View north from Hope Pass in Colorado


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"Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Laugh. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Choose with no regret.
Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Hello! My name is Sue Norwood AKA "Runtrails."

As I age (and hopefully mature), it becomes increasingly important to live my life with intention. There are so many things that I still want to do in the second half of my life!

I'm learning to live each day "as if this is all there is."

Fortunately, I'm married to a man (Jim O'Neil) who has the same philosophy. It is important to us to stay healthy, fit, and young at heart so we can pursue our dreams and active lifestyle for many more of our "retirement" years. We may have retired from our careers, but we haven't retired from LIVING.

This journal will chronicle our ultra running and other adventures during the summer of 2006. The plan isn't as grand as last year's (whew!), but we're excited about it. We begin in less than a week.

Briefly, we are going to spend three months running trails in some of Wyoming and Colorado’s most beautiful mountain ranges, often at high altitude. Sandwiched between two 100-mile ultra marathons – Bighorn in Wyoming (June 16-17) and Leadville in Colorado (August 19-20) – Sue, and maybe also Jim, will be running the 483-mile long Colorado Trail between Denver and Durango. There will be other adventures we’ll share along the way, such as a 50-mile race on the way to Wyoming from our home in Virginia, and volunteer work at the Hardrock 100-miler in Silverton, Colorado.


A little history is in order for readers who may not have read the journal we wrote last year. If you did read it, this is an update.

With Jim’s able crewing assistance, in 2005 I was able to achieve one of my life dreams: to run and hike the entire 2,175-mile long Appalachian Trail (AT) in the eastern United States. It was the trip of a lifetime for me, and whetted my appetite to do more “journey runs” in this beautiful country of ours. Not only are there several other established long trails, such as the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, it is also possible to piece together one or more existing trails around the country to make up your own unique journey runs.

Jim and I are both “ultra” runners. Ultra marathons are races longer than the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Most races are a fixed distance (such as 50K, 50 miles, or 100 miles) or a fixed time (e.g., 12 hours, 48 hours, six days). Venues include tracks, roads, and trails. Jim and I train and run races primarily on trails, preferably hilly or mountainous ones.

I’ve been running long distances since 1980 (Jim since 1978). I have never backpacked and had no intention of starting at age 56 when I began the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run last year. I have arthritis and need a decent bed each night, not a sleeping bag on a hard surface in a shelter or tent. Carrying a 25- to 40-pound pack wasn’t my idea of fun, either, and would have prevented me from running.

A few other ultra runners have actually run the A.T. (well, as much as you can run that mountainous, rock-intensive trail system – even the record-setters have to do a lot of speed hiking). These men set the precedent for me.

(Note: I tried to find out before and after my thru-run/hike if any other women have tried to run the entire AT. Several women have hiked it faster than me, but as far as I know, I may be the first woman to have completed a thru run. If another woman has done it, please let me know.)

Instead of the traditional method of backpacking and camping along the Trail most nights, I treated each day like a long training run. I thought like an ultra runner, dressed like an ultra runner, ate and drank like an ultra runner, and carried the same supplies I’d carry on a long training run or race. Jim took me to the trailhead each morning and picked me up at our designated rendezvous spot each afternoon. I ran and hiked from Point A to Point B, admiring the scenery, taking photos and notes, and meeting lots of interesting people along the way. Then I got to take a shower, eat a good meal Jim had prepared for me, and sleep in the camper each night!

Now that’s fun!

However, some folks think that’s a downright sinful way to hike the Appalachian Trail, or any other long trail. Well, I betcha they don't have arthritis in every joint of their bodies!

Not only did we meet several older hikers who were crewed or crewed themselves along the AT, even some younger folks find this way of trekking appealing. We received (and continue to receive) very positive responses to our web journal, and many of the thru-hikers I met on the Trail were interested and encouraging to me.

There is more than one way to enjoy our nation’s incredible trail systems, get some great exercise, and respect the environment. Figure out what way is best for you and JUST DO IT!

You can spend a few minutes or a few weeks reading about our AT adventure and browsing hundreds of photos we took along the way. Click on the “AT Adventure Run” link on our home page for the introduction to that journey, or go directly to the topics page. Enjoy!


I know I had more fun last summer than Jim did. He was busier and more stressed out from crewing for me than I was running and hiking each day I was on the AT.

Jim had an unbelievable range of duties, some less fun than others, to keep “Runtrails & Company” moving up the Trail. He had his own adventures and misadventures with our truck, camper, two big dogs, and logistics. His responsibilities included finding illusive trailheads, moving our camper every couple days, dealing with traffic problems, buying food and supplies, fixing meals, doing laundry, helping me with my equipment and supplies, etc., etc., ad infinitum. He didn’t have the time or energy to run as much as he wanted, and he sacrificed his own races and volunteer work with the local fire department and rescue squad for almost five months to help me reach my dream.

Not fun. So how could I possibly ask him to crew me yet again this summer on another long trail??

Well, time dulls bad memories somewhat – including mine! The AT was tough on both of us (to say nothing of what it did to our savings account balance), so I didn’t even consider doing a multi-month trek this soon on a really long trail like the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, or, god forbid, the American Discovery Trail (a 7,000+ mile east-west route across the U.S.). Instead, I honed in on a shorter trail that has been on my radar screen for several years: the 483-mile long Colorado Trail (CT).

