Congratulations to all intrepid runners who completed last night’s edition of the Somewhat Irregular But Always Fun WUS Beer Mile. We had nearly FOUR TIMES as many competitors as the previous edition! As always, it was a real RIP-SNORTER of a race. JLD, off a recent bout of food poisoning, realized that he needed to bring a ringer (Andy) if he wanted to give Trevor a run for his money. And on the women’s side, Martha submarine-attacked Heather by claiming she’d only have two beers (and therefore, not be in the actual competition), but decided to go for the FULL FOUR mid-competition. Other stand-out performances included Barry, dominating the 60+ age group, and Mike winning the “Justine Morrison Memorial Sip-Don’t-Chug Award” for most time running the beer mile.

Special thanks to the Volunteers:

  • Grandma Jill, for salad, and manning the first blind corner,
  • Tom, Jane, and Cookie for manning the second blind corner,
  • Bjorn and Lila, for exhorting the runners, “FINISH YOUR BEER AND START RUNNING!” (We’ll see how that goes over in kindergarten today.)

Among the lessons we learned are,

  • Trevor WILL NOT BE BEAT in the beer mile,
  • One mile in an alley in DC can result in more gastric distress than 100 miles in the Wasatch mountains,
  • When the going gets tough, Seb doesn’t even know the MEANING of DNF (“No, seriously guys… What does that mean?”)


Martha11:55Listed as “m” in splits
Nick16:02Showed up two minutes late
Adam26:21Showed up ten minutes late
Heather27:01Including penalty lap
Mike27:54Laps 2/3 splits combined below




Corrales, New Mexico, August 2001. Sweat dripped down my brow, stinging my eyes. The desert heat was intolerable. Only idiot teenage travelers like me ran across New Mexico’s scorching plains at midday in August. But I was not miserable. Running was my time to “bug hunt” and clear my head to find solutions to problems. Bright flying insects whirled between twisted cacti. A stray lizard scurried from the cover of sagebrush to a yucca, burying itself back under the sand to escape the sun’s glare. Long baggy soccer shorts protected my thighs from sunburn, but reminded me of the question I still could not answer. It wasn’t like me to be indecisive.

Ned had already decided for me. After finishing 10th at Nationals in the 1500m in my college debut last spring, the track coach assumed I was done playing soccer at Amherst College and named me to the fall cross country roster. But he never asked me. I still wore soccer shorts.

Girls don’t look good in shorts.

I thought it was a small ask when I inquired if I could race in the men’s team running shorts instead of the skimpy women’s bikini bottoms, like another girl in our league from Connecticut College. Ned’s abrupt retort left me speechless.

Ned was a revered and technically skilled coach who had been an 800-meter prodigy, just missing the Olympics. His workouts were brilliant, especially the blind ones. But he didn’t seem to know much about women. He wasn’t concerned when I told him I’d skipped a bunch of menstrual cycles. After a national championship race, Ned and I were the only ones that ordered burgers, while the rest of the team, including the woman assistant coach, ordered salads with dressing on the side. Later, my anorexic teammate wound up in the hospital. Ned had praised her all season long for her good performances, apparently oblivious that her fast times were a temporary result of starvation. Ned also seemed oblivious to the way the men’s team treated women runners. A guy on the men’s team, Rusty, once told me how the men catalogued the entire women’s team and divvied us up for sexual conquest.

I felt lightheaded. Maybe it was the desert heat, or the prospect of another season of uncomfortable conversations with Ned about my body. Sweat poured down my cheeks in rivulets. I had transferred from Stanford University to Amherst after freshman year because my athletic career had unfinished business . But as I paced through the New Mexico desert, I couldn’t help but wonder what would possess me to give cross country another dance. I felt like a battered woman who keeps shuffling home.

