Featured Rogue: Jennifer Acosta

jen-1People often ask me, “Why do you run?” and I respond with “Why don’t you run?” In many ways, running has always been a big part of my life. When I was in high school, I was always seen as a “fast” kid. I was on the cross-country, track, and soccer teams. In my junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. What did I do when I first heard this? I asked my parents to drop me off at the track and I ran until I couldn’t anymore. After undergoing treatment and brain surgery, I was told there was a great possibility that I would never be normal again.

My recovery was a rough year, I couldn’t do things I once took for granted. I couldn’t walk, was bound to a wheelchair for six months, had aggressive physical therapy, and was trying to retrain my brain to move my legs again. In addition to my walking abilities, there were other things I couldn’t do like button my shirt, speak properly, or remember things. I worked tirelessly to build up the strength to stand and then to walk around for a couple of seconds before my legs would give out. After a year of recovery, I tried to run again. I’ll never forget this particular run because I made it halfway down the block, felt like everything was loose in my brain, and started vomiting.

Many years have passed since that first run post brain surgery and I have since encountered others who have inspired me, motivated me, and shared my enthusiasm for running. Last year, I found myself once again motivated to go beyond what seems possible by one of my patients, Sharon. After talking for a while, she encouraged me to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Most people don’t understand what a “BQ” is or why “I must run Boston.” In my clinical experience, I have encountered patients who had the same diagnosis as me but their story did not end like mine. They are not by societies standards “healthy and normal.” They are in a wheelchair with a trachea tube, have an abnormal gait, or slur their speech. God has obviously guided me for a greater purpose. I promised myself if I were healthy enough to run, I would run with the best at the Boston Marathon.

jen-2To achieve my goal of qualifying for Boston, I joined Rogue and started running with Coach Larry’s group. Coach Larry suggested I train for the Houston Marathon to achieve my “BQ”. It was here that I bonded with fellow runners over long runs and happy hours. The miles just pass when you’re having a good time with friends! And then there’s Eddie, my best friend that I’m fortunate enough to call my husband. Eddie has always supported my crazy decisions, and is the only person who has patience for my stubbornness. Anyone who has met Eddie knows he hates running, yet he has completed two marathons and helped pace me during our runs.

On January 15th, 2017, the Houston Marathon had arrived. The start was 67 degrees with 97% humidity with mention that the temperature was expected to escalate into the 70s. I had trained in the humidity and heat before, so I thought I was ready to embark on this journey. I told myself that I would aim for my original goal, which was to get my “BQ” and run a 3:35 marathon. I would start off running negative splits and then pick up the pace as the race went on. The first two miles were fun and crowded; there were so many people, it was like a herd of cattle trying to get through a corral. I was on target with paces until mile 16 on Memorial Drive. Eddie told me that if I wanted to keep my initial goal, I would have to pick up the pace. It was at this point I was feeling lightheaded, my legs felt weaker, and my heart felt a little faster than usual. I almost gave up.

I felt like a cloud slowly drifted away and I cried a little. Memorial Drive was never ending. When we reached mile 23, Eddie told me he needed a break but for me to keep going. I guess that gave me some adrenaline, so I kept moving forward. Ironically, I clocked my fastest mile at mile 26, when I felt like I had nothing else left. I’m a strong believer and have a lot of faith…as soon as I crossed the finish line, the sky broke open and rain started pouring down.

It was a sign from above. God was telling me you didn’t meet your goal but you’ve completed this chapter. Not all stories have a perfect ending. Sometimes we must fall before we can learn to walk again. If we never challenge ourselves how will we know what we are capable of accomplishing?

jen-3

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Featured Rogue: Dori Livingston

dori-smileIf you’ve spent any time at Rogue over the past five years, then at some point you’ve probably come across the brilliant smile of Dori Livingston. She is one of those rare people whose energy brightens the day of just about everyone she meets, and she also happens to be one of the hardest workers that we have ever had the pleasure of coaching. Dori has overcome more than a few challenges over the years, but her achievements – she’s featured in Runners World!  – have far outnumbered them. See below for a short Q and A:

When and why did you start running?

I began running in 2010 to deal the stress of my job as a State Trooper and my recent diagnosis with melanoma cancer.   My journey with cancer led me to running with friends with similar experiences. In 2011, Rick Nichols introduced me to Rogue and I joined Amy Anderson’s marathon training group. I loved the community of Rogue, and was hooked!

dori-ultraWhat has been your biggest running-related challenge, and your biggest achievement?

