A fter she returned from running 170 miles over eight days in the hot Tanzanian sun, people began telling Boulder ultramarathoner Krissy Moehl how rested she looked.
"This is the first time in a long time people have been saying, 'You don't look as tired as you usually do,'" she said after returning home from the run around Mount Kilimanjaro, an event named the Stage Run around the Roof of Africa. "I would call it a running vacation. All I had to do was eat and run."
Moehl and fellow Boulderite Jake Zmrhal became two of the first people to run a compete circuit around Kilimanjaro during the event organized by Simon Mtuy, a Tanzanian runner and owner of adventure company Summit Expeditions and Nomadic Experience.
The trip to Africa reminded Moehl to slow down. The 10 runners stayed in tents, which meant no electricity and little use of technology. She made her phone battery last eight days, sending one or two texts each night to let her family and friends know she was safe, she said.
"I was able to shut all that off, and for me that's a huge relief because I have to be rather connected when I'm home," she said.
Mtuy hosted the runners to promote trail running in Tanzania, and to show his worldwide collection of running friends what life in Africa is like, said Tim Leinbach, the company's director of U.S. operations. Before they began the eight-day trek, Leinbach said, Mtuy hosted a tree-planting ceremony to remind everyone of their impact on the earth.
The group ran between six and 10 hours each day crossing through forests, farms, hills and rural villages. They'd set up tents each night, often eating food grown in Mtuy's garden.
"We were in areas where most tourists never get," Leinbach said. "We were doing something very unique in areas that just don't see many foreigners. It was (unique) for the people who we encountered. The Tanzanians were happy to see us on their trails there, passing along their farms and the forests."
Often, Moehl said, when the group ran through a village, locals would join the group and run with them for a mile or two.
Moehl remembers trying to connect with the locals in a meaningful way, even though she didn't speak Swahili.
"I would try to give them a high-five, and they would be kind of scared by that," she said. "What I started doing was high-fiving my friends around me, and then going over to them. They would totally get it, and then they would laugh and laugh. It was a pretty special moment."
Zmrhal, a software developer for Microsoft, was taken with the beauty of the Tanzanian's running style. Even though many of them had shoes that were too big, too small or had holes, they made it look effortless, he said.
"They just had a natural flair for running," Zmrhal said. "It looked so easy for them. We're huffing and puffing, working a little bit, and it seemed like the kids were making no effort at all. It's just part of what they do. It's nothing special for them."
Zmrhal thought he knew what to expect when running an average of 20 miles each day, but the terrain and elevation changes were surprises, he said.
"Everyday was different," he said. "Some days, we're running on these deep trails through villages and farmland. Another day we're running through pine forests on a bed of pine needles, or up and down these canyons that are absolutely stunning."
And since the stage run wasn't timed, the runners had plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the scenery, a change from the hectic lives of both Zmrhal and Moehl.
"We'd run and stop and look and take a picture and gawk and then run some more," he said.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.