When my body suddenly matured junior year of high school, I stopped winning races. My coach Selena called me whiny. My father called me a choker. No one explained this was a natural trajectory for girl runners. No one told me not to be ashamed of temporarily losing to runners I used to beat, because in a year or so I’d grow out of it. The only guy who softened the blow was my teammate Chase, who told me girls are supposed to be a little squishy and insisted I looked better. Running on the track team was Chase’s punishment for getting caught with weed. When he asked me what I was being punished for, I shrugged.

Selena crushed a 2:50 marathon and our star boy runner Jarrett van Tine got faster every year. But a chimp with a typewriter could draft the boys team’s workouts and the guys would still get faster each year. Testosterone and muscle mass are a boon. Girls develop differently.

The sands began to blur and the Sandia mountains waved on the horizon like wheat fields. I was either succumbing to the extreme heat or I was on an acid trip. Gazing at the tendrils of clouds brushing the horizon, time and space melded and bent and I saw what I had to do. I always assumed my athletic career would end my senior year of college. Instead, I saw a running timeline that stretched decades into adulthood, winding through mountains and streams. I had never heard of trail races; I only knew sports that were in the Olympics. Back at school, Aparna was my only college teammate willing to tromp up mountains through fresh snowfall and count it as our Sunday long run. But more of our ilk were somewhere out there, beyond the mountains. I decided to suck it up and wear bikini shorts that autumn, because college was just a short train stop along a longer journey.

When I returned to Amherst from New Mexico, I helped the women’s cross country team finish 7th in the nation, its best finish ever. Then I told Ned I was studying abroad in Australia the next semester and he fumed and insisted I owed him for his role in my admission to Amherst and needed to run as payback. He couldn’t force me to stay at Amherst, but he could refuse to return the framed All-America award he had taken to get calligraphied. I became the second number-one runner on Amherst’s women’s cross-country team to bow out during my time on campus.

My senior year I ran the New York City marathon with my soccer friend Katelyn, beginning a new chapter. Free marmot. Over the next two decades, my decision to keep running on my own overdelivered. Trail running distilled the best of running: the wild, fun bumbling through woods and canyons for hours with friends. One fellow bumbler even married me; now we’re making junior bumblers.

In 2015, the Amherst College newspaper published the men’s cross country team’s explicit sexual guide to the women runners, with spreadsheets (“Men’s Cross Country Maintained Misogynistic, Racist Email Chain“), resulting in a full team suspension and Ned’s downfall. He lost his job after 20 seasons and never coached again.

As adults, Selena and I discovered we shared a fondness for trail running in DC’s Rock Creek Park. After transferring from our public high school to an elite all-boys private school, she was tormented by entitled, misogynist boys until she quit teaching and coaching altogether. Under the oaks, we laughed about the times she called me a whiner and I called her a tyrant, yet somehow became peas in a pod.


Best WUS Rookie: Mike and Anthony

Best WUS recruiter: Nick

Worst WUS Race Experience: Aaron, Wisconsin Ironman

Best WUS Milestone: Aaron, 20 Hellgates

Best WUS Alum Surprise Visit: Nate

Best WUS performance: Garret, Tor des Geants

Best WUS bait and switch: Trevor, Tor de Geants

Best WUS Extramural Event: Beer Mile

Worst Beer Mile Handicap: Trevor

Best new WUS adventure: Martha, ride ‘n’ tie

Best WUS hook up: Sue’s NSO tix

Best WUS bird visit: Rock Creek Bald Eagle

Worst WUS bird visit: Rock Creek Barred Owl flyby

Proudest WUS moment: when CPBG staff still knew the Aaron pizza

10 Predictions for 2023:

(1) Trevor will not run MMT.

(2) But Trevor will win another Beer Mile.

(3) Aaron will go another year without showing up at WUS.

(4) But Aaron’s friend Matt will come in his stead.

(5) Wussies will get VHTRC Sundays in the Park runs going again.

(6) But only the ones at Pierce Mill.

(7) Jaret will organize a Donut Run.

(8) But approximately one year after he said he would.

(9) Martha will do a new WUS shirt order.

(10) Translation: Aaron will do a new WUS shirt order.