One of my biggest training challenges has been learning how to find a healthy balance with running, due to my cancer and other health issues that arose from it. My biggest achievement was running my first ultra, the Rocky Raccoon 50K trail race in Huntsville, Texas, earlier this year.

 

dori-runners-worldPick one defining moment.

My defining moment was being chosen as a finalist with the Runner’s World Cover Search and had my story featured in the December issue!

What’s next?

My goals right now are to heal my body (I just had shoulder surgery a few months ago), run healthy and tackle the Tahoe Triple in 2017!

The Straight & Narrow

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by Mallory Brooks

If the straight and narrow is your thing, you need not apply. If you don’t mind a little blood, some elevation, and the occasional feeling that you will need a search party to help you find your way home, then hit the trail…where nobody cares how neon your shoes “used” to be.

Thanks to the softer-than-concrete trail running surface, you’ll trade in your sports injury doctor’s appointment for a few bandaids…or if you’re running through the yucca of west Texas, make that 100 bandaids!

You can forget about your ostrich-like running stride. The roots and rocks that become your companion on long runs force you to take shorter, quicker steps with less injury-causing heel strikes.

Tired of dodging the triple wide jogging strollers and dog leashes on Town Lake? Trail run. Hate the water cooler social club? Trail run. And when, not if, you get tired and want to rest, find a rock with a million dollar view, breathe deep, and call it meditating. Nobody ever gave anyone a hard time for stopping to meditate.

At the end of the day, if the straight and narrow is, in fact, your thing, the trail doesn’t mind being your friend with benefits. Use it to get faster on the road. Use it to clear your mind. Use it to get away from the dozen electronics strapped to your body. Just be prepared to be the one being used and abused…and crawling back for more.

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Ready to mix things up? Trail programs are always happening – join anytime. Details here!

World-wind: The Surprises

by Allison Macsas

Travel is full of surprises, and has a particular knack for turning all of your expectations upside down. The first group that we took to Morocco this year – “Week One,” as we creatively reference them – did just that. Despite our experience with the itinerary, the place and the people, time after time I was hit with the unexpected.

THE FLIGHT DELAY:

Waiting...

Waiting…

I will fully admit, I was a bit uncertain about this group prior to the trip. We’d had a couple of get-togethers and everyone was great – but also quiet, and the excitement level seemed low. Although deep down I knew better, a small part of me worried that this wouldn’t change, that we’d spend ten days traveling and running in awkward silence.

Arrival day came, and Gabe and I woke up in Marrakech to a text – half of the group had been delayed in Dallas, and missed their connection in Madrid. Rerouted to Casablanca. The girl who had texted was “pretty sure” that there were 9 of them, but wasn’t sure that she knew everyone. Our stomachs sank – although a common travel reality, this was not how we wanted to start off the trip. They’d be so tired! So cranky! So jetlagged! But, there was nothing we could do except go to the airport at noon to pick up the 10 who did make it on time.

Those ten were very happy to be there, and we got them settled in as planned with the option of either eating dinner at the planned time, or waiting until the rest of group arrived, which was looking quite late. Gabe stayed back while I headed back to the airport with Hamid around 9:00 that night. The place was packed with drivers holding signs, and it was apparent that a lot of planes were landing at once which, in Marrakech, means never-ending immigration lines. 45 minutes passed. I bought a Snickers bar to tide myself over. Another 30 minutes passed, and the flight that they were supposedly on updated to “arrived” on the status board. 30 more minutes passed. Floods of travelers had come out – French retirees, German hikers, British teenagers on holiday – but none of our people. The crowds of drivers thinned. The floods slowed to a trickle. Hamid, who never looks nervous, looked nervous.

A long-awaited first meal!

A long-awaited first meal!

Just as I was starting to panic a little, I saw a Rogue Expeditions shirt. Then another! All nine of them came out together. They were exhausted, hungry and antsy, but they had also had six hours trapped in a tiny airport to get to know each other.  We got them to our riad, checked in and up to dinner as quickly as we could. The rest of the group had chosen to wait, and we soon had 19 talkative and extremely excited runners around a table, all clearly bonded over the experience. My worries disappeared, and I joined them in anticipating an incredible week.  

