It took about a week of being engaged (that happened at the Finish Line of the Keys 100 Ultramarathon, which we ran side-by-side) to know exactly how we were going to direct our wedding. We started by giving ourselves the title of Director. Race Directors. And with that we were going to have a race wedding.
Why a trail race wedding?
Well, running and races are more than just a hobby to us. It’s because of running that we met back in 2013. PJ was taking yoga at the time and I was interviewing who just happened to be his instructor for a story I, Thailyr, was writing for a local magazine. (If you are in Columbus and looking for an amazing class, we both highly recommend going to any that Lara Falberg is teaching.). I had mentioned I was interested in trying out this “ultramarathon thing” at a local trail race and Lara got me in contact with PJ, which she knew he was already well into ultrarunning from talking to him in class.
We spent most of that fall and winter on training runs together and it was while running that our relationship grew. This is why running has become so important to us. We wanted to host a race wedding so everyone could experience the life they see us living for a day.
Making a Race
We went into “wedding planning” thinking it was going to be way easy and we would be done figuring everything out in no time. We had participated and volunteered and plenty of races before so it should be easy to throw a trail race wedding together, right?! Wrong. Planning and directing a race is hard and we even had a lot of help from a local race company, Premier Races, and friends at Fleet Feet Columbus sharing their knowledge and guiding us along when we needed it. The first critical step in any race is figuring out a fun and catchy name. Then designing an appealing logo, getting the park permit to go through, figuring out the course itself, clearing the course, marking the course and planning aid stations. We also wanted it to be something meaningful to us considering it was more than a race, it would be our race wedding!
The name we picked ended up being Trail Nuts 10K (for one, I have a deep love for the cuteness of squirrels and two, it perfectly describes us in that we’re nuts for trail running). It took multiple drafts to learn how to draw a squirrel and how we wanted it to look within some sort of logo. In the end after multiple help sessions from a few different creative friends we were able to solidify the design for the logo and start getting the word out about the race.
The course would consist of a point-to-point loop going South at Alum Creek State Park just North of Columbus. The ceremony would take place about 1.25 miles into the race just down a service road. The trail was already built but it had been neglected a little bit in the past couple months. Plenty of downed trees and branches and extreme mud.
We did also add an extra quarter mile section with the help of some trail friends so that those running the race who weren’t attending the wedding (the race was open to the public as well) could simply stay in the woods and not have to run through the ceremony. We also added a shorter option, about a 5K total for out and back, for family and friends who weren’t quite up to the 10K but still wanted to experience some of the trail race.
It ended up being a few weekends and some weekdays worth of trail clearing, adding fun details like arches out of fallen branches, marking the course with flagging tape and running the course for mile marking. Then another few days shopping for and getting aid station food together the days before the race. Some would say we went overboard for food for a 10K but we were getting married and we both thoroughly enjoy food so we went big. I mean, who doesn’t love a well stock aid station at a race finish line? Cupcakes, cookies, bacon, PB&J sandwiches and tons more (which we ended up forgetting to actually bring and spent the next 2 weeks eating the hundreds of PB&J quarters we had made).
Even though it was a bit stressful at times planning the race itself and figuring out what we wanted to do for the ceremony it was worth every single ounce, maybe pounds, of sweat we put into it. I can’t even imagine myself planning a more standard wedding. I truly felt joy every time we were out there working. How many people can say that they logged trail miles while simultaneously planning for their wedding? It was a trail runners dream.
The Wedding Ceremony
We had a trail runner friend (also a race director at the Rocks and Roots Trail Series, go-toguy at Fleet Feet, certified Sasquatch and so much more) officiate our race wedding (Squatchamonies© by Jeff coming soon!) for us and that made it all the more meaningful. I highly recommend this to anyone no matter where you are having your ceremony. Ask someone who knows the two of you and has seen your relationship grow. They will know your story better than anyone else and having them stand by you as you begin your lives together will make the entire day that much more special.
The ceremony site was simple and perfect. The nice thing about being surrounded by nature is that it pretty much decorates it for you. However, PJ and his brother Ben did an ahhhhmazing job decorating this rickety park bench that we were to stand on during the ceremony.
So, the day would go the same as any other race day which made it so relaxing and soothing being somewhere so familiar: show up in your running shoes, run, get married and finish our first race as husband and wife with a bunch of other awesome trail friends!
It was so special seeing so many people have a new experience that day. Whether it was someone completing their first race, doing their first trail run with their child or just enjoying being outside with friends and family, it was so great to see so many people smiling ear to ear despite the semi-dreary weather and trail conditions (it was OK for the most part save a few spots that were more easily walked than ran because of mud).
I still get teary-eyed thinking about that day. It was everything us and it made me so thankful that I found someone who appreciates and embraces all the same things I do.