Fair Hills, Maryland, September 2022

From left to right: Janice, Kevlar (horse), Courtney, Bobby (horse), me

Seen a guy running in a bike helmet? The women on horseback shook their heads. My eyes widened. I was on a horse I’d never ridden before, looking for a man I’d just met, along a vast network of trails I’d never treaded, competing in an unusual sport I’d only tried once before. The other horsewomen were competing in the standard 25-mile endurance ride where riders stay on the horse, or at least try to. Chris and I were doing a two-sport hybrid called ‘ride ‘n’ tie’ where two partners share one horse and alternate between trail running and riding, leap-frogging each other and tying the horse to random trees between transitions. The sport was invented in 1971 by a young California marketer at Levi Strauss & Co wishing to showcase the American jeans company’s quintessential rough-and-ready cowboy image. I had just swung into the saddle when Chris went missing somewhere along William duPont Jr.’s former 5,600 acre fox hunting estate, a verdant paradise of wooded trails, open galloping fields, and bubbling creeks situated at the crossroads of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. As I wheeled Ray around to retrace our steps, the horse shook his chestnut mane in rebellion and flared his large Arabian nostrils. Ray had more ride ‘n’ tie experience than Chris and me combined; he knew I had no idea what I was doing.

A few days before the Chesapeake 25-mile endurance ride, Chris’s original ride ‘n’ tie partner came down with COVID-19 and I filled in last-minute, with the barest qualifications. Living in Washington, DC, I hadn’t ridden a horse in months. In fact, I hadn’t ridden a horse consistently since I was 13. Now, in my forties, I was a competitive trail runner, recruited by a horse friend to try my first ride ‘n’ tie in July 2022 in Virginia’s Shenandoah mountains. Halfway through the 20-mile race, I learned why some dub the sport “ride ‘n’ die.” After miles of slogging through mud, rocks, roots, and streams, the trail dumped out onto a long dirt road where horses could open up their stride. When most people think of race horses they think of Kentucky Derby thoroughbreds, but Arabians raced long before their sprinting brethren, bred by Bedouins thousands of years ago in the Middle East for athleticism, speed, and remarkable stamina. Bobby could sprint when the mood struck him. Once he spotted a rival horse Kevlar cantering ahead on the road, Bobby jetted off like a bee stung him. The two Arabians raced neck-and-neck, goading each other on. Bobby accelerated into speeds I’d never felt in a horse. It was thrilling, but my smile turned upside down when I realized I had no control of the runaway locomotive. Whoa, I commanded in a low voice, trying to project calm. But it was no command. Ride ‘n’ tie bridles lack the metal bits found in English and Western bridles so the horses can eat and refuel, drastically limiting the power of the reins, which merely tugged on his noseband. Bobby shook his head up and down, left and right, bouncing me out of the saddle as we tussled for control of his head. Dark thoughts spun through my mind. The last time I lost control of a bolting horse, I landed on my head and blacked out with a concussion.

An important lesson from childhood was that if you can’t stop a bolting pony, turn it. Preferably towards an immovable object, say a fence. Even the wildest pony will stop short before crashing and injuring itself. Of course, there were no fences out in the Shenandoah mountains to drive Bobby into. After the longest minute of my life, I managed to whip Bobby sideways into a hillside on the side of the road, like a cowgirl cornering a quarter horse around a barrel. No stopped short and I shimmied off his back, declaring I’ve had enough of this nonsense. Courtney, Kevlar’s rider, hooted a hearty laugh; our race-within-a-race was solid fun for an experienced rider on a familiar, trusted horse. My trembling hands tied Bobby to a sapling that hardly qualified as a tree. I dashed down the road, savoring the feel of solid earth beneath my feet again. For once, running served to bring my heart rate lower. Over the next half hour, the sun slid behind the mountains and I rode the final miles by headlamp, the melodies of the forest coming alive under the stars. Whippoorwills echoed eerily through the darkness and barred owls caterwauled in a dreamlike trance. I wondered how I could convince my trail running friends to ever try this magical mayhem.