 

IT NEVER RAINS IN MOROCCO:

I made a packing list for this trip that I’m very proud of. Many people have followed it to a T, and fully enjoyed traveling light and having all that they needed. However, it doesn’t include any mention of a rain jacket. In the time that I’ve spent in southern Morocco and in the stories I’ve heard from our crew who lives there, I was convinced that rain just isn’t going to happen in that area. The rivers come from High Atlas snowmelt, the irrigation and drinking water comes from springs and wells and a huge reservoir in Ouarzazate … not from rain.

Fast forward to our very first run, the afternoon after the flight debacle. Clouds had been gathering during our drive, but no worry – they would simply keep the temperature at a pleasant 60-something degrees. We had a wonderful picnic lunch and began what is one of my favorite runs of the trip, heading down the backside of a quiet mountain road for miles, through a few small villages and eventually to the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou. About 30 minutes in, we felt some raindrops – it felt great. They became a bit more steady, but stayed nice and light. Not too long after that, thunder rumbled. Villagers appeared at the doors of their houses – it wasn’t clear whether they were more surprised by us, or the water falling from the sky. We kept running – the rain came down harder. Then, it started to hurt. Hail!

Why yes, those are rain clouds!

Why yes, those are rain clouds!

At this point, it was clear that we should probably take cover. The drivers made sure that they picked up everyone, and we huddled in the trucks as they insisted that it hadn’t rained in this area in years. The hail was short-lived, and most of us decided to get back out and continue running once it tapered off. I endured the “it never rains in Morocco” jokes, both that day and on our rest day in the Todra Gorge, where it poured for an entire day. Needless to say, the packing list has been updated.

 

Mitchell racks up the mileage

Mitchell racks up the mileage

THE KIDS:

The question of whether kids are welcome on our trips had never crossed our mind until a couple asked us prior to this trip. They had a 13 year old boy, Gabriel, who runs and has traveled and has no problem hanging with adults. We couldn’t think of any reason why not, especially since he’d be with both parents, so we said sure! Months later, just a few weeks before departure, one of the other couples that had signed up asked us a similar question. They were having second thoughts about leaving their 9 year old, Mitchell, with a caretaker for so long and his mom wanted to give him her spot. He too was a runner and had traveled – nine seemed young to us, but we again could think of no reason why not. Mitchell was in.

I was a bit apprehensive, wondering how much they would run, if they’d be bored around a bunch of adults and whether the adults would mind having kids along. But, again, my concerns proved unfounded. Gabriel definitely had a mature personality, and was happy to relax and hang out and soak up everything he was learning about Morocco. Mitchell was pure energy – talkative, but never once cranky – and provided an endless source of entertainment even as he ran circles around many of us.

Gabriel summits!

Gabriel summits!

And what a place for kids! There is much open space, so little traffic, such a sense of freedom in the areas we travel through. Kids (and adults, for that matter)) can run free, climb sand dunes, fall down, make friends – I was shocked when I went through photos and video and realized how often Mitchell had village kids running alongside him, how he’d end up in the middle of a pickup soccer game at rest stops. Language didn’t matter, and he was not the least bit shy or self-conscious, as adults tend to be – he just jumped right into everything. The drivers and other locals doted on him. We all kept commenting on what an amazing education he was getting – to see and experience so much at 9 years old – and he certainly was. But, it soon became clear to me that he was educating us at the same time – to let go, jump in, have fun and take full advantage of everything in front of you.

 

Village games

Village games

THE SOCCER BALL

We had a former soccer player, Jarrod, within the group, which never really came up until our third day of running. 4 or 5 miles into the run, we turned into a village where soccer match was happening on a dirt plot. He asked, more or less, if he could join and they said, more or less, sure. So he jumped in and played awhile, and played very well.

He was hooked on the thought of the sport after that  – after all, it’s played in every village, seemingly at all hours of the day! A day or two later we had all gone for an evening walk in N’kob when he spotted a ball displayed in a street vendor’s shop. He bought it, and we all kicked it back and forth as we strolled through the town. Before long we caught the attention of some small kids, who joined in and soon had an intense match stirred up with Jarrod in the middle of a maze of mudbrick homes. We all watched and laughed, local women came out and watched and laughed – it was a spectacular evening, full of smiles.

