Arizona Runners Are Abuzzing Over a Poop-related Controversy

The mystery is neurologically and consequentially two equal parts, and that’s the talk of the pro running community in Arizona:

Did a runner defecate near a public high school track in Sedona, Ariz., and elite professional runners have been restricted from using the track for this reason?

The questions became public on Tuesday when Sam Parsons, a professional runner with the Tinman Elite team, tweeted “Wait… the story about why professional athletes in Chess were banned from using the HS Sedona track for practice cannot be true.”

Certainly the school decided to restrict outsider access to the track. It’s not clear that it did so because a runner defiled it, but that hardly matters. The incident was almost immediately named “poopgate” – a hashtag appeared – and many running podcasts discussed it.

Molly Seidel, a bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympic marathon, lives in nearby Flagstaff, tweeted about it. So did Rachel Schneider, another Olympic athlete in Flagstaff. Mid-distance runner Nikki Hiltz jokes posted a photo wears a sweater that says “I peeed today.” David Ribich wriggled away from the controversy, to make clear that his pro team, the Brooks Beasts, train in Albuquerque, not Flagstaff.

Beyond the jokes, however, is a more complicated story, as well as an unlikely truth: The pro-running ecosystem in the United States is largely based on a public high school track in a state that’s not far away. cities with less than 10,000 inhabitants.

Flagstaff has been a mecca for distance running, competing or even surpassing Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., over the past decade. It sits about 7,000 feet above sea level, the perfect altitude for year-round high-altitude training, and boasts mild summer temperatures and hundreds of miles of trails.

As runners move there, the infrastructure grows. Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff has won five of the last six men’s NCAA national championships, and running shoe manufacturer HOKA sponsors a professional team, the Northern Arizona Elite, based there.

Almost as important as Flagstaff, however, is the track in Sedona that helps runners live high, train low credo of endurance athletics.

A popular tourist destination for its red sandstone rocks and art galleries, Sedona is about a 45-minute drive from Flagstaff and approximately 2,500 feet near sea level. Athletes living in Flagstaff frequent the Red Rock Jr High School track. Sr. For high-intensity work and intervals, training is less effective at Flagstaff’s higher altitudes.

“For runners in general, I have to admit it is an important part of the Flagstaff training experience,” Ben Rosario, coach of Northern Arizona Elite, wrote of the Sedona track in an email. . Just last month, he said, he’s seen athletes from across the United States, Canada and Europe take the high-low route from Flagstaff to Sedona.

Even as professional runners flock to the area, Sedona High School has the same informal rules as public school races across the country – anyone can show up and use it. use the track outside of school hours, and sometimes even during school hours. But in response to both the growing litter problem and the coronavirus pandemic, last year the school district’s superintendent of operations set up a system in which running groups are required to spend time on the road. race. They must also have insurance and pay a small fee.

In some cases, the international running community doesn’t seem to be aware of the local rules. Before the Tokyo Olympics last summer, the track was reality is overwhelming with Olympic hopes have moved – some from as far away as Japan – to what they see as the perfect training environment. Professional teams based elsewhere also regularly host training camps in Flagstaff.

“With global Covid restrictions lifted, athletes from all over the world have come to Flagstaff this winter to train and many have come to Sedona to train without going through the proper channels, ‘ said Rosario. “When you do that, the facilities are not open, including the bathrooms.”

As for what caused the school to restrict access to the track, no one was willing to fully describe the misconduct. Rosario said the incident happened a few weeks ago, but he doesn’t know what it was. Stephen Haas, a representative for many athletes training on the track, said the rumors were “only partially true”, but would not elaborate.

But the story is clearly not a rumor. Jennifer Chilton, the school district’s director of operations, acknowledged in an email that the school has reduced reservations to use the track. The main reason, she said, is to give it to students who want to use it.

However, she said, “Strictly speaking, to be precise, the behavior of some runners did play a role,” Chilton wrote. She said that although she is not a runner, she has learned that it is not unusual for runners to relax outside and that “packing toilet paper is common and proven thing”.

Chilton said her main concern was the well-being of her students and lamented that “the focus is on what’s sensational.”

The identity of any runner or runners who may have committed a sensational act remains a mystery. Runners and running fans have scoured Instagram photos to determine which groups have trained in the area in the past month and pointed the finger at a few suburban athletics clubs, denying it any negligence.

In the meantime, only school-affiliated groups will be allowed to use the track, although previous reservations will still be made. Professional runners have temporarily migrated – they hope – to the less storied racetracks in nearby Cottonwood or Camp Verde, or they are staying in Flagstaff.

Several members of the professional running community are working on a proposal to restore access to the track, which they will present at next week’s school board meeting. Rosario said a solution is needed to keep students safe, adequately compensate schools, and last but not least, allow “professional track and field athletes to use the facility only.” happened to be in the perfect position as they trained for the Olympic Games.” Arizona Runners Are Abuzzing Over a Poop-related Controversy

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