Few trail runners know how much they owe to ride ‘n’ tie, which played a central role in the birth of ultramarathons. The world-famous Western States 100 mile trail race was invented in 1974 when the plucky Gordy Ainsleigh had a ride ‘n’ tie horse go lame and completed the 100 mile endurance ride on foot. The rest is history. Trail running and ultramarathons ballooned so fast in popularity that top athletes get prize money and amateurs wait years to win entry to Western States through the lottery. Why did ride ‘n’ tie stay fringe and miss the trail running boom? Horse sports are more dangerous, more expensive, and people with horses generally prefer to ride them, not run after them. Trail runners interested in trying a ride ‘n’ tie can connect with horse owners through Facebook groups. Ride ‘n’ tie is a friendly and welcoming community that helped me overcome imposter syndrome. But, as I well learned, running muscles are different from riding muscles, focused in the inner thigh, and saddle sores burn like hell. Despite these barriers, the sport is addictive for a small, diehard following of adrenaline junkies lining the East and West coasts. If long mountain runs are the ultimate test, imagine throwing a horse into the mix.

At last I found Chris! He’d missed a turn and was grateful I’d wheeled around to search for him; otherwise, he would have run the whole course on foot. Today’s course had no mountains to climb, but the forest trails were twisty and narrow, with short lines of sight and sudden turns. Intersections were marked with blue ribbons dangling from trees that were difficult to follow at high speeds. Chris and I endured several more cycles of getting lost and reuniting. Ray endured near-misses with mountain bikers and off-leash dogs. It took a lot to razz Ray, but we found it. A pair of bowhunters were smeared in camouflage paint, with long pointy arrows slung over their shoulders. Ray reared, swerved, and snorted. I couldn’t blame him; the painted faces looked like cannibals.

We were finally out of the woods when Ray began limping through the meadow like a car with a flat tire. I wondered if an injury cropped up when he dodged the cannibal archers. Fortunately, a hoof inspection revealed that Ray merely threw a shoe, a problem remedied by a rubber boot Chris pulled from the saddle bag. Game on.

Running was supposed to be my strength, the one thing I could count on, but as the morning sun rose over the open meadows, I began to overheat. There is no right way to dress for a ride ‘n’ tie, just different degrees of wrong. The event is not a pampered triathlon with designated transition zones for swaps into suits tailored for each sport. Ride ‘n’ tie transitions are too fast and frequent to change stirrup length, let alone pants. In the tradeoffs between bodily protection on the ride and heat dissipation on the run, I picked protection. I wore tall soccer socks layered under winter running tights to protect my inner calf from saddle sores and enveloped my skull in a thick padded riding helmet to prevent a second concussion. Possibly I could have pulled it off, had it not been for one serious miscalculation. Silly me thought the water stops along the course were for runners, so I didn’t carry my own bottle. I’ve never come so close to drinking from a horse trough. As severe dehydration set in, I got wobbly. Chris noticed my head bobbling like a drunk and pulled another race-saving item from the magical saddle bag. I drowned his spare bottle in one gulp. Ray, who’d rebuffed every drinking opportunity at stream crossings (he thinks he’s a camel, Chris explained), finally arched his long neck and drank his fill.

Ray was stalwart all day, braving one obstacle after another: cannibal archers, lost shoe, lost runner. He leapt over creeks and picked his way over fallen logs. But those obstacles he could see. For the day’s final challenge, Ray had to blindly trust the rider on his back while he crossed a thin concrete bridge over a highway with zooming trucks screaming under his feet. When the first truck sent Ray dancing sideways, I looked down and wondered if scared horses ever jump off bridges. Ray collected himself and padded across to the finish line. By some measures, Ray’s ride ‘n’ tie victory was easy; there was only one ride ‘n’ tie horse to beat. But Ray was handicapped by directionally challenged riders, footwear malfunctions, and a frightening array of hunters, bikers, canines, and vehicles. Ray was a champion.