 

soccer iriki

The ball traveled with us for several days, making an appearance on Iriki Lake, among other spots. On our final full day in Morocco, we had a long journey from the desert back to Marrakech. At one of our many rest stops, there was a pickup game happening in the middle of the main street. Mitchell of course joined in, and Jarrod made his way over. After noticing that the ball they were playing with was completely flat, he tossed his in as a replacement – and left it. Faces lit up, the game sped up. Such a small item, such a small gesture, but at the same time it was so, so big.

I went into that week feeling uncertain about the dynamics, confident in my no-rain declarations and completely unaware that a cheap soccer ball would play such a big role throughout the week. As it happened, the group could not have been better, very real friendships were developed, that cheap soccer ball brought many smiles, and we got a little wet. Surprises are a given when you step out into the world, and they always provide lessons, provided you are simply open to noticing them.

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Missed the first part of the World Wind series? Catch it here, and check back soon for the Kenya installment!

World-wind

by Allison Macsas

Stage One of packing for 5 weeks, 3 countries and a ton of running.

Stage One of packing for 5 weeks, 3 countries and a ton of running.

March and April were a world-wind.

My role with Rogue Expeditions took me first to Morocco with a group of 19, a trip that we wrapped up in Spain. From there, it was off to Kenya for a test-run of our November trip, then back to Spain for a 12 hour laundry-sleep-and-email stop before heading back to Morocco to meet our second group of 19. After ten days there, we went back to Spain once again with the group before finally boarding a plane back home to Austin.

Being treated to tea, lunch and gifts in Hamid's family home before heading into the Sahara.

Being treated to tea, lunch and gifts in Hamid’s family home before heading into the Sahara.

Kenya? Everything I imagined.

Kenya? Everything I imagined.

That’s the nutshell version, though in reality those five weeks were five of the most impactful weeks I’ve ever had. I’ve traveled plenty, but have never gotten to share it with so many people for such an extended period of time. Friendships were formed, meals shared, photos taken, lessons learned, languages practiced, stories told, limits pushed and many, many miles run. The Morocco trips were as close to flawless as we could have possibly hoped for  – across the board our guides and drivers were thrilled, the group dynamics were fantastic and our runners repeatedly thanked us for the experience of a lifetime. Kenya was everything I’d hoped for and more, a place filled with the some of the warmest, friendliest people I’d ever met, sights that most people will only see via National Geographic documentaries and Iten. The itinerary we’d created was top-notch, far beyond our expectations, and we left knowing that we had a new unbeatable experience to offer.

But, for all of these successes, I made one big mistake: I didn’t write about it while it was happening.

Okay, so we did sneak a mid-drive nap or two...

Okay, so we did sneak a mid-drive nap or two…

There were many reasons as to why I didn’t, chief among them the fact that, as a guide, I was “on” during all waking hours. There is no sneaking off to open your laptop, nor do you want to, and once you finally do retire in the evening, it’s deep, immediate sleep. During those five weeks, there was only one full day that Gabe and I had all to ourselves, and we spent it watching mindless movies in a hotel room in Marrakech. I did well to keep up with our social media channels, updating the world on our adventures with one-line snippets whenever we’d get a bit of workable wifi, and figured that I’d write an epic recap once we got home – and that’s where I went wrong.

 

An absolute sense of wonder and calm in the Sahara

An absolute sense of wonder and calm in the Sahara

sahara start

Running is pure fun with a crew like this!

Despite the around-the-clock responsibilities, we weren’t “busy” in the typical sense; we were engaged. There was rarely a reason to rush – these are not grab-and-go cultures. There are views to take in. Things to learn. People to connect with. Meals to savor. Miles to be run. Or not, if you don’t feel like it. Sunsets are appreciated, and weather largely determines what will or will not happen that day. The internet may or may not work, and you soon stop really caring either way – the world is right there in front of you! Everything was mafi-mushkil or hakuna matata – no problem, no worry. Working or not, I’d never felt so present, so THERE, and I’d definitely never appreciated my ability to run as much as I did during that time. It’s easy to recite the “live in the moment” mantra, but have you ever actually experienced that? For five straight weeks, I truly did, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it go.

But then, back to Austin. A place that I love, full of people that I love, and that I really was excited to return to. But, it’s a city and, like in any city, time waits for no one. Within two hours of landing, Gabe and I both had insurmountable to-do lists running through our heads. All of our conversation instantly shifted to “tomorrow I need to…” or “this weekend we need to…” Present moment? No time for that! Dinner was grab-and-go, interaction devolved into staring at our phones and neither of us slept well that night.

