By Eileen Garvin
Trail time: Ultra running is the sport of running distances longer than the traditional 26.2-mile marathon. Common ultra distances are 50 kilometers, 50 miles, 100 miles and 100 kilometers. To train for such distances, runners need lots of trail time, and they’ll find it here in the Southern Oregon woods. Favorite local routes include Grizzly Peak Loop Trail (a 5.1-mile family friendly trail), Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (35 miles of blue-rated, out-and-back) and Boccard Point (a 10-mile intermediate run that includes a section of the Pacific Crest Trail).
Local legend: Many ultra runners come to train in the same environs as American ultra running legend Hal Koerner, who makes his home here. The 42-year-old has been named one of the top 10 ultra runners in the country nine times in the last decade. He’s completed more than 150 ultra marathons and has held the fastest times for completing the 486-mile Colorado Trail as well as the 211-mile John Muir Trail. The author of the popular Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultra Running, Koerner also owns a running store here —Rogue Valley Runners— where helpful staff can help with gear, footwear and gait analysis as well as trail recommendations and training tips.
Resident racing: Koerner is race director for three annual runs. The 26.2-mile Lithia Loop Trail Marathon takes place in November. Look for the 6-mile, family-friendly Tar ’N Trail in March. The annual Pine to Palm 100-mile Endurance Run between Williams and Ashland Oregon happens in September. In July, the Siskiyou Out Back Trail Run offers three challenging routes — 15 kilometers, 50 kilometers and 50 miles. Rogue Valley Runners sponsors the 13.3-mile Mt. Ashland Hillclimb Run in August.
Sunshine nation: Though much of Oregon lies within the rain shadow of the mountains, the urban areas of Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass receive as little as 20 inches of rain a year and as many as 250 days of sunshine. The average temperatures stay well above freezing in the winter and below the 90s in the summer, which makes it possible to train comfortably year-round.
Fine fuel: All those miles take plenty of calories, and Ashland’s dining scene offers healthy and satisfying options for refueling. Kick start your morning at Noble Coffee Roasting, an artisan coffee house in the historic Railroad District serving organic handcrafted coffee. Morning Glory Restaurant offers a hearty menu of omelets, scrambles and pancakes. With a mission of sustainability, Caldera Brewery & Restaurant pours award-winning brews alongside organic, locally sourced fare like the Brew House pizza and white truffle mac and cheese. For healthy snacks, trail food and light bites, stop at the Ashland Food Co-op.