About NATRA Blog

This page is meant for folks to post their thoughts on the Saturday group run. I (Neil) will post a blurb about who showed up and where it was held. From there, I hope that other runners will share their thoughts since we often have different experiences on the same run. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

COMMUNITY, by Sara Wagner

It’s summertime and one cannot help but encounter friends everywhere one goes on trails, streets, tracks, sidewalks and such.  One evening as I was finishing up a run, I ventured onto a downtown alley and there was Gene Roberdeau at his apartment window, washing dishes…next thing I knew, he was coming out to say hello, dish towel in hand.  Other times it’s someone with a stroller on FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System), a wave from a car when you cannot even see the driver, or bicyclists offering smiles along Lake Mary Road.  These are the kinds of things that make our Flagstaff community so wonderful.

How fun to go to races or Tuesday night track sessions and have people know you, maybe even greet you by name…then there’s the plethora of other group runs that take place throughout the week – with Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association (NATRA), Flagstaff Trail Divas, or from places like Run Flagstaff and Biff’s Bagels.  One is sure to see a familiar face or two at these as well.  When we have so many opportunities to run with and be supported by others, it’s easy to forget that not every place is like this.

A month ago I took a road trip across the high desert, alone on endless roads.  1,000+ miles is a lot of time to reflect upon what makes a place special, or why it is that I always feel a little sad leaving Flagstaff, even when I’m going somewhere great.  Fortunately these long roads that take us away from a place we love also bring us back.

Running is what drew me here.  I had been working on the Navajo Reservation for a long time when I first heard about NATRA.  More years passed before a friend, Elizabeth Harding, told me of a free lecture being given by Dr. Jack Daniels on the NAU campus.  It was December 2005 and I took LEAVE from work so I could drive two hours in for his talk “Ingredients of Running Success.”  Trina Painter also spoke that night.  I knew no one but took lots of notes and left inspired.

January 2006 rolled around and I made it my New Year’s Resolution to finally do a NATRA  run.  The first time I tried, I missed the group.  I was at the wrong trailhead.  It was confusing, as I didn’t know enough about the area to understand trail nuances.  Fortunately I tried again and met some really great people.  The following week, Megan Gavin said, “We’re glad you came.”  I felt encouraged.  Betsy Mennell was also one of the few females who turned up for runs in those days, and it’s where I first met folks like Bruce Higgins, Bob Steele, John Bogen and Neil Weintraub.  They welcomed me warmly, asked about my life, remembered my name.

I soon found myself renting a room in a friend’s townhouse in East Flag.  I would drive in on Friday nights so I could continue joining these Saturday morning NATRA runs.  I discovered a whole new side to Flagstaff.  Prior to that I had only come in for day trips, to stock up on groceries and run errands – it sure made a difference to actually know people.  Six months later, I was moving to town.

There is a vibrant running community in the heart of the Navajo Reservation too – many challenging races and awesome family events like Just Move Its, with incredible people.  However, out there I was doing 99% of my runs solo – through sagebrush, across sandy mesas, along canyon rims.  I reached a point where the camaraderie of the people I was meeting for trail runs in Flagstaff had a stronger pull than the phenomenal beauty that can be found in the skies and landscape of the Navajo Nation, or the benefits and opportunities associated with a federal job.  That was six years ago.

Somewhere along the way, NATRA has blended with Team Run Flagstaff and swirled into other groups.  I no longer remember exactly when or where we all met.  I just know we are fellow runners.  Friends.

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