The Red Desert is a land of extremes and poetic contrasts. Depending on the time of year, you could find yourself panting for breath in oppressive heat, stuck axle deep in the mud, or shivering despite being bundled in every layer you own. These challenges — and the chance to test one’s mettle against them — are what make the rugged Red Desert the perfect place to host Run the Red, one of Wyoming’s emerging endurance races.
Run the Red is Wyoming’s only ultramarathon designed to raise awareness and advocacy for the Red Desert. This year’s race was held on the state’s first Wyoming Public Lands Day on September 28, with a newly designed course that started and finished at historic South Pass City. Two new distances were also added — a 45K and 90K — so that participants could experience the best of the Northern Red Desert: imposing views of Continental Peak, the towering Oregon Buttes, and undulating high desert bisected by the Sweetwater River. Despite the challenging weather, which shifted from snow to rain to wind to sun, this year’s race was the most successful on record, bringing 155 runners from all over Wyoming and as far away as Texas and Oregon.
“Wyoming people are tough,” said Shaleas Harrison of the Wyoming Wilderness Association. She organized this year’s race and the Wyoming Public Lands Day events that followed at South Pass City, along with partners from NOLS and the Wyoming Outdoor Council. The day was full of wet, smiling runners, laughs from hardy aid station volunteers, memories made around drum circles and banjos, and, most importantly, a deeper appreciation for a wild place many Wyomingites hold dear.
Following the race, runners and locals from Lander and Rock Springs enjoyed a series of events to celebrate the newly created Wyoming Public Lands Day. A range of speakers — including representatives from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, state legislators, Red Desert experts, and sponsored athletes shared their perspectives about the importance of landscapes like the Red Desert in maintaining Wyoming’s quality of life, wildlife, and rich outdoor heritage.
Although the race has changed over the years, the goal of Run the Red — to build a connection to a wild landscape — has remained the same. Jonathan Williams, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator for NOLS, couldn’t have said it better:
In coming months, the Bureau of Land Management, will release its revised land-use plan for much of the Red Desert. There’s a lot at stake. Our hope is that all the runners, volunteers, and participants — along with anyone who cares about this wild landscape — will weigh in and urge the BLM to protect what makes this place so unique. Stay tuned … the race isn’t over yet!