I could have spent all afternoon grazing the horses, sponging them down, feeding them treats. As a kid I treated the ponies like pets, nuzzling their velveteen noses and braiding their manes and tails. But now I had adult responsibilities, and my son’s school barbecue began at 3pm. Other parents hovered over their kids on the playground like china dolls, ready to snatch them if they slipped. I sat back on the bench and watched my four-year old play, his mop of bright blonde hair gleaming in the sun. You can’t bubblewrap a kid who’s already discovered skiing, mountain biking, and rock climbing, but you can impart lessons. Horses taught me so much as a kid — how to be tough, but gentle; fearless, but never reckless; and be a good teammate with a powerful animal who communicates only through body language. Someday horses will teach my son more than I ever could.

Next year, in September 2023, the 50th Ride ‘N’ Tie World Championship will kick off in Asheville, North Carolina. I hope to be there, if someone’s willing to trust me with their horse, ready for whatever misadventures come our way. Even if I’m not, my running trails feels wilder and full of possibility after the summer of 2022, just knowing these zany American sporting traditions persist, sustained by a hardy few.


My stomach drops. Time slows down. I freeze like a bunny, hoping the moment will pass if I just don’t move. The hand glides up the thigh. The straying thumb and forefinger pinch the ass. My brain fuzzes. I can’t process all these emotions at once. Anger. Fear. Humiliation. Resignation. I’ve been fair game in the office since I began my PhD program in biology 17 years ago. I thought it would get better as I moved up the career ladder. It didn’t, it just changed.

One might imagine that I have similar experiences during my 25 years of running. After all, I’m always the lone woman running with a gaggle of men. But it doesn’t. Never. What’s the difference? Why do I feel helpless as a woman in science, but in control as a runner in an equally male-dominated arena?

First, let’s address the theories that cannot explain why I’m more likely to be harassed in the office than on the trails.

  1. The type of men that do science are different from the ones that run. I don’t buy this. They are pretty much the same men, from similarly educated backgrounds, just placed in different contexts.
  2. I behave/dress/speak differently in the office. If anything, I’m less inhibited on the trails.
  3. I’m more decorated as a runner so garner more respect. Not really. It’s hard to compare, but I get about equal media coverage for science as for running.
  4. I have Aaron to protect me. So, when’s the last time you guys ran with Aaron?
  5. I don’t socialize as much with runners. If anything, I socialize more with runners.

In reality, one word explains why men behave differently towards me in the office versus on the trails: Hierarchy. It all comes down to power.

Women runners have freedom to self-negotiate. Men are not saints. Neither am I. We work it out like school kids on a playground. No one holds anyone’s leash. It’s the power imbalances in top-down organizations that create bunnies and wolves. For historical reasons the upper rungs tend to be filled by men. I never get harassed by men who are equal or below me in the office hierarchy. It’s always supervisors. It makes sense. The greater the power imbalance, the fewer options I have and the greater the costs of fighting back.

I don’t mean to idealize runners. There are bad eggs in any community with a spectrum of personalities. The difference is the bad eggs don’t arbitrarily occupy rungs on a ladder from which to rain down grenades on underlings. Of course this happens all the time in professional running, and the history of abuse of women runners by coaches and other authorities is long. For that reason I never joined any organized track clubs or coaching systems after college.

And I don’t mean to downplay the risks and abuse women runners experience in the public arena. Running around the globe I’ve had catcalls, taunts, knives brandished, beer bottles thrown at me. Running in DC’s parks on my own I’m constantly aware of threats. But the threats are from strangers. In my 25 years of running I have never felt threatened or harassed by a runner I know, even as an acquaintance, in the way I do at work. No one feels that sense of entitlement.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that predators in the office would probably be harmless on the trail. It’s a luxury that I always have have a safe place to return to. It helps me fling myself into the fire at work, spinning the roulette wheel each day to see whether I get monster. Most days not.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.