onfrio (the first female finisher), who I felt honored to have given my bacon to the next day.
There were competitor level race times with male winner Shaun Maguire finishing at 3:32:51 (who “doesn't race,” since he must be too busy finishing his PhD in quantum computing), more than 150 runners in attendance, two full aide stations with better nutrition than any race I've done (fresh brownies!)…even media coverage from Competitor, Wired, some random German magazine, and The Elephant Journal where our TV personality friend, Ryan Duzer, not only filmed the race, created this video, but ran his first ever 50k and finished in 2nd place! (Watch the video, so funny and lots of fast runners from Colorado). Another runner, Kerry, also made this crazy video of the Burning Man 50k.
I ran most of the ~6 hour race with an amazing woman and new friend, Gina, who I felt like I had known for years. I stopped here and there to chat at aide stations, drink beers, dance a little, and make other new friends along the way. After the race, I got cool race swag – a handmade medal, necklace, nice water bottle, a hot plate, and bumper stickers. The runners hung out, drank beers, ate some amazing cilantro chicken salad and many of us became friends and spent the next few days enjoying Burning Man together. When I tell people about a 50k at Burning Man, I don't think of it as a "run." -- more like going to a big party with friends, while running.
Like I said, THIS is why we RUN! The Burning Man 50K was worth all the effort to get there. We now have amazing new friends, a 50k PR, and the best, most memorable week possible!
Come run it -- you can follow the Burning Man Ultramarathon here on Facebook. Be sure to get your ticket to Burning Man, too. Just check the Burning Man website. And you can follow Cherie for other amazing distance running updates here on her blog and here on Twitter.