Treading Lightly: Some Earth-Friendly Etiquette for Trail Runners

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Guest Post by Shelby Farrell | Follow her Cocodona 250 training journey at @shelbzzf &

The funniest question that I have been asked in regards to running Cocodona 250 came from one of my CrossFit coaches. He’s excited for me, but I saw his facial expressions turn from enthused to contemplative… “Where do you poo?” he asked with a smile and edge of concern. In honor of Earth Day this week, let’s talk about it!

I think one of my biggest trail pet peeves is dog poop bags and humans leaving exposed piles of TP. I mean, do you really need toilet paper if you only did a number one?! It seems excessive… (ladies, lookin’ at you.) Going to the bathroom in nature is pretty fun in my opinion, but there is a way to do it respectfully. The course rules state the proper etiquette is to step thirty feet off trail and dig a six inch or deeper hole. If you use wet wipes instead of toilet paper, you must pack them out. You’ll probably want to make sure you pack a zip-lock bag if that’s the case. And then of course, cover yo sh!t!!!

Shelby Farrell shaking out the nerves two weeks out from the Cocodona 250.

In a similar vein of caring about Earth, I appreciate the call out on cryptobiotic soil in the Runners Guide. The desert is a fragile ecosystem and we need to be mindful of that while we’re out playing in it. It is our responsibility as trail runners to do our part in helping preserve our beautiful planet. One way in doing this is NOT walking, driving, parking, or camping on vegetation or cryptobiotic soil. 

What is cryptobiotic soil? In a nutshell it is a soil crust created by living organisms. The bacteria within the soil bind the soil particles together to create a dense matrix. This is crucial to the ecosystem because it helps resist erosion by wind and water. The National Park Service gets into all of the scientific deets in this article if you’d like to learn more.

In other news, I’ve made progress assembling my pacers. Are you feeling the hype I was putting down during this wonderfully short taper week run?

WATCH: Shelby Farrell takes you on a training run on her home trails and chats about her pacing plan for the upcoming Cocodona 250.

I also made progress reading the Runners Guide and watching a few of Run Steep Get High’s recent YouTube videos! (Thank goodness for tapering… so much more breathing room, amirite?). I’ve never been to Sedona and have always heard it is an absolutely stunning place. This thought was confirmed when I read that AS13 Deer Pass (145.0) to AS14 Sedona-Saint John Vianney (160.8) is the Aravaipa staff pick for favorite section of the entire course. It starts with some complicated turns and the need to pay attention to navigation, but once you hit Airport Loop, the views will (hopefully not actually) stop you in your tracks.

The first three miles are described as rough and rocky, so definitely try not to trip while gawking at an unobstructed view of Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and the Twin Buttes to the southwest. It doesn’t stop there though– the view at AS14 is described as, “the most spectacular view you’ve ever seen from an aid station.” Soak it in and stock up on supplies because the next sections are pretty remote, meaning that you won’t have a drop bag or medic until AS18. If you can magically pace yourself to hit this section during the day, the scenery will have you shouting, “I LOVE MOTHER EARTH!” from the top of your lungs. 

Trail Running in Sedona on the Cocodona 250 course
A view from the Cocodona 250 course in Sedona, Arizona.

About the author/athlete:Shelby likes to run. But other things that you might not know about her– she also enjoys CrossFit, cycling, skiing, and prefers waffles over pancakes. If you believe in aliens (she does), follow her on Instagram @shelbzzf and subscribe to her YouTube channel for weekly training highlights. @shelbzzf |

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