I’m not gonna make too big of a deal about this, but for several years I have been part of a running group that calls San Tan Mountain Regional Park their home, and they recently began spotlighting members on a monthly basis. I was voted the San Tan Trail Runner of the Month for January 2018. It was super cool to get, and many kind words were said about me by the friends I’ve made out there.
This is the little bio about myself that I shared as part of the spotlight. I said some things in there that are important to me and have been on my mind for a while, but I hadn’t previously expressed.
Tell us 3 interesting nuggets about yourself (athletic or personal).
#1 – I went to college for ten years before I finally graduated with my bachelors degree in graphic design. I loved school, and if I had found some way to become a professional student, I’d probably still be doing it. I know a lot about early English literature, psychology, statistics, and graphic design.
#2 – I love going on road trips. Back country, two-lane highway kind of road trips. Freeway driving is boring, but the back country drives are fun. Arizona has got a lot of good, scenic highways to drive.
#3 – When my friends and I were in our late teens, there was a tunnel that run under part of the town I grew up in that we were convinced was haunted. We would go down through it every month on the night of the full moon like the Scooby Doo gang, hunting for ghosts. And just like the Scooby Doo gang, we ran scared out of that tunnel a lot.
Why do you run?
I started running because I needed to do something healthy. I had an office job and played a lot of video games and was living a very sedentary life, which is not a good way to be when there is a history of heart disease up both side of the family tree. I kept running because I felt like I had found the sport I had been looking for all my life. I had always liked the sensation of running, of really stretching out and taking off, but of course when I did it when I was younger I could only go about 30 feet before I was huffing and out of breath, and then it wasn’t fun anymore. Once I learned how to train and started doing it regularly, that was it for me. When I finished my first 5K back in 2011, I felt more of a sense of physical accomplishment than anything I had ever done before.
What is your most memorable race?
McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K in 2015, my first 50K. I learned three big lessons from it that have affected everything I’ve done since then.
#1 – Never trust Aravaipa’s race distances to be exact.
#2 – Humility – I went into that race with some opinions about how I was going to do and about how others had done in their ultras. I was wrong about all of it and finished with a longer time than any of them, but by that point I didn’t care anymore. I was finishing, and I was happy about it, just like everyone else who does it. The only thing I’m concerned with now is making cutoffs, and as long as that’s happening, it’s a race to be celebrated. For me and everyone else.
#3 – Camaraderie – I started that race looking at runners ahead of me as people to be caught up to and passed. They were competition who were either going to beat me or I would beat them. And then I’d catch up to them, or they’d catch up to me, and since neither of us was going much faster than the other, we’d talk. And my whole perspective on races changed. We weren’t opponents in competition with each other, we were allies in competition against the course.
The universe doesn’t really care who’s passing or getting passed when you’re toward the back of the pack. I suspect it doesn’t care much about the front, either, but I’ve never been there so I can’t say. What I can say is that when you make somebody’s rough day better by talking to them for a while, it actually makes the universe a little bit better, and that’s the thing that really matters.
What is your advice to someone just starting?
Sign up for a race. Pick one that scares you a little – literally any distance will work. It will motivate you to run regularly, and it will give you a way to see how you’ve improved once you finish on race day. You don’t have to be fast. You will probably be surprised at how many people out there aren’t fast, either. Trail races are so friendly and so full of awesome people that it will blow your mind. I love running on its own merits, but the race day experience and sense of accomplishment is such a great payoff for all the work it takes to get there that you’ll want do it again… once you stop being sore.
Responses and comments
Initially, I wasn’t going to post these, because I was afraid it would look like I’m bragging. Maybe it does, I don’t know. But the more I think about it, the more I feel like it’s my way to say “thank you” back to everyone who was gracious enough to comment. I have been fortunate enough to have made many friends out on the trails, and their words mean a lot to me.
( 👆🏻This is 100% true, btw.)
In the comments, I added:
Thanks everybody. I give credit to Kris for getting me into this whole running thing in the first place, and the STTR family for giving me my wings. I’d heard of ultra runners before I started with the group, but I had some pretty specific ideas about what kinds of runners those were, and I wasn’t one of them. It was only after rubbing elbows with everyone for a while that I started to think it might be something that a normal person like me could do. And I hope I can pass some of that feeling along to everybody else.
That last part is one of the things that keeps me going through all of my back-of-the-pack race finishes and my regular position bringing up the rear at the group runs. I hope that when people see me trotting slowly along behind everyone else and see that even I can finish ultras, it inspires them to feel like they too can accomplish whatever running dreams they may have.