Mines of Spain Trail Races – An Interview with Joshua Sun – Race Director

About Mines of Spain Trail Races

Mines of Spain 100 – 100 Miles | 100 Kilometers
Dubuque, Iowa

This is a true Midwest trail race set in the beautiful bluffs, prairies and forests of the Driftless region of eastern Iowa amongst the scenic setting of the Mississippi river valley!

The race is held on a ~20 mile course comprised of a wide variety of terrain that will both challenge and inspire runners with its eclectic mixture of steep technical single track, wide rolling dirt and prairie double track with a multitude of other fun and scenic sections mixed in! This is a course designed to be equally suitable for first timers or veterans alike.

Our mission is to provide an ultra-marathon event that is grassroots in feel yet meticulously organized with every effort being made to provide the most rewarding experience for the runners, their crews, race volunteers and every single person involved. Our continued year-round goal is to support the area trail organizations and groups that oversee the Mines of Spain in whatever capacity we can including a substantial financial contribution from the race proceeds going directly to the park to aid in funding for future trail maintenance and projects.

What is your best childhood memory?
Being carried by my dad while still half asleep on an early summer morning to the family vehicle to start our family vacation. Many summers we’d drive to California to visit my dad’s side of the family who lives in the Los Angeles area. It’s not one specific memory as it happened a few times but those feelings associated with that moment of departure as well as the scent of a cool, early summer morning have stuck with me my entire life and still bring me so much comfort and excitement.

What do you feel most proud of?
It goes without saying that that’s a tough question but if I had to pick “one” thing, it would probably be the relationships I’ve built over the years especially in the trail ultra running community. It takes more effort and energy than it might seem to constantly build and maintain such a strong community network and at the end of the day, it’s something I’m very proud of. It’s allowed me to engage in what I love with people I love and ultimately, has provided me some of the best experiences of my life.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
Travel has always been an important part of my life and as such, I place a lot of value in any type of experience spent away from “home” and for so many different reasons. At this point in my life, I most look forward to the opportunity to spend time hiking and running in the Alps around France/Italy/Switzerland as well as time spent exploring East and Southeast Asia. Less likely to happen in the near future but still very high on my list would be the chance to visit Mongolia. The harsh and beautiful landscapes as well as elements of my lineage make it speak very strongly to me and it is definitely somewhere I hope to visit before I die.

If you could travel anywhere in Driftless, where would it be?
I look forward to the chance to visit the La Crosse area. In the last year, I’ve become better acquaintances with a number of trail runners from the area and I look forward to the chance to visit and spend time on the trails and at the local breweries.

What was one of your most defining moments in life?
The week of August 31 st 2013. I had plans with a good friend to travel the following weekend to Duluth, Minnesota to run a 50 mile trail race and him, the 100 mile race. He unexpectedly passed away that weekend. On Monday, I contacted the race director and got the okay to take my friend’s spot in the 100 miler and run it in his honor. I had never run further than 50 miles at this point and on top of that, this race is arguably one of the hardest 100 mile trail races in the country. I was fortunate enough to finish the race and what I experienced during those 103.3 miles made a huge impact on me on every possible level.

How do you spend your free time?
Sure this doesn’t come as a surprise but running takes up a lot of my time. Beyond the actual time spent running and staying active, plenty of free time gets spent engaging with similar minded folks and this socialization usually involves large amounts of craft beer. In the last couple years, I’ve also been introduced to and subsequently hooked on pinball.

Who do you admire in life?
My mother and father and others like them. They’re flawed like the rest of us but the dedication, hard work and love that they’ve shown me my entire life has been instrumental in shaping me into the person I am. From a broader perspective, I have the utmost respect for folks that work hard at their craft but more importantly, are humble. This is especially true when the person is blessed enough to be talented at whatever it is they pursue. To maintain humility, honesty and modesty despite our current culture being saturated in the practice of oversharing and the temptation to be something you’re not is something I have a strong respect for.

What are you most afraid of?
Not being able to answer this question.

What is your strongest personal quality?
Attention to detail and caring about people, usually more than myself. The latter is also coincidentally one of my weakest personal qualities as well.

If you could witness any past, present or future event, what would it be?
There’s a lot to choose from. The first to come to mind would be the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

What is a skill you’d like to learn and why?
Graphic design. If “being artistic” is a skill you can learn, sign me up for that too. I have a great friend that helps me a lot with art/design for the races I direct and it would be very nice to be able to do more of that on my own or to be able to collaborate with him more creatively.

What does a perfect day look like to you?
Trails, friends and beer.

If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why” … what would you tell them?
First things first, because I’m there  That should shut them up and get them to come visit but beyond that, I think if they’ve never been, I’d tell them how much they’re going to be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful natural landscapes and the wealth of cultural and community experiences that many from the coasts and other areas of the Midwest don’t expect to find.

Words From Danielle Stowell – Volunteer Coordinator for Mines of Spain Trail Races

Trail Running is a pretty niche community, if you’re not a runner you may not even think about it as something happening regularly in your area. I don’t think people realize the economic value of what these races have brought to Dubuque. Out of 250 runners, only a fraction are from this area. People travel from all over the US (and one year from another country!) to compete. In many instances their families come with them, and they rarely just come for the race and leave right away. That means people are booking hotel rooms, dining at our restaurants, visiting local attractions, drinking at our breweries, camping, and learning about our community. It’s generating a significant amount of tourism for Dubuque and the driftless area in general.

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