trail running

Meet a Rogue Expeditions Runner: Deirdre McAuliffe

What type of people go on Rogue Expeditions running trips? It seems that everyone worries that they'll either be too slow, or too fast. That the mileage will be too difficult, or not challenging enough. That they'll be too old, or too young. That the other people will be super serious running geeks who talk about nothing but training, or that the other people will all be there to take it reeeeeeally easy. That they'll be the only person who doesn't know anyone else.

In truth, there is no "type." The trips attract all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of ability levels and all sorts of motivations for being there, and the beautiful thing is that it works for just about everyone! To prove it, we are highlighting a number of our runners using their own words. Read on to find out about the running background, pre-trip hesitations, favorite trip memories and most surprising realization of a Rogue Expeditions runner.

Deirdre McAuliffe is up next! Deirdre, who is Irish but currently living in Hampshire, UK, is one of the younger participants that we've had. Despite the fact that she is very new to running and to international travel, it turns out that she's a natural at both activities.

Toubkal snow.jpg

Which trip did you do and when?
Run Morocco: Mountains & Coast, March 2017

Describe your running background.
I ran a little in school at sports days and such. However, I fell out of the routine in teenage years and decided on a whim to enter a half marathon in 2014 - having done little to no training! On that very, very, very long and slow run, I decided that I quite liked the idea of running! I have since done a few half marathons in Ireland and UK and completed my first marathon in Dublin in 2016. 

How did you end up on that trip? What led you to the decision?
After that first half marathon in Dingle, I saw an advertisement for Rogue Expeditions on the race's Facebook page. I promised myself that if I kept this running madness up, I would treat myself once I'd finished university!

Any hesitations or uncertainties going into it?
Lots! Until this trip, I had never traveled outside of Europe. I had also never traveled on my own. Like many others, I was worried about the mileage and also the terrain as I had never run on trails. I knew this was going to be a whole new experience but Allison was very informative from the initial stages so I felt as comfortable as possible about the trip.

Did you know anyone else in the group beforehand? How was it traveling with a group of strangers?
I didn't know anyone in the group beforehand but I was blown away by the kindness of everyone I met. From the airport welcome with a bottle of water to the parting hugs, I couldn't have met a nicer bunch of people. The cooks and drivers were fantastic! Always prepared with water and snacks, and the most elaborate picnics you could imagine.

What was your favorite run and why?
My favourite run has to be the run and hike up to the base camp of Mount Toubkal. It was my first experience of many things - trails, running in the snow and higher altitudes. It was also the most challenging but I always felt that I could plod along at my own pace and enjoy it.

Food is a huge part of any travel experience. What was your favorite thing that you ate?
It's got to be the Beef Kefta tagine served up hot by our wonderful team of cooks after that very long hike up Mount Toubkal. The food across the entire trip was outstanding - always fresh, always varied and catered for a very diverse group of very hungry runners without an issue.

Both travel and running have their ups and downs. What was your most challenging moment or issue during the trip? How did you overcome it?
Apart from my highest mileage week to date, there wasn't one!

What surprised you the most about the experience?
The hospitality for sure. From the drivers and cooks who knew us by name by the second day. To the staff in the places we stayed who met us with warm handshakes. To the remote villages where people's livelihoods are their goats, crops and the occasional cow. Everyone I met on this trip had a warm smile. They call out "Bonjour!" as you pass and the children wave and giggle. I even had a group of children follow me for 1.5 miles through a tiny village and onto our picnic.

"Runcation" vs a race: what do you think are some of the key similarities and differences? Or are they even comparable?
The races I've been to have the same sense of excitement beforehand. However, there's so much pressure to perform "on the day", worrying about baggage, food and organising where to meet family and friends afterwards. Those pressures are removed during this trip. You just need to get yourself to the airport and you're looked after by a fantastic crew from the moment you land, to the farewell at the airport. They are so good at what they do - Allison, James and Hamid really do a wonderful job and make it look effortless. 

Sum up your Rogue Expeditions experience in one sentence:
Several times during the trip, I found myself standing somewhere utterly beautiful with my mouth half open in amazement, coming to terms with how lucky I am to have had a place on this trip.

Meet the Guide: Katie Conlon

Those of you who did our Bend or Tahoe trips last summer got to know Katie Conlon (and her impressive cookie-baking, fruit salad-making, trail running skill set) quite well. Since then she has left Seattle for a work-abroad adventure in Australia, and luckily has decided not only to join us again this summer for all four trips, but will also be guiding the Run Alpe-Adria trips alongside Allison this fall! We threw a bunch of questions at her to help you all get to know her a bit better - read on:

Katie is the one on the right with the AMAZING jump-photo skills (not a job requirement, but it certainly helped her chances!)

Katie is the one on the right with the AMAZING jump-photo skills (not a job requirement, but it certainly helped her chances!)

You’re from a small town in North Dakota. How did you end up in Australia?

I made the big transition from small town, North Dakota to Sydney, Australia in 2011 as a part of a study abroad program.  It was my first time on my own, and I knew exactly zero people here. Being so far from my friends, my family and my home forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.  The experience expanded said comfort zone tenfold and inspired me to explore more and more of this big world.  After moving back stateside for five years following my brief study stint in Australia, I have finally settled back Down Under and couldn't be happier that life has taken me back here.


How did you end up involved with Rogue Expeditions?

I was working at a running store in Seattle when I happened to come across a pile of RE postcards that a former trip-goer had left there for our customers.  I reached out to Gabe and Allison, met them in Portland a couple of months later, and began assisting as a guide in Bend and Tahoe the next summer.  It was definitely a matter of being in the right place at the right time!


Last summer you were an assistant guide for Run Bend and Run Tahoe, your first RE trips. What surprised you most about the experience? 

What surprised me the most was how quickly and easily each group was able to create such a close bond and sense of camaraderie. By the end of the first run, the runners went from complete strangers to buddies.  After a few days of epic runs, fun outings, family-style meals, and a few quality rounds of Cards Against Humanity, we suddenly become life-long friends.


This summer you’re back for round 2! Which runs are you most looking forward to?

I have been dreaming about the Flume Trail, a run that takes you along the ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe.  The views are so incredible that I had to pinch myself to make sure it was indeed real life.  


In September you’ll be helping to lead the Run Alpe-Adria trips for the first time. What are you most excited about?

This will be my first time in Europe, so that in itself is pretty exciting!  I am looking forward to being in a beautiful place that is steeped in such rich history.  The fact that we'll be in wine country doesn't sound all that bad either ;)


Tell us…

Some of your PRs:
3K: 9:18.91
5K: 15:53.73
Marathon: 2:47:28

The most interesting job you’ve ever had:
I spent a summer as a door-to-door meat salesperson.  Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like!  I went from house to house peddling "high quality steak, pork, chicken and seafood" from the back of my "meatmobile" (a minivan that had been retrofitted to accommodate a deep freezer in the back). 

Guilty pleasure:
People watching. And ice cream.  People watching while eating ice cream would be the ultimate experience!

Favorite food:

Least favorite food:
Bacon (I know, I'm weird)

Three items you would never travel without:
Running shoes, a good book, snacks (I eat a lot)

Something that most people don’t know about you:
It's no secret that I keep myself active in my day-to-day, but what most people don't know is that I am also a very active sleeper.  I prefer running to walking during my waking hours, so it only makes sense that instead of sleepwalking, I tend to sleep-exercise.  I've woken up doing sit-ups on several occasions but have only gone sleep-running once (as far as I know...).  I have recently incorporated awkward dance moves my sleep-time exercise routine :P


Check out Katie's official bio here, then join her for a running adventure!

Meet a Rogue Expeditions runner: Lindy Romanovsky

Meet a Rogue Expeditions runner: Lindy Romanovsky

What type of people go on Rogue Expeditions running trips? It seems that everyone worries that they'll either be too slow, or too fast. That the mileage will be too difficult, or not challenging enough. That they'll be too old, or too young. That the other people will be super serious running geeks who talk about nothing but training, or that the other people will all be there to take it reeeeeeally easy. That they'll be the only person who doesn't know anyone else.

In truth, there is no "type." The trips attract all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of ability levels and all sorts of motivations for being there, and the beautiful thing is that it works for just about everyone! To prove it, we are highlighting a number of our runners using their own words. Read on to find out about the running background, pre-trip hesitations, favorite trip memories and most surprising realization of a Rogue Expeditions runner.

It's Not a Race: The 2017 Endurance Adventure Morocco report

by Sean Meehan

This past winter, for the first time in 30 years, it snowed hard in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Visiting at the end of March, the melt water had transformed the dusty brown hues of Moroccan countryside into a verdant sea of green. Our runners arriving in Marrakech for the 2nd Annual Endurance Adventure Morocco, co-produced by Rogue Expeditions and Fuego y Agua Endurance could have been forgiven for thinking they had gotten off the plane in the wrong country. Snow capped peaks on the horizon, sheep grazing contentedly in lush meadows, pine forests alive with birdlife, babbling mountain streams - all decidedly non-Moroccan images. Not mentioning names (Haruki!) but one of our group had informed his wife that he would be running in the Sahara desert for a week…Endurance Adventure had other plans.