It really didn’t take any bargaining for Jim to agree to crew for me again. Here are some reasons why:

  • The Colorado Trail sounds pretty short to us after spending over four months doing the Appalachian Trail.
  • It is already conveniently divided into twenty-eight segments with vehicle access, so we don’t have to bother as much with planning how far to go each day.
  • Parts of it are located close to two of our favorite hundred-mile trail races: Leadville (which Jim plans to run this year) and Hardrock (where we are volunteering).
  • And we love being in the Rockies! The photo below is from 2004 when we summitted Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado's string of fifty-four "14'ers." The CT flanks the eastern side of Mt. Elbert, but many of its hikers go on up to the top. Those are the Twin Lakes in the background, right.

Although the Colorado Trail is only 22% as long as the Appalachian Trail, it is no "piece of cake." This rugged trail covers a lot of high-altitude ground between Denver and Durango as it crosses eight mountain ranges, seven national forests, six wilderness areas, and five river systems. We'll be above the tree line considerably more than on the AT.

Our plans for running the Colorado Trail are similar to the way we did the AT, but even more flexible. I won’t be doing each segment in order from either north to south (the preferred direction of most CT hikers) or south to north. I’ll cover nearby segments when we are in each area of the trail for the races we plan to run and work in Colorado this summer between the end of June and the end of August. That translates into several northern sections first, the southern sections next, and the middle sections last. I’ll go into more details about that later.

Even though there are significant differences between the two trails, our “MO” (modus operandi) will be the same this year: I’ll run as much of the CT as I can, carrying a light pack with the supplies needed for that day. I’ll sleep in the camper each night. Since I have approximately two months in which to run the trail, I can take more time off to rest and enjoy other activities.

Jim will crew, and hopefully be able to run more of the trail himself this time. We’ll try going opposite directions on the same segment the same day, using our truck to crew ourselves. That’s not as fun as running it together, but the only way we can each go point-to-point on a section and not do a repetitious out-and-back. If that works, maybe Jim can do the entire trail, too!

Here's another Colorado photo to pique your interest. This is Lake Creek, just north of Twin Lakes. Runners in the Leadville Trail 100-miler cross this (sometimes very wide) creek twice in the shadow of Hope Pass, the literal and figurative "high point" in the race. The Colorado Trail passes the south end of the adjoining lakes.


I will be writing most of the journal again. If I can cajole Jim into writing any entries, his by-line will be prominent! We will both take photos along the way – probably a LOT of photos, like we did last year on the Appalachian Trail. Jim is still the primary web master but I’m learning the ropes.

Last summer I was pretty fanatic about editing photos/writing the journal every night and getting it on-line after being on the Trail all day. I lost a lot of sleep doing that. I don't regret it; I'm proud of the AT journal and pleased that so many readers wrote to thank us for all the information and inspiration. The more I think about it now, months afterwards, the more amazed I am that I had that much energy!

Jim made me promise I won’t do that this time. This trek is shorter, much less intense, and in more remote areas that often won’t have cell phone coverage so we can get on-line with our laptop computer. (In fact, we may not even have adequate power to run the laptop some days, let alone get on-line with it.) We’ll aim for two or three journal posts per week.

I’m not sure how much the “look” of this journal will morph. We liked the format for the AT journal and so far have only tinkered with the colors, maps, and links for this one. We’ll do further modifications, if needed, to suit this summer’s variety of activities.

There is a topics page, which is like a table of contents. If you want to follow along, we recommend you bookmark that page rather than the introduction so it’s easier to find what’s been posted most recently and to find a particular topic.

There will be a few “preparation” pages, three months worth of journal pages (listed by the date, topic, CT section, etc.), and maybe some “post” pieces and photo essays again.

I’ll probably be just as verbose as I was in the AT journal! I enjoyed inserting quotes, so I’m likely to do that pretty often again. And there will be more photos in the journal entries this time. Hopefully we'll also have time to add more photos to our Picasa photo-sharing pages (link in the green strip at the top left side of each journal page). There are two albums of photos there now from our 2004 trip to Leadville.


Shortly before the AT run last year I got the bright idea to ask two companies whose products we were already using to give us discounts for the run. They were intrigued and confident enough in us to agree to substantial discounts for our shoes (Montrail) and nutritional products (Hammer Nutrition). We put their logos on each journal page and I occasionally mentioned how well their products were doing, hopefully without being too blatant to annoy our readers from around the world but often enough to generate some business for the companies (it did).

We are indeed grateful that both Montrail and Hammer Nutrition have kept us on again in 2006 as “sponsored athletes.” Their logos will also be displayed in the dark green strip near the top of each journal page. It’s a “win-win” deal for us and for them, too. I’ll talk more about all of the gear and supplies we’re using in one of the “prep” pages.


Please join us again, this time for some armchair adventures in the stunning mountains of Wyoming and Colorado. We’d love to inspire some more folks to follow their dreams and remain physically and mentally active no matter how old they are – or feel. We’re both 57 now and often have to remind ourselves that we “aren’t 35 any more.”

That fact was brought home quite bluntly recently when Jim’s oldest son reminded us that even HE “isn’t 35 any more.”


We’d love to hear from you as we travel and run. If you want to contact us, there is a link at the bottom of each page.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater


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© 2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil