Looking for a small-scale, low-key trail race where all runners are made to feel right at home? Have I got a race for you! The Pilot Hill 25k, held outside the town of Laramie, Wyoming, is the oldest footrace in the state. Old-west scenery of rolling prairie backed up by Rocky Mountain views characterizes the route.
The race starts on pavement - but once you're over the first hill, it's trails all the way. The course winds around some hilly grassland before twisting up and over limestone outcroppings and through a small canyon. The water stops are casual and friendly - a pickup truck or two with a jug for water and another for Gatorade.
Coming into the middle aid station, the climb begins - first up a wooded hill, then a series of switchbacks to the top, where a number of large antennae (and another aid station) await. The climb, which seemed endless on the way up, now flies by on the way down.
Coming down from the hill, the course retraces many of the same trails from the way up. The final hill back toward the start (and now the finish) line seemed a lot steeper coming up than when we'd blasted down it when the starting whistle blew. But the finish-line crowd rallies all runners 'til they've crossed the line.
The front runners hang around to watch the rest of us mortals squeak past the finish, and in a race this small, you may even win a prize! I was the proud recipient of a Pilot Hill beer glass this year, the prize for 3rd female in my age group.
And since we all now know how good beer is is at replenishing us following a solid workout, I'll use my new prize immediately to help with my post-run recovery!
Thank you, High Plains Harriers! And see you next year.