Please welcome our thirtieth American Trail Running Association (ATRA) Trail Ambassador presented by CamelBak, and the sixth in 2019. Colorado native Megan Finnesy puts her heart and soul into trail running as a participant, volunteer, and race director. In fact, her signature as a race director includes a hug for every runner at the finish line.
Nominator Bob Manthy wrote, “Megan Finnesy created Colorado’s Dirty Thirty (50K) from scratch introducing thousands to trail ultra-running. Her focus is on what she calls Sisu’s, those running their first ultra, shooting for a 100% success rate. She supports her Sisus with education programs, training programs, in unbelievable amount of personal encouragement, and finally her love. This year she is also focusing on women runners, with a goal of having more women runners than men. ‘No woman left behind!’ I know of no more noble a soul than Megan to receive this honor.”
Finnesy has spent all of her 50 years in Colorado. She was born and raised in Boulder and now lives in Lafayette. She met her boyfriend 10 years ago while managing the Cunningham aid station at the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run, her introduction to the ultrarunning world.
As creator of the the Golden Gate Dirty 30 in 2009 and the Silverton Ultra Marathon in 2016, she splits her time between race directing and massage therapy, which she has practiced since 2003. “I have my own business, working out of my home in Lafayette,” said Finnesy. “Race directing takes up most of my time and massage is about a quarter of my work.”
Her memories of her first trail running experiences harken back to her late teens. “I attended the University of Idaho for a year and went on an outing up to Schweitzer Ski Area,” reminisced Finnesy. “We took the gondola to the top to hike around and this one guy and I ran down to the bottom while everyone else rode the gondola back down. I loved running straight down the mountain…not even using the trails.”
Earlier memories of the trail running include her time as a youngster. “I used to hike when I was in elementary and junior high school up in Rocky Mountain National Park and I remember loving to run down the trails.”
Fast forward to 2004, and Finnesy attended a Bolder Boulder Training Camp with Brian Metzler as the coach. “He talked about trail running,” said Finnesy. “I signed up for the Imogene Pass Run that year – I think that was my first trail race.”
She still runs trail races, most recently completing the Broken Arrow 52K. “I love the community and I love the places trail running takes me,” remarked Finnesy. “I love getting deep into the mountains and exploring. Being able to run long distances helps me see and do more in one day than it used to take me three days to do.”
Her preferred distance to race is 50Kish, though she’s run up to 100 milers. “My favorite was Hardrock 100,” said Finnesy. “I loved the mountains, terrain, community, history, challenge, energy, remoteness… I loved accomplishing something really hard.”
Her volunteerism on the trails goes back a decade. “I started volunteering in 2008 for the Hardrock 100,” she said. “I started by managing the Cunningham Aid Station. I was in complete awe of this ultra running world and have been back every year since. I managed Cunningham in 2009 and Chapman in 2010. I helped at registration and other places in 2011 and 2012. I ran it in 2012, and I volunteered up at Krogers Canteen with Roch Horton in 2013 – 2015. I got trained as a trail crew leader in 2014, and have been leading trail work with Hardrock since 2014. Since then, crews have completed over 1484 hours of trail work on the trails outside of Silverton (these hours don’t include all the hours that the other Hardrock 100 trail crews have completed).”
“I also recruit other trail crew leaders to help with our trail work efforts,” continued Finnesy. “I have combined the efforts of the Silverton Ultra Marathon volunteers with the Hardrock 100 and I also started leading trail work in Golden Gate Canyon State Park in 2015, and have been doing it every year except 2017, when we got snowed out. We have completed over 542 hours of trail work in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. I have volunteered at other races along the way as well.”
The best part about volunteering for trail races for Finnesy is becoming a part of an amazing community of people. “This is a community that embraces possibilities and takes on really hard and challenging goals,” said Finnesy. “This is a community that supports one another unconditionally. This is a community that seeks out adventure and loves to use their bodies to get to where they want to go. This is a community that really celebrates each other’s accomplishments. I feel like I could go on and on, but these are the main things I love about this community. I love being a part of it, I love doing my part in connecting people and sharing it with newbies. I believe we are all ONE.”
From trail running, Finnesy has learned that, “Anything is possible when I set my mind to it and I take the baby steps to reach my goals. I had no idea I could run a marathon, it seemed so far and impossible to me, let alone a 100 mile very hard race. No way in a million years did I ever think that would be possible for me. I have learned that I can get to anywhere I want to go with my own two feet. What a concept. I can see places that are deep in the mountains, and lots of times in one day, I have learned how to better connect with others in a more meaningful way. I have really embraced this community like no other.”
“I spent most of my life feeling like an outsider and feeling like I did not belong,” said Finnesy. “It has taken a while for me with this group, but I really feel like I belong here. I have found my peeps. I love serving this community.”
Her advice to someone getting into the sport starts with simple participation. “Come play, enjoy the community, join group runs, make new friends, support others by volunteering at races, crewing and pacing,” said Finnesy. “I would also emphasize starting slow and enjoying the journey. There is no rush. There is so much to enjoy and take in. Start with the shorter distance and get your legs underneath you. Get your connective tissues acclimated to this new sport. Listen to your body, but don’t be afraid to push it either. You will be amazed at where it can take you. AND DON’T FORGET TO PICK UP YOUR FEET!”
Future goals for Finnesy include directing, running, and volunteering of course. “I want to improve relations with the Columbine Ranger District and continue to build our trail work efforts in the Silverton area. I am planning on running the Zion Traverse, a 40 mile point-to-point route across Zion National Park in October. I like big mountain races, so I want to check out Speed Goat and the Crested Butte Ultras.”
Want to hear more from Megan? Listen to her podcast with Orange Mud founder & CEO Josh Sprague.
The ATRA Trail Ambassador program is presented by CamelBak with support from adidas Outdoor, LEKI USA, and CEP Compression.