Marrakech though, is a trusty antidote to such romantic rural daydreaming. Our adventurers were dowsed in the noises and the smells, bewitched by the labyrinthine alleyways, and beguiled by the hawkish salesmen. Rugs, pots, lamps, camels – all those things you don’t really need, you definitely can’t transport easily, but that you somehow just parted with money for to the grinning Berber salesman now packaging your wares. “I’m just going for a wander to shake off the jetlag…” Congratulations on your new rug.

Customary Marrakech misadventures aside and with a solid night of sleep in a quaint riad (family run guesthouse) we set off in our convoy of Land Cruisers over the High Atlas, soaking in the unexpectedly green views on the way. We got underway with an afternoon run on Day 1, everyone keen to shake out legs after long flights, 30 kilometres ending at the spectacular UNESCO world heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou – a restored kasbah (fortress) on the camel train road from the Sahara; backdrop of movies like Gladiator and Babel, and TV series Game of Thrones.

Day 2 began with a cultural challenge; mixing adobe from the local soil, straw and water – a fitting construction task in shadow of the kasbah. We inadvertently sparked a village turf war by apparently mixing adobe on the wrong property! So we hastily laced up our running shoes and set off on our run through the high desert to reach the beautiful Dades Valley. On this run we passed of nomadic herders still clinging to the traditional ways living in caves in the mountainside and tending to their goatherds. Kids cruised alongside us in beat up Crocs and flip flops, easily keeping pace whilst inquiring about the availability of bon-bons in exchange for guide services.

We bookended our run with another cultural challenge, this time harvesting alfalfa with the customary small billhooks. Our runners shared a patch of pasture that would take one local lady an hour to cut; needless to say, we spoiled Westerners are not so agile with billhook in hand. A few minutes alternating between hunkers and stooping with your nose in the grass hacking away and you are left in no illusion about the stamina of these Berber ladies who can go from dawn ‘til dusk weeding, watering, planting, tilling, harvesting, and hauling. The alfalfa eventually gets carried to the goats, sheep and donkeys living next to the homestead. The animals in turn sustain the humans and all seems to be quite in balance in the carefully manicured, terraced fields along the valleys of the Atlas.

Day 3 was the start of the High Atlas in earnest as we drove up to over 2000 metres and located a hidden trailhead. The trail-runners in the group were ready to flaunt their stuff after two days of dirt roads and rolling beat-up tarmac. Immediately we were out on to adrenaline inducing trails with precipitous drops on our right-hand side. Crossing scree fields and passing waterfalls it was hard to know whether to run and enjoy, or stop and get the camera out every ten seconds. 28km of twists and turns, ups and downs, took us through some of the most off-the-grid Berber settlements in Morocco. We passed fig orchards, alfalfa fields, almond groves all flanked higher up the mountain slopes by endless goat ‘pasture.’ A cardinal rule of trail running in Morocco is: ‘No matter how high you think you are, or how sketchy the trail, there is always, always, a goat somewhere above you...

Day 3 ended far from the reaches of tourism so we camped for the night next to a village gite – the local guesthouse for passing travellers or mule drivers. Our runners had helpfully carried firewood with them from the previous village 10km downhill! So we had a roaring fire, a belly-bursting tagine, and a clear night sky full of stars to while away the evening. A pack of less than welcoming dogs serenaded the tents for part of the night, but, dogs aside, the gite would be an ideal place to drop off the grid for a while à la Jason Bourne between movies…

No dropping off the grid for our group as they tackled 20km of mostly self-navigated trail on Day 4 to emerge out into civilization again. The run ended with a notable mood of elation from a truly amazing section of trail. Technical, loose trails, scrambling along ridgelines, and steep switch-backing descents; the type of run you wish you could carry with you like a video game and replay again and again. Civilisation had its perks though; cold Coca-Cola and salty potato chips – is there any finer way to end a long hot run?

A long serpentine drive (read: queasy!) through the mountains took us to the tourist mountain climbing hub of Imlil. The following day, Day 5, was to be the final day for some of our runners. They soaked up the final 25km of trails and dirt road. We horseshoed around a valley adjacent to Imlil, before climbing up and out of the valley and dropping into Imlil valley itself on the way home.

