Trail Runners and Pajama Pants

Trail runners are different. I like to think to think that this is a good kind of different rather than a bad or scary kind of different. We prefer not to run on pavement or roads. We often choose the steepest, rockiest, and most difficult routes to run. A typical run might result in a tumble, with some abrasions, bruising, and bleeding. Yet, we love running on the dirt, through the mountains, and immersing ourselves in the outdoors. I consider this the good kind of different, but then I am biased.

Part of being trail runner and being different is not wearing the sort of gear a typical road racer might wear. Some trail runners wear shoes with extra toe protection so that you dont break a toe when they inadvertently kick a rock in the trail. Other trail runners use trekking poles to get up and down mountains.

Being a trail runner, being different, and knowing that anything goes in trail running wear, I didnt think twice about wearing pajama pants to the 2013 Soulstice trail race. It was early morning, I was tired, and I thought, Hey, why not just wear some pajama pants for warm up pants? I trail run in compression tights or shorts, which enhance performance, but do not provide much warmth. It is cold up in the San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff, AZ. Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet elevation, and the race is about 8,000 to 9,000 feet in elevation. The race is held every October. It is not uncommon to find it snowing during this time of year. I knew I needed a second layer to stay warm pre-race. Why not wear my pajama pants as that second layer. They are fleece pajama pants that always keep me warm. So without further ado, I pulled on my compression tights, sweat-vac race shirt, and Salomon trail shoes, then threw on a polar fleece jacket and my blue plaid fleece pajama pants and left for the race. When I went to the registration area to pick up my race bib, my legs felt nice and warm, even though it was below freezing. No one gave me a second look even though I was wearing my pajama pants. We are trail runners and we are different, and anything pretty much goes with trail running apparel.

Fast forward to May, 2014, and the Flagstaff trail racing season has begun. Every year I sign up for the Flagstaff Summer Running Series. Neil Weintraub , who founded the Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association also created the Flagstaff Summer Running Series. Neil has worked hard in keeping the series going year after year. The first race of Flagstaff Summer Running Series is Run for the Mountain. The race benefits the Mountain Charter School. This is a race held at Fort Tuthill on the outskirts of Flagstaff. It is all dirt trails running and pine trees.

It was a little cold the morning of the Run for the Mountain race. The weather was definitely pajama pants weather. I walked up to the registration kiosk wearing pajama pants and got my race bib number. No one batted an eye at the guy wearing blue plaid fleece pajama pants. The pajama pants kept me nice and toasty until it was time to start the race.

This is my fourth year at the Run for the Mountain race. My son Max and my daughter Emma were running the 5K, while I would run my usual 10K. One year the announcer at the Imogene Pass Race coined the term The Running Nation of Flagstaff. (The iconic Imogene Pass Run is a 17 mile mountain race within the San Juan mountains of Colorado, you run along a route which connects the towns of Ouray (7810 ft.) and Telluride (8750 ft.) by way of 13,114 foot Imogene Pass). It looked like many citizens of the Running Nation of Flagstaff would be running the Run for the Mountain race. Some of these citizens were elite runners and they would run in the same 10K that I was running. One elite runner, Emily Harrison, of Flagstaff, finished the Caumsett State Park 50K this March at 3:15 setting the course record. She won the USATF 50K National Road Championship. She also ran the second fastest 50K in North American History. Nick Arciniaga, another Flagstaff resident, took 7th place in the Boston Marathon this year. Nick also would be running in the 10K with me.

Dirk Murphy in his prerace fleece pajama pants.

Dirk Murphy in his prerace fleece pajama pants.

Being in my 50s, I always hang back with other local old guys toward the middle of the pack at the start of a race. The Run for the Mountain race started out fast. Luckily I had warmed up ahead of time with my blue plaid flannel pajama pants and was ready for the quick start. I ended finishing 3rd in the mens 50 to 59 year old category. My son Max finished 5th in the mens 13 to 19 year old category for the 5K. My daughter Emma finished 9th out of the womens 1 to 12 year old category for the 5K.

Earlier I had seen a guy on a bicycle leading the kids 2K fun run part of the Run for the Mountain race. The bicyclist was wearing a neon orange afro wig, and a blue super hero cape. I realized that it was my neighbor, who also was a trail runner and regularly runs Imogene Pass Run. I thought, Wow! That is different. My neighbors attire reminded me of the crazy attire for the annual Kahtoola Uphill race. Kahtoola is held every February at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort just north of Flagstaff, AZ. You start running at 9,200 feet and run straight up to 10,800 feet. The course is about 3.3 miles. The Kahtoola Uphill race could be described as a winter running Mardi Gras, with crazy runners and skiers racing straight up a ski slope.

When I reflected on some of the outlandish running attire that I have witnessed at trail races, my mens blue plaid fleece pajama pants seemed downright conservative in comparison. So, I will keep on wearing my plaid fleece pajama pants as warm up pants at the local trail races. I find them comfortable, warm, and easy to don on and off. They may not look like other runners warm up pants. But, what can I say? Im a trail runner. Im different, but it is a good kind of different.

Dirk Murphy enjoys trail running and the outdoors when he is not spending time with his family or helping with his family’s business.