My running story is only just beginning.
I’m 52 years old, and until about five months ago, I had never run a mile in my life. Sure, a couple of times over the years I’m sure that I made an attempt or two: a New Year’s resolution to finally get into shape, or a short-lived attempt, here or there, at turning around unhealthy habits in middle age by making a pledge to myself to exercise. But lacing up sneakers and getting out on the road just never appealed to me; I’m not afraid to admit it.
But I’ve always LOVED the outdoors: camping, hiking & bouldering, and traveling to national parks—or state parks—has always brought me joy.
I’ve also always had great balance and agility (what someone once called “fighter-pilot reflexes”). I’m not certain if these traits have necessarily made me a “natural” for trail but being light and quick on my feet certainly doesn’t hurt.
After meeting an amazing person who has been an active member of Steeps Trail for years, I was introduced to the sport, and did my first attempt at a trail run in December—about 1.5 miles—and to my surprise, I didn’t collapse after the first third of a mile, and I actually felt pretty OK at the finish. And more importantly, I ENJOYED how it felt.Scott Homolka
Even though after that first run (and a number of subsequent runs), I still had utterly no idea what I was doing: “What are my ankles supposed to be feeling? Am I supposed to lift my knees more? What on earth are my arms doing right now? It all felt pretty strange, unnatural even. But after a few pointers and some sound advice to just let my body do what felt right, I stopped obsessing over not having a clue about technique or form, and just started to relax and “let my body do what felt natural.”
Now, just a few months later, I still feel uncertain about running mechanics, but am happy to be getting out at least three days a week and running—either alone or with my friend—and it almost always leaves me feeling great and wanting to do more.
I joined the Steeplechasers just about two months ago and did my very first trail race last Sunday: the Ex2 Adventures Back Yard Burn at Fairfax Lake, VA.
Sure, it was only a very modest 5-miler, but it felt really good; I was buoyed by the energy and atmosphere of race day, and excited to be part of the community on what turned out to be an astonishingly gorgeous April morning.
I finished in a little under an hour (a pedestrian 11 ½-minute pace, good for 16th out of 30 in my age group) but as I thought about it later, I realized that “middle of the pack” as a newbie runner in my 50s was something I could live with.
As for my most memorable trail experience so far? I did get sent up to Gambrill State Park recently to do a few miles and, having left my map and phone in the car, along with a second water bottle, I proceeded to take a wrong turn from the green loop at the overlook and ended up going all the way out on the yellow trail unknowingly, instead of returning to the lower parking lot.
It was definitely more than I bargained for (the elevation, wow), turning a first-time visit to the park into a 6+ mile stressor. But everyone has a Gambrill story, I’ve been told.
So what now? I’m pretty sure that I’m hooked on continuing with this rewarding activity with a positive outlook and some optimism. I almost certainly won’t turn into an ultra-runner at this point in my life–understanding that unpredictable physical limitations do come into play.
