Things I Loved About The 2014 San Juan Camp & Run

By Crista Tappan - February 11, 2014


This is my awesome friend Michelle Evans. All of the photos in this post are taken by her (except the beer mile ones, I was the mastermind behind those). You can find more pictures on her Flickr by clicking here. Thanks Michelle!

First, let me preface this with the fact that I have yet to attend a Luis Escobar event that I did not drive home from with a gigantic smile on my face. Some people might not understand how impacting a weekend of camping and running can be. To them, I suggest signing up for one of these races at I feel fortunate to be a part of this community. The friendships I have made because of running is nothing short of amazing.

It's Not a Race, It's a Celebration of Running.

I dare you to find another race with a live Mariachi band, shotgun to wake you up in the morning, coyotes and cows (and bulls! Oh my!) roaming around in the distance, a beer mile, ball racing or delicious food all weekend. Not to mention, things like tattooing (Born To Run), whiskey at aid stations or an acceptance of all things weird and strange. It feels like "anything goes" is a reoccurring theme with these weekend running festivals. And I love it.


Seriously though. Feel like dressing up in your Halloween costume all weekend? You'll blend right in. Want to drink four beers while simultaneously trying to run a mile? Someone has already beaten you to it. Want to embarrass yourself by your lack of coordination playing traditional Tarahumara ball racing? We've got you covered.


If there was ever an athletic event that encouraged everyone to find their inner debauchery, it's trail and ultrarunning. 


Being With Friends Is The Best Part.


Ok, let's be honest for a second here.

Nobody is coming to a Luis Escobar event in hopes of qualifying for Boston.
These races are not really even races. They are celebrations of running and life and friendship.

Many people have tried to describe the atmosphere of the trail and ultrarunning community as a whole. In my thesis I struggled to nail it down -- was it personality?  How were these runners so different from those who run a couple miles in the gym? What made us all want to run for miles on end out in the middle of nowhere? Why did we feel so similar? The energy of being surrounded by everyone at these running festivals made my soul feel alive. In the results of my study I found that ultrarunners were more extroverted than your average runner. More conscientious. But ...That really didn't really explain much. 

It didn't say anything about who trail and ultrarunners are. My thesis could not explain the innate feeling that you are exactly where you should be, at that exact moment in time when you are surrounded by everyone around you. It doesn't explain the personal challenges that seemingly almost every person there had experienced. It doesn't explain the warmth and compassion emanating from everyone. It doesn't explain the joy of making new friends who love the trails as much as you do. It was as if I was living an experience out of the pages of one of my books. 

There are things that science and research will never and can never truly pin down. 
I loved the fact that for three days, we all got to live and play like human beings were truly meant.

There is just something about staring up at the stars while you sit around a crackling bonfire. Feeling like you are a part of something much bigger than yourself. Surrounded by new friends and old friends. Telling stories. Laughing.

I live for these experiences.


It Can Renew Your Love Of Running (Again) 
I know I'm not the only one who sometimes feels burned out from running. I find myself tired of the same old paths and sometimes question why I push myself to run so much. Sometimes I forget about running, and I spend more time in the gym, going rock climbing or doing yoga.

Whenever I feel this way, and there is a race weekend coming up, I know that I will come home feeling inspired to run again. Part of the reason I sign up for races when I feel burned out is because I know it will force me to get outside, feel the wind against my face and revitalize my primal instinct to run.

This past weekend, I found myself alone on the trail and with time to reflect on life.
It had been a long time since I ran alone. I forgot how much I missed it. How much I needed it.

Getting into flow while running had been an elusive state of mind for me lately. My motivation to run alone had almost completely dissipated, and I found that I had only really been running with friends. When you're always surrounded by others during a run, you can experience something called group flow. Intrinsically-motivated flow while running alone is a completely different experience and state of mind. When you run alone, you are able to decompress, lose yourself in the trails, and truly (at least, in my opinion) become one with nature. Not to say that running in a group isn't fun and exciting. It's just important to find a balance between both worlds.

On the trail, alone to run as fast or slow as I wanted, I was able to find that zone I had been missing for so long. It was as if I saw flow itself in the distance. An old friend waiting for me to catch up with them. We ran together, feeling the joy of our feet against the dirt. The sun peaked out from behind the clouds and it wasn't my skin that felt the warmth, but my soul.

I remembered why I run.