The next day it was back to work, back to pre-dawn workouts with Team Rogue and back to spending a significant amount of time sitting in traffic as I tried to get to and from these places and others. Of course there was a ton of work to catch up on, family & friends to catch up with, new trips to focus on and a big race to start silently stressing about – reflecting on and writing about my travel experiences immediately found a home at the bottom of the list.

This guy knows something about relaxation.

This guy knows something about relaxation. And running.

After a week of this, I had a serious discussion with myself during a morning run. I reminded myself that “busy” is not a bragging right, that “tomorrow” is never guaranteed and that very few “stresses” actually matter at all in the scheme of things. Where had my mafimushkil, hakuna matata attitude gone? I reminded myself that just a few days prior I had been acutely aware of these things, and that there was no excuse for forgetting them just because I was back home. If anything, home is the most important place to live out these lessons.

Shocked and thrilled after a surprise PR just a few weeks after this world-wind. Slowing things down seems to speed me up!

Shocked and thrilled after a surprise PR just a couple of weeks after this world-wind. Slowing things down seems to speed me up!

You know what? With a little effort, it worked! In my day to day routine, I began to walk places, take in my surroundings, busy schedule be damned. In work, I would take a step back the moment that I began to feel overwhelmed by to-do lists and emails, refocus, and simply work on each thing, piece by piece. In my personal life, I’ve made a point to refrain from the phrase “too busy” when it comes to plans with family or friends. And in running, I managed to hold onto the incredible feeling of freedom and pure joy that I’d experienced running through Africa. It led to one of the best races I’ve ever had, just a few weeks after returning home, and I feel confident that it’s going to lead to big things this fall.

There is nothing better for the world than people getting out and experiencing the world. It educates, it opens minds, it connects. Much like running! I’ve always been a big believer in this, and saw it firsthand in many of the runners who traveled with us over that month. It reaffirmed everything that we’re doing with Rogue Expeditions, and everything that we have planned. Two months later, I’ve had my time to reflect, and now I’m ready to write about those experiences – a short series will follow over the next few weeks, covering the highlights, the big moments, the lessons and the aftermath from each segment of that world-wind. So please, take a break, slow it down, and read along!

 

 

Your First Marathon

by Chris McClung

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

The Dallas Marathon in December 2000 was supposed to be my first marathon, but I didn’t make it to the start line. I was sidelined with injury just two months before race day. Diagnosis: tibial stress fracture. Translation: broken leg. Doh!

Ok, now, listen carefully… I want you to run your first marathon THIS December, and I know you can do it. Yes, all of you on-the-fencers, I am talking to you! You might think that I am crazy, but give me just a few more moments to push you off that comfortable seat on the fence.

It’s been almost 14 years since I signed up for that first marathon. I was barely 21 years old and had run only one other road race in my life – a 10K. Dallas was a natural choice. Even though I lived in Houston at the time, it was a relatively short drive away to run on my home streets with no shortage of friends and family to cheer me on. There would be plenty of time for the big, exotic, destination races. There was work to be done, and I loved the simplicity and familiarity of my chosen race.

I laugh when I think back on the naivety of that new runner. I had no idea what I was doing, but oddly at the same time, I had absolutely no fear of covering the distance. Now, I am jealous of the boldness of my younger self; real or not, youth brings a courage and fearlessness to do things that is often stifled as we get older and wiser.

Interestingly, at that age a marathon was already on my “bucket list.” I am the son of a runner and marathoner, so it was something that I had witnessed as a kid. My Dad’s story of his first marathon was the stuff of legend in our house. To this day, he swears a guardian angel appeared to him after collapsing to his back on a swath of grass just beyond the finish of the Cowtown Marathon. The angel appeared in the form of a mysterious woman who was oddly willing to massage his cramping calves into relief before disappearing as quickly as she appeared. To this day, we don’t know if this actually happened or was a vivid post-marathon hallucination, as are known to happen.

In addition, my then girlfriend (now wife Amy) was also already a marathoner, something she accomplished in Houston at the absurdly young age of 19. So, as a new runner and 10K-finisher, I was somehow the “slacker” in the family. Others around me had finished a marathon, so my assumption was that I could to. That, paired with the naiveté of youth led me to sign up for Dallas with absolutely no doubts that I would be a marathoner 6 months later.

