Greetings Socially Distanced Flyathletes!
Over the past decade, I have been asked countless times how I came up with the odd idea to pair the seemingly disparate leisure pursuits of trail running, fly fishing, and craft beer consumption. Fact is, our origin story is pretty straight forward.
Simply put, I have always loved being outside. Early on working for the U.S. Geological Survey in the woods of Colorado, I invested in a complete set of National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps so that when the work day was done, I could easily find a remote trail to run, a remote creek to fish, and a remote meadow in which to camp and enjoy a craft beer. And for most of these adventures, I was all alone. Social distancing. (Before it was cool…)
But then, on a chance run with a friend in Boulder, I discovered that there were other people who also enjoyed these three disciplines. And so, in the Summer of 2013 against my introverted nature, we piloted an “unofficial” and mostly illegal Flyathlon at Monarch Lake in Grand County, Colorado. Just fifteen friends and family showed up at the start line on that rough Sunday morning after an epic Saturday night bender, but on that day, a tradition was born.
In the seven years since that foggy July morning, the Flyathlon has evolved well beyond my wildest expectations. We have held fifteen official races in four different locations in two states. We have brought together nearly 500 people from 20+ states (and Canada). We have raised nearly $250,000 through the incredible fundraising efforts of our Flyathletes. We have created a unique non-profit organization to ensure that money raised is spent on projects that benefit native trout and the incredible places that they live.
But perhaps most importantly and unexpectedly for me is how this strange and unique outdoor experiment has spawned such an amazing community. On the surface, we come together to “compete” in our various Flyathlon events, but really, we do it because we want to hang out with incredible, fun people who care about this world and are willing to work for its preservation. And though planning these events is a ton of work for our Board of Directors and all of our dedicated volunteers, we do it willingly because it brings our amazing Flyathlon community together.
Which is why this year is so hard.
For all of us, COVID-19 has upended our sense of normalcy and safety. And for many of you, it has likely had more serious and lasting implications than a change in day to day routines. Importantly, several of the incredible communities that play host to our Flyathlon events have weathered high infection rates with limited medical services. The world as we knew it has changed, and as reasonable and responsible people, we have to be a part of the solution as we begin the long, winding trail back.
In May 2020, the Running Rivers board convened virtually to discuss our path forward. We had a great but challenging conversation, many virtual craft beers were shared, and ultimately, we came to the unanimous decision to cancel all in-person Flyathlon events in 2020.
That was the bad news. Luckily, there is some good news.
As essential as it is to remain vigilant in our social distancing, we believe that it is equally important to continue to engage the community that has developed through the Flyathlon. We also believe that getting outdoors in a safe and responsible manner will be essential in maintaining our physical and mental well-being during these strange and unprecedented times. Finally, we believe that our responsibility remains to do our part in taking care of the public lands and public waters that feed our souls.
And so we created the Socially Distanced Flyathlon Challenge...
The Socially Distanced Flyathlon Challenge is an adult adventure scavenger hunt of sorts, wherein you earn points for inherently Flyathlon things such as crushing a trail run, catching a huge fish, supporting your local brewery, drinking local whiskey, raising money for conservation, cleaning up a local stream, etc…. Earn enough points, and we will send you some awesome Flyathlon gear. Of course, in traditional Flyathlon fashion, there will be epic prizes from our incredible sponsors that we will raffle off at the end of the summer for those who complete the challenge. And as always, we will save some of the best gear for our top point earners!
So far, nearly 150 socially distanced Flyathletes have signed up for this challenge! We are very much looking forward to the hearing about and sharing the adventures that will come from making the best of this challenging time. And so we have created this blog as a forum to share your epic backcountry running / fishing missions, your craft beer reviews, and your conservation musings.
We will post from time to time, but we are hoping to get our best content from all of you. Which is why we are awarding 10 points in the challenge to anyone who submits a compelling / entertaining / inspiring post. And who knows, we may even have an awesome award at the end of the challenge for the best post (as voted on by the entire group)!
Starting tomorrow (July 1st, 2020), it is time to go grab your maps, a craft beer or three, and start charting your own Flyathlon adventure!
Stay positive, stay safe, and stay awesome. We will get through this and convene again in the woods sometime soon…
run. fish. beer. (six feet apart)
Andrew and the Running Rivers Board of Directors