Let’s say you’re a runner residing between Georgia and Maine or maybe between California and Oklahoma. You’ve got several notches on your belt from your local 10k but your times have dipped or the excitement has gradually faded as the city blocks blend seamlessly into monotony. Maybe the excitement remains but you’re looking to add an event to your calendar to keep motivation high throughout the year. Well if you live in or near the aforementioned states you may be missing out on a running challenge that will take your breath away. Literally. I’d like to formally introduce you to mountain running.
Congratulations on your second place finish in the US National SkyRunning Series. We’re familiar with the series, but for those who haven’t heard, Skyrunning is a race series, popular in Europe and Asia that was recently brought to the US. With 7 different races and 3 distances at each location, there are options for runners of all distances. The three featured distances are Vertical K, Sky and Ultra ranging from 5 miles all the way up to 100K ultras. The Skyrunning Series is unique because the races purposefully feature the most rugged terrain and grueling profiles in every corner of the US. Drawing the most talented athletes in the nation, competition at the US Skyrunning Series is stiff.
La Sportiva and Honey Stinger athlete, Laura Haefeli has won 7 Mountain and Trail National Championship titles, made 5 World Mt. Running Teams, been named Mt. Runner of the Year 5 times, and was the first U.S. Woman ever to win a medal at a World Mt. Running Championship. She also married into a beekeeping family. Here is what she has to say about beekeeping and trail running.
I started running at 22 in my native country of Germany. My first goal was simply to finish a marathon. With just 3 months of training I not only finished, but with a time of 2:56. Not a bad finish time for so little training. Then again, I was 22. Nonetheless, this first success landed me a spot on my hometown’s running club team and opened the doors to the world of middle and long distance running. As a member of the club, I ran anything from 800m to half marathons.
This past year I realized it’s all about enjoying your running and racing. I have been a runner in grade school, high school, college, and then as an open athlete for the past ten years. In that time I have run road races, marathons, mountain races, cross-country races, trail races, treadmill time trials, stair races and track races. These races ranged from Olympic Marathon Trials to World Mountain Championships to major road marathons (Boston, NY and Chicago).
My motivation comes from so many places. I am inspired by the people I surround myself with in my life. My original running inspiration came from Deb Livingston after I threw up trying to hang with her on a hill in a 14 mile trail race. She was 7.5 months pregnant. She seemed so happy and her love of running made me want to be able to run like her.
The best aspect of my running recently has been training runs. Several have probably been pretty sorry training to tell the truth, or maybe not. I met up with a group from Charlotte to take them on some real trails, ones where your expenditure is greater but the efforts are rewarded with views. I‘ve been able to get in several runs with a good friend, Cory. We always say running with each other is like running without realizing you’re doing it.
It took a month before I could run 20 miles in a week. I tested it prematurely at the one month mark and ran the Knickerbocker trail half marathon in Cool, CA. It was too much too soon. There was swelling and a soreness. But what was humbling was the lack of stamina. My fitness did not bounce back as quickly as I had hoped.
In the foothills balsam root shoots. Up through the soggy dirt and bolting for the sun, cherry blossoms in the back-yard pop, and at night a warm wind blows a new smell that makes me anxious--it all means one thing--it's time to race the Sunflower again.
As I kept running, I could tell by the ghastly look on their faces that they were somewhat frightened by me. One man even dropped what he was carrying and said to me in broken English, “What you run from?” It occurred to me that they didn’t understand why I was running.
We arrive at the trailhead and park the car. I look at all the running gear on the seat next to me: a handheld water bottle, a heart rate monitor and watch, a full running pack and my La Sportiva running hat. I grab only my hat, leaving the rest. My partner and I hit the trail. Today I run with no agenda, no plans, no goal and I run to escape the hectic pace of life.