When It Rains, It Doesn't Pour

The weather was a little indecisive over the weekend.

Typically, camping out for three days while it rains doesn't really sound like an enjoyable experience.

Luckily for us, a little bit of rain couldn't take away from our excitement.

One minute it would be sprinkling and the next it appeared as if it would clear up. I was taking my puffy jacket on and off constantly. But it didn't really matter. Half-way through watching the ball racing, I turned to my friend Caity McCartell. 

"You know, it's funny" I said, looking up at the ominous clouds. "It looks like it's about to rain and but it feels like it's sunny out."

She smiled. She knew exactly what I meant. 

Nancy Kaplan was all smiles despite getting rained on!

 There is something about being surrounded by a bunch of your running friends that makes you forget about your lack of training. All of the worries you may are left at the gates of the ranch and inside, you are able to run free. 

Jerry's Whiskey Jello Shots


On Saturday night Jerry handed me an entire bag full of Fireball Whiskey Jello shots.I was giddy when I went through Michelle's photos and saw she got a picture of Jerry in the act. I don't know how many bags of those suckers he made, but there seemed to be an endless supply.  Let's just say that it may or may not have contributed to me doing the conga and attempting some badly-planned headstands later on in the night. Does someone have a picture of that conga? It was awesome.

The Whiskey Aid Station 
I was about halfway through my run when a small aid station appeared from around the corner. Four guys, some sodas, and a bottle of fireball whiskey. 

As I walked up to them, I pointed at the bottle.

"Oh God," I said, imagining the feeling of the whiskey burning in my stomach for the rest of the run. Or would I feel a nice buzz that would carry me across the hills, gazelle-like and happy?

I couldn't decide. Believe it or not, I had never tried to run and drink at the same time. 

One of the guys casually mentioned that there was a bull on the trail ahead and it may or may not be dangerous. 

As I pondered the plausibility of my imminent death, he took the top off the bottle of whiskey for me.

"Here, let me make it easier for you," he said with a big smile.

I didn't know whether to ask for his hand in marriage or be concerned about dying from the bull chasing me down. Either way, I took two shots and left before the desire to hang out with them all afternoon became too strong.

It's not about the running...right? :)

The Ball Racing

I suck at ball racing.

I repeat: I suck at ball racing.

Regardless, I still found myself preparing for another humiliating experience of trying to juggle a tiny, HARD, wooden ball with my two left feet.

In the photo above, Luis is saying to me:!

"I just don't want to lose my ball this time!" I laughed.

I kid you not, I lost my ball under a van again.

I suck at ball racing, but I love it.

Here I am about to kick the ball. You're not suppose to kick the ball. But I was doing it anyway. Technically, you're suppose to roll the ball on top of your foot and "flick" it up. 



The Beer Mile
Right before the beer mile started, Luis looked me dead in the eye and said:

"I can't believe you're not running."

I didn't really have a reason as to why I didn't want to. In fact, I sort of intended on running it. But the idea of drinking four beers and running a mile seemed a little...impossible?

In the moment, I also I justified my reasoning: Someone had to document the experience (never mind the dozens of people around who were taking photos). I had to be the one to take them. That was my bad excuse and I'm sticking to it. Born To Run is coming up in May, and I will pass over the photo-taking responsibilities and give it a go. 

Pat Sweeney has a look of satisfaction!

These three handmade clay necklaces mean more to me than any other pieces of jewelry I have. I received each one as a finishers medal (10K, 20 Miles, 50K) in a Luis Escobar race. They represent my growth as a runner and that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. We forget that we are all born with a natural capability to move our feet across the earth. Sometimes it's a few feet and sometimes it's over a hundred miles. No matter where you're at in life, never forget how important it is to give yourself time to be outside and simply appreciate life. 

All in all it was an incredible weekend. I can't say it enough.

I love these people, and I love trail running.

Looking forward to running with you all again in May.

If this all sounds like something you want to experience, check out for more information about future races! 

  • Share:

You Might Also Like


  1. Great read. I wished I could have stuck around for camping, maybe next time I'll drag the family out.

    1. You should definitely stick around next time! It's worth it!

  2. Luved yours, ours, and their story about a very special event:)

  3. Good stuff Crista! The weekend was pretty epic...Born To Run seems too far away!

    1. It was definitely epic! I have a feeling Born To Run will be even better this year :)