Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara resident Courtney Barnes competed earlier this month in the annual TransRockies Run in Colorado, racing across 120 miles of steep terrain over the course of a week. Barnes placed first in five of the six stages ― running about 20 miles each day and camping between stages ― in the Women’s Solo Division.

“It was something that was so far out of my bounds. I had never done anything similar to it,” Barnes said. “So I just approached it with having fun and wanting to enjoy every step. Overall, it was one of the best experiences of my life.”

The TransRockies Run marked Barnes’ entry back into professional racing after a year-long break. She said the experience reminded her of what got her into competitive running in the first place. “This was a big challenge, and it was something that I didn’t know if I could complete, let alone be good at,” Barnes said. “It opens up the door to do a lot of things that I might not have done before in the past.” 

Running has always been a big part of Barnes’ life. Born and raised in Kansas, she joined her high school’s cross country team and eventually ran Division One track and field for the University of Kansas. She competed at the 2018 U.S. Track and Field Championships, and her performance earned her a spot on the international team during the Europe V. USA competition in 2019.

Throughout her professional career, Barnes said she struggled with aspects of her identity as an athlete, especially after graduating college and thinking about what she wanted to do next. “When I hit the real world, I was like, ‘Okay, I want to have a lot of other things in my life,’” she said.

Sign up for Indy Today to receive fresh news from, in your inbox, every morning.

When she moved to Santa Barbara last year, Barnes decided to take a “soft retirement” from running to focus on a balanced lifestyle away from her “sole identity” as an athlete. “I kind of gave myself a goal of not feeling like I had to run,” she said. “I wanted to really experience living here without associating it with running.”

Being a lover of the outdoors, it wasn’t long before Barnes started spending early mornings running in the mountains or along the beach. But for Barnes, these runs were different from the track — she didn’t have to worry about hitting her mile splits, calculating her times, or running under any kind of pressure. “Every track, you run in a circle like a hamster,” she explained. “[Trail running] was like a boundless opportunity to go and just be outside.

Credit: Courtesy

Soon after, she found a place within the local trail running community. “I’m continually getting pulled in that direction because the people are just so much more balanced in life,” she said. “They usually do a lot of things or have families, but whatever’s going on in trail runners’ lives, they’re badass to the bone.”

During the TransRockies race, Barnes thought about the people who have supported her throughout her career. “A lot of [my experience] was enjoying the surroundings,” she said, “but also remembering all the people who got me [where I am].” She also remembered to have fun ― just a week off work “frolicking in the mountains,” she said. 

Outside of running, Barnes finds other ways to be active through biking or yoga. She also enjoys adventuring with her husband and taking walks downtown with their pet husky.  “You can be an athlete, but you can also be a mom or sister or friend or involved in your community — whatever it is,” Barnes said. “I like to always remind myself that I’m more than a runner.”

Support the Santa Barbara Independent through a long-term or a single contribution.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.