As you know already, I was wrong. I spent race day in December on the sideline, cheering on my friend and training partner. We were college friends and were supposed to checking the box on this milestone together. Instead, he would do it alone while I watched from behind the barricades with a boot on my leg.

What went wrong? Well, the same naiveté that urged me to fearlessly sign up for the race also pushed me to make every mistake in training that I can now think of. It wasn’t enough to just finish my first marathon; I wanted to hit a specific time. To reach that, I assumed that I could do it alone without a coach. I found an online schedule, and dove into training.

I ran too much, too soon. I ran too hard. All the time. I didn’t do any stretching or strength work to supplement my running. And, most certainly, I didn’t slow down at the early signs of pain. A little shin pain turned into shooting pain up and down my leg, and before I knew it, I was doing 3-hour “long runs” on the elliptical machine in denial over what was happening and determined to still run the race.

If I had a coach or a structured program, then none of this would have happened. I mean that quite literally. I wouldn’t have ended up with a broken leg, and the Dallas Marathon would have been my first. But, it’s bigger than that. Everything happens for a reason, and I don’t think that I would have been inspired to be the coach I am today without that first experience of failure.

A broken leg left me with lots of time to sit. Devastated by the outcome, with time to spare and emboldened to never make the same mistakes again, I poured myself into every training and coaching book I could find over the months that followed. That began a journey for me that would lead me to successfully coach myself to my first marathon in Chicago the following year and then eventually to Rogue where I now coach a seriously cool and committed group of Morning Show athletes.

I, along with am amazing cohort of fellow Rogue coaches, am committed to making sure that new marathoners don’t make the same mistakes I did. Our methods are tried and true. Thousands have walked and run on this now-very-well-paved path to their first marathon and you can too.

So, what’s the moral of this story? We end where I started.

Get off the fence. You can do it. Stop doubting and just sign up. Then, let us help you. Our Texas Marathon program, starting in July will get you ready for one of 3 familiar, well-organized, and beginner-friendly races in San Antonio, Dallas, or Bryan/College Station. [Note: Dallas and BCS are two of my personal favorites] All you have to do is take the first step where, in the words of the great runner-philosopher George Sheehan, “Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.”

Will you be the person you were destined to be? Or will you continue to sit comfortably on the fence in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat?”

10373522_10152273679728666_5112001614360975145_nThe Texas Marathon training program will begin on July 12, 2014 with a huge kick-off party, open to everyone! Come on out to run, enjoy breakfast, win prizes, chat with coaches and receive a swift kick off of the fence.

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Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches The Morning Show, a group for half marathoners and marathoners alike.

 

 

Of Running and Travel

IMG_0741by Allison Macsas

It has been one year since the inaugural Rogue Expeditions trip, and as we prepare to depart for trips #3 and #4 this week I couldn’t help but reflect on how swiftly this crazy idea has taken root and grown.

We began with Morocco last March, having no idea whether it would be a one-off, or something bigger.

Apparently, it was to be something bigger.

We followed that adventure with a shorter, closer-to-home Tahoe trip, which drew a wonderful group of women and was the perfect escape from Texas in July. In the meantime, we were making important connections and working behind the scenes to develop new destinations, allowing us to come into 2014 with a slew of offerings: Morocco (two groups!) in March, Tahoe in July, Morocco again in early November, Kenya in mid-November and Patagonia in the early planning stages.

The response has been huge, and though Gabe and I sometimes find it hard to believe that we are really getting the chance make this happen, at closer look I am not surprised at all. Running and travel are a natural pairing with abundant parallels, and I’d like to highlight a few:

IMG_0258FEELING BEING ALIVE

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy marketing campaign, this is a huge element of both running and of travel.  No matter the reasons that you choose to run – for health, for fitness, for friends, for challenges – ultimately you are choosing to go out into the elements, put one foot in front of the other, rely upon yourself and embrace being ALIVE.  The same goes for travel – when you choose to travel, you are choosing to step out into the world, experience sights, sounds and smells and interact with all of those things – real, tangible things. For this reason, runners make natural travelers, and vice versa. Day5_Devon dust

STEPPING OUT OF COMFORT ZONES

Running is not comfortable. If you’ve never done it before, you’ll likely deal with achy knees, sore shins, burning lungs and a heavy dose of frustration. Eventually all of that passes, but the discomfort continues for even the most advanced runners: we deal with early mornings, hot weather, freezing weather, sweat, blisters, chafing, lost toenails, metaphorical brick walls and that terrible feeling at mile 20 that I’m just not going to make it. But, we keep running, and we do make it to the end, and once we get there we forget about every bit of discomfort along the way. All we know is that indescribable feeling of pushing past a limit, and we come away with a new level of confidence and excitement and satisfaction.