Jumu-ah prayers (the Friday prayers deemed the most important in Islam) rang out beautifully from the many minarets in the valley below. Our group was pursuing its own kind of spirituality on the trails high above as the trail switched between faint and non-existent on some steep exposed mountainsides. One of our runners, in response to the call to prayer in the valley below, said ‘I’m praying big guy, I’m praying,’ (to be heard in Texas drawl) as he navigated a particularly treacherous part of the descent. As ever the goats were upslope, amused by the clumsy 2-legs tottering along below.

The evening was spent visiting a local women’s cooperative to try our hand at making Argan oil; one the luxury exports of Morocco. Next was a visit to the local market to pick up supplies and then our runners tried out their culinary skills in making one of the standard tagines on which we had been feasting all week. An evening of red wine assisted storytelling ensued, but all to soon it was morning and time to thin down our group. As the Endurance Adventure officially ended and some headed for the airport, most of the group remained for the bonus add-on option of climbing Toubkal; the highest mountain in North Africa.

As noted at the beginning of the article, a winter of excellent snows had passed so the mountain was cloaked in snow down to 3000 metres. We had a mix of seasoned mountaineers and folks who were not entirely sure what crampons were. We stuck together as a group though and climbed through the early morning chill to the high windy ridge that that marks the approach to the summit. The heavier in the group weighted down the lighter as some started to lift off the ground in the blasting winds! An hour or so of being pummelled by the wind and exhilarating scrambling through the snow we stood by the metal pylon which marks Toubkal’s summit; 4167 metres or 13,671 feet above sea level. Face and hands stinging from the cold we delayed just long enough to snap a couple of pictures before scampering back down out of the wind. Last to leave the summit, your author took a quick check around the summit pylon to ensure that, yes, we were finally above all the goats in Morocco; no easy feat.

Congratulations to our 2017 Endurance Adventure Morocco runners. It is still #NOTARACE and no one cares how fast you ran or what your Strava says. But, here are the official awards:

Mary Alice ‘MA’ Foster (US) – winner of the Dirtbag award for doing the entre trip despite her luggage never arriving.

Candice Preslaski (US) – winner of the True Spartan award for completing some long overdue guilt burpees.

Haruki Minaki (Japan) – winner of the Mule award for most weight carried in his pack every day. Good luck to Haruki in his upcoming stage race in Hawaii.

Pat Singh (Turks & Caico) – winner of the Researcher award for signing himself and 2 friends up despite not checking our website at all…

Len Stanmore (Canada) – winner of Lazarus award for bouncing back from serious foot pain the first 3 days…

Susan Gardner (US) – winner of the Zen award for being the most chilled on the trails all week

Paul Broadway (Eng) – winner of the Bottomless award for outstanding tagine eating ability and huge running energy throughout. Good luck to Paul in MDS!

Kathleen Stabler (US) – winner of the Girl Scout award for having all kinds of tool, knick knacks and treats stashed in her backpack.

Chris Mendoza (US) – winner of the Comatose award for outstanding sleeping ability in the face of a rabid pack of dogs.

Joaquin Campos (US) – winner of the Goat Herder award for excellent skills in spotting the dangerous and threatening looking goats (zero attacks were noted)

Troy Carter (US) – winner of the Berber award for blending into the culture so much it is almost time to leave him behind.

Mairin Clare (US) – winner of the MVP for being an all round rock star and future winner of all kinds of trail runs and ultras…

Some key stats from Endurance Adventure 2017:

76 mi / 122km run in 5 days, plus another ~18 mi / 30km for those who did Toubkal. 30 mi / 50km on trails that do not exist on trekking nor Google maps.

9800 ft / 2985m of gain in 5 days, plus another ~7650 ft. / 2330m for those who did Toubkal

440mi / 705km driving through Morocco

123,456 pieces of bread consumed, 15 angry dogs avoided and 8 mud bricks produced

Endurance Adventure will return in 2018 with another trip to Morocco and a new destination to be announced very soon! Stay up to date by following Fuego y Agua Endurance and Rogue Expeditions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and make sure to sign up for email updates so that you are the first to know:

Get updates!

Next up for Rogue Expeditions: Adventure running trips to Italy/Slovenia/Croatia (May & September), Bend and Tahoe (July), Kenya (October), Morocco (October & November)


Next up for Fuego y Agua: ultra trail races in Nicaragua (May) and Costa Rica (October), Survival Run and ultra trail runs in Canada (August) and Australia (November).