RTR’s James Baran navigating the Texas Switchback course.

The Texas Switchback Trail race (5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2) is run on a challenging single-track course on a private ranch in between Dripping Springs and Johnson City just east of Pedernales State Park. While not as gnarly as some trail running competitions, it’s still a rough trail—definitely not a road race.

Not everyone jumps into a trail race after only a few years of running. But even though Ready to Run’s James Baran has only been running for three years, he was well prepared.

Baran, who graduated Texas A&M with a degree in supply-chain management, didn’t begin running until 2020—his junior year. A former football/baseball player, he wanted to drop some weight.

“I got interested in triathlons and trained for Ironman Texas in The Woodlands my entire senior year. The race was postponed due to Covid, but rescheduled for October 2021.”

Baran knocked it out of the park at Ironman Texas, winning his age group and qualifying for the Ironman World Championships (Kona, Hawaii) in the process. He raced in Kona in October of 2022 placing 18th overall in his age group.

“The experience was worth it,” said Baran, 23. After that, he got more into trail running. “I find it to be super enjoyable and a fun way to explore,” said Baran. “There are lots of trails near my house by Bull Creek. It’s a completely different vibe than triathlon training.”

With some trail running under his belt, Baran, who started working at RTR in January 2023, signed up for the Texas Switchback Trail race.

Good call. He won the Texas Switchback half-marathon event on May 13, his first-ever trail race, despite extremely muddy conditions.

“The night before, a big storm came in,” said Baran. “So everything was just super slick and muddy. It kind of added to the experience. It was really slippery. The terrain had lots of switchbacks and was pretty rocky in some spots. Some sections were pretty steep and technical. Some places you were just sliding through slick mud.

“The field was pretty spread out. I stayed in the lead the entire time,” he added. “I figured, all right, it’s just me and the mud.”

Trail race times don’t relate to road races at all, but amazingly, Baran clocked a 1:32:27. For comparison’s sake, he ran 1:14:51 at the 3M Half this past January.

“There was around one thousand feet of elevation gain,” he said. “There was a whole bunch of little climbs and the last six miles were almost all uphill.”

Baran chose a job at RTR because he hopes to stay in the running industry, possibly as a running shoe sales rep. As for the immediate future, he may get in some mountain runs.

“Right now my summer running plans include a trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado,” said Baran, who currently logs around 45-50 miles a week. “I’m also looking to run the Go-Pro Mountain Games 10K or 20K. I’m looking forward to it!”

Upcoming Races:  Saturday, June 3, the Old Town Street Festival 5K at 11:00 a.m. in Old Town, Leander. Thursday, June 8, Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita 5K Run at 8:00 p.m. at Sand Beach Park, Austin. Saturday, June 17, the Luling Thumpin’ 5K at 7:30 a.m. in Zedler Park, Luling