Travel is the same way.

1094995_608758295825546_1143697500_nCertainly, there are blatantly uncomfortable ways to travel, typically the result of a shoestring budget and involving lots of crowded public transport and dingy hostels in developing counties. But even comfortable travel is going to take you out of your comfort zone.  You will experience language barriers, strange foods and bizarre currency denominations. You’ll likely find out what it’s like to look different from everyone else, encounter toilets that you may not know how to utilize and find out that “normal” conveniences like big takeaway cups of coffee aren’t available. But then, you find other ways to communicate and connect, you discover new favorite foods and become a master bargainer. You stop worrying about standing out – most people aren’t looking anyway, they are just living their lives – you figure out the toilets and you find that sitting and savoring that tiny cup of espresso is much more fulfilling.  And then, you don’t think about “discomfort” anymore. Instead, you are reveling in the feeling of pushing past barriers and gaining – you guessed it – a new level of confidence. Day1_Troy overlook

SELF-REFLECTION

No matter how many running friends you have, it is inherently a solo sport. Anyone who runs regularly spends time alone with him or herself, thinking thoughts, dreaming dreams and solving problems. You learn a lot about yourself this way. You also learn a lot about yourself during hard workouts, big races and other personal running milestones. How do you respond to challenges? What do you do when things go wrong? How do you react to success, or to disappointment? When running, it’s all you, and most runners are keenly self-aware.

How does this apply to travel? Well, I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that you can’t truly know anything about your culture or your way of doing things until you get outside of it. When you’re immersed in a new culture and exposed to new ways of doing things, it makes you reflect upon your own version of living when maybe you’d never had a reason to do so before. Perhaps you begin to do some things differently, or perhaps you don’t. Either way, travel will make you highly, keenly self-aware. 4 pct group

MEMORIES, AND FRIENDSHIPS.

Describe what you did on the second Tuesday of March last year. Can’t do it? Of course not. Chances are, it was just another Tuesday, stuck in the middle of another week. Not that it wasn’t a good or a worthy day, but it simply wasn’t memorable.

Now, describe the marathon that you ran last year. I bet you can give a play-by-play, from the moment you woke up to the moment you celebrated that evening and every mile in between. I bet you remember every split, the exact temperature and humidity level and precisely how many gels you forced down. You know exactly what you were wearing. Why? Because it was a highly anticipated, physically and mentally intense experience. It was the very definition of memorable.

Day3_breakfast2And travel? Well, I can tell you exactly what I was doing on the second Tuesday in March last year, because I was in Morocco with an amazing group of adventurous runners. I can describe the stunning view from the terrace at breakfast, the chilly breeze at the beginning of our run, the kids who ran along with us and the drum circle that we became part of after dinner at our kasbah-hotel. Like a marathon, or even your first 5K, it was the very definition of memorable.

Day8_GoodbyesAnd friendships. The friendships are directly related to the experiences and the memories. Why are running friendships so strong? Because you take on challenges, you struggle and you succeed, all together. Intense, memorable experiences create lasting bonds, and I’ve overwhelmingly seen this in running, and in travel. Indeed, my closest friendships have developed from one (or both!) of these endeavors.

maasai giraffeSo, perhaps it isn’t so surprising that Rogue Expeditions is off to such a strong start. Running and travel, runners and travelers – it fits.

Please follow us over the coming weeks as we take not one, but two groups to Morocco and also head to Kenya to put the final touches on our November trip, with live updates along the way. Then, once you’re ready to extend your running – and living! – experience further out into the world, check out our upcoming trips, send me your questions and join us on a great adventure!

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UPCOMING TRIPS

Run Tahoe: July 23-27 (3 spots left!)

Run Morocco: October 30-November 8 (10 spots left!)

Run Kenya: November 14-25 (6 spots left!)