Running 74 miles over four days above 10,000 feet is not something your average high school runner would enjoy doing during their summer vacation, but seniors Benjamin Lachelt and Allee McKown and would definitely not be considered average.
They completed this challenge from Molas Pass to Durango last year and plan to go back again this year for a second fun-filled experience.
Durango High School cross country head coach David McMillan came up with the idea last year. “I think the concept might have percolated when I was up high. ... I had run in part of the way from Molas on my own and wondered if the kids could do it,” he said.
Used as a team fundraiser last year before McMillan discovered a permit was required, this year the team will run the event but hold a barbecue afterward as the fund-raising piece.
“Our fundraiser is really less of a fundraiser and more of an adventure,” McKown said. “It was really fun running above treeline and being able to hang out with my team around the campfire each evening.”
Lachelt also enjoyed the adventure.
“I thought it was cool, a nice team building experience to get to go hard in the mountains, and the camping was my favorite part,” he said.
Each day starts with an early morning wake up, packing up and breakfast followed by some stretching and yoga before heading down the trail.
The first 10 to 15 minutes are spent walking, and then everyone sets out at their own pace, regrouping each hour with the faster runners coming back to meet up with the slower ones until they reach camp, covering between 18-20 miles.
“Each kid does as many days or miles as they feel they can,” McKown said. “Normally we ask for a dollar amount sponsorship per mile, but this year, because of the permitting process, we are asking for an unrelated donation or the purchase of a barbecue ticket.”
In addition to the high-country run, the team participates in a preseason retreat to Cascade and multiple races where they camp together both to save money and to build team cohesiveness.
Both Lachelt and McKown really enjoy the variety of activities that “Coach Mac” organizes each year to build camaraderie.
“He’s really focused on making us a cohesive and competitive team but also having fun doing everything,” McKown said.
“I don’t think the team would be the same if it wasn’t for Coach Mac,” Lachelt added. “He brings it to a whole new level of excitement. We do an awesome race in Phoenix where we camp in Sedona and have fashion shows, rap and make up cheers”.
“After dinner that night,” added McKown, “we run through the streets of Sedona and act like rebellious teenagers even though our coaches are with us.”
Both Lachelt and McKown love running and plan to continue after high school in large part because of their experiences as part of the cross-country team.
“Running cross country has been an amazing high-school experience and a large part of my life,” McKown said. “I have made some of the best friends riding on bus trips, sitting around campfires and glissading down snowy peaks and sand dunes.”
For more information or to make a contribution to the team you can reach McMillan at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at email@example.com.