Written by DBR Ambassador Stephanie Dar
In recent years, the concept of “dirtbagging” has evolved to encompass a broad spectrum of individuals, ranging from those who occasionally dabble in the lifestyle to those who live it with every fiber of their being. The term is thrown around loosely in running communities across the globe and is beginning to gain traction, if not popularity.
This raises the question: who actually started the dirtbag lifestyle? When was the term originally coined? Although it’s nearly impossible to answer these specific questions, we’ve compiled the profiles of a few early adopters of this unique lifestyle, and others who have made strides in advancing and normalizing this niche community.
1. Fred Beckey
Often known for his reputation of being ‘the original dirtbag,’ Beckey deserves mention here for his influence on the dirtbag lifestyle and culture. He is a true trailblazer who, considered one of the most prolific climbers in North America, gave up everything for a life of climbing. As a result, he is thought to be one of the most accomplished first ascensionists – ever. Beckey lived and breathed every essence of the ‘dirtbag’ label, although reportedly hated the term.
Beckey’s popularity is on the rise, thanks in part to a recent documentary detailing his extraordinary life. He recently passed away in 2017, though his legacy will live on as he is remembered fondly by his friends and fellow climbers.
2. Micah True (A.K.A. Michael Randall Hickman or Caballo Blanco)
True rose to notoriety in the running community after Chris McDougal published “Born to Run.” He spent a large portion of his life wandering, spending time in Hawaii, Guatemala and the Copper Canyons with the Tarahumara.
True would often run up to 170 miles per week in his younger years, so it’s no surprise that running was not only his passion but his primary focus. He passed away in 2012 from heart failure. His memory is immortalized in McDougal’s book and will continue to inspire dirtbags for years to come.
3. Anton Krupicka
Krupicka, a well decorated, well-known ultra-runner of modern times, began living in his truck intermittently in 2008. The situation gave him the opportunity to explore more trails, have easier access to trails and to spend more time pursuing his passion.
Many present-day dirtbaggers fondly recall Krupicka’s story and state him as part of their inspiration for embarking on their own dirty adventures. Krupicka has slowed down on his ultrarunning events, but still regularly engages in skiing, biking and mountaineering activities.
4. Joe Grant
Starting during his college years, Grant spent time backpacking in various countries. When he returned to the United States, he continued to live his minimalist lifestyle, reducing the number of possessions he had in order to make it easier to travel.
Though he’s acquired more possessions over the years, Grant remains highly influential in the running community as a coach, a writer and a regular columnist. He maintains his commitment to a minimalist lifestyle and remains an inspiration to dirtbags across the globe.
5. Jenny Dalimata
A dirtbag runner ambassador, Dalimata has spent the good part of the past ten years dirtbagging, alternating between living in tents, cars and couches around the United States. She embodies the definition of a dirtbag runner, as she lives, sleeps and breathes the lifestyle.
As an ambassador for Dirtbag Runners, Dalimata helps to raise awareness of the dirtbag running community as well as fosters community engagement throughout the state of Montana.
6. Francis Alessandrini
Alessandrini began his dirtbagging adventures in early 2012, taking inspiration from several dirtbags who came before him – including Krupicka. He regularly spends winters in Florida, volunteering and racing at events. He’s inspired countless friends and fellow runners to dabble in the dirtbag lifestyle, and freely shares his experiences and tips.
During the summer months, Alessandrini volunteers at a number of events throughout upstate New York and New England, where he continues to emulate a dirtbag philosophy and minimalist lifestyle.
7. Jon and Jane Doe
We all know them. The dirtbags who are so deeply immersed in the dirtbag culture they refuse to engage in social media or any other type of activity which would put them remotely on the map. These are the ones who show up at every local ultra, as volunteers, as runners, pacers or even mentors. We watch fondly as they vanish into their vans, trucks or vehicles, which they’ve chose to make their permanent home.
They vary in age and gender, but share a deep-seeded passion for running and the ultra-running community. They are the true dirtbags, the die-hards, and the inspiration which evolved the global dirtbag running community to what we’ve grown to love today.
Do YOU know an exceptional dirtbag who’s been an inspiration to our community? What about a trailblazer or an original? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!