Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fat Ass Full Frosty Beaver Moon Trail Half Marathon 2014 (2nd annual)

Won't you hold my hands over my heart?
I want you to close my eyes when it grows dark.
We go over the mountains and under the stars.
We go over the mountain and under the stars.

Bow and Arrow by Ruben And The Dark

Seventy runners gather in the atrium at the Forks on a blustery Friday evening for the return of the Fat Ass Full Frosty Beaver Moon Trail Half Marathon. Nervous chatter permeates the room as the assembled check in, adjust headlamps and mill about catching up with old friends. This much anticipated event attracts the spirited runner, the rogues, and the adventurous ones of the running community.  It's an off-the-grid, low key, no fee, no schwag, no medal, no bib, no timing slow dance through gorgeous technical city trails.
Rheal Poirier, event organizer addressing the assembled runners.
Last minute instructions... don't get lost!
See Mike Listen for Instructions.
This year's Full Frosty attracts double the number of runners from 2013. Local runner and Manitoba Runners Association board member Bob Nicol predicts the Full Frosty will exceed one hundred runners in 2015.  Dwayne Sandall of the Manitoba Trail Runners provided support by expertly marking the trail with reflective flags making getting lost, if not impossible, less likely.  Dwayne also provided sweep duty and advised the crowd "If you come up behind me on the trail you were surely lost".  
Dwayne provided sweep on the trail "If you come up behind me you were surely lost"
We move from the comfort of the atrium to the chilly start line next to Esplanade Riel.  Dwarfed under the beauty of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights we dance nervously from foot to foot and pose for smiley pictures. The full moon glimmers momentarily between breaks in the thick cloud as if to reassure we mere mortals that all is well. On Rheal's good word we surge forward together as one, over the river, under the moon, through the woods. Together, seventy souls, one spirit.

All is well, all is good, all is alive... under a big old moon.
In time and space we slip into our own groove and follow the rhythmic beat of our heart. Lone runners silently lost in contemplation, large groups chat incessantly and punctuate the darkness with contagious laughter, friends relish the time together and grow closer.  Head lamps slither snake-like along the trails. The moon is shy tonight and the wind is sharp on our faces as we crunch, crunch, crunch along the gravel trail.
Over the river, under the moon, through the woods.
Esplanade Riel
Dwayne's reflective flags are strategically located on the winding dark trails. We learn to watch for them and yell "flag" as they are spotted.  Three flags side by side mark the optional, yet enticing, single track trails. The single track trails hug the river bank and wind impossibly through thick bush making 'running' a relative term.  I use my tiny hand held flashlight in addition to my head lamp to light these ancient trails.  Our run slows to a calculated walk on the sharp twists and turns.  The lead runner yells "branch" or "careful" to warn those several paces behind.  It's breathtaking and exciting, and exhilarating.  It's a sublime evening to be alive under a moonless sky, dancing along a Red River monkey trail.

Gabrielle Roy Trail Head 
The finish line is perfect.  We cross over the Assiniboine River on the converted wooden railway bridge leading to the Forks.  The bridged is decked with hundreds of coloured lights blowing wildly in the stiff wind. There's no gantry, no timing mat, no crowds, just a single volunteer at the end of the bridge greeting us with a most welcoming high five.  Tired and thirsty, we head to Finn McCues for a suitable refreshment. Smiles and hugs abound.

Thank you Rheal and Dwayne for your time and energy. This trail run is surely one of the finest urban trail adventures in the land.

It's a good day to be alive, dancing under a shy moon.


(Photos kindly provided by Gregory C. McNeil...except for the blurry, out of focus last one, that was taken by a runner called Mike).