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Running the Amasa Back and North 40 Trails
Article by Heather Martinez

I’ve always wanted to be a runner, but something always got in the way. I’d make a resolution to start running, make a detailed running plan (I’m great at planning), then give it all up in about a week. I had no idea that my seasonal move to Moab to experience more climbing would essentially lead to me finally being able to call myself a runner.

Not long after I’d somewhat settled into Moab—“settling” just meaning that I was no longer living out of my tent—I experienced a personal tragedy that left me unglued and wondering what I was doing with my life. In the midst of despair and self-wallowing, a great friend (and now my husband) said a few simple words, “Let’s go run.” Amasa Back to Jackson’s Trail, 6.5 miles, two hours on my feet in 100-degree weather, and a lot of stopping: it was pure will power. My mind shut off (for once), and I finished it.

I didn’t run that much that day, but I discovered what it means to run: pushing past your mind, past what you think your body is capable of, and actually feeling what your body is capable of. I was hooked. Amasa Back-to-Jackson’s became my daily run and, before I knew it, I was running the entire loop in an hour and fifteen minutes. Of course, in the early spring, I always check conditions before committing to any trail, since ice, snow, or mud can challenge my footing. And do not attempt the Jackson Trail with snow or ice on the ground!

Eventually it clicked: if I wanted to push myself, I had to run trails. The road didn’t do it for me, no matter how much I tried to make it work. Running roads was monotonous, and I couldn’t stand cars constantly rushing by. The scenery on trails allowed me to let go and just be, something that to this day is hard for me.

photo credit: Dan Patitucci

Life has brought many changes over the past two-and-a-half years. I’ve married, had a son, and started an actual career. As to be expected, life took over, and again, I find myself scrambling for a release. The difference this time is that I know what it’s like to be a runner. I’ve felt it, felt what my body is capable of, and I know exactly where to start: on trails.

I have a new daily run now: North 40 Trail at Moab Brands. It’s shorter than Amasa Back-to-Jackson’s, it’s less technical and has much less elevation gain, but it’s mine. I can still feel Amasa Back calling me, though, drawing me in like an old friend I haven’t spoken to in years. It will be hard again, it will hurt again, but the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of letting go and just being, is worth any amount of pain. Every time I make it out to run, my muscles remember and they push me on. My mind lets go, and I am a trail runner.

Heather Martinez and her husband Chris own GrassRoots Events and 360 Moab Adventures, a trail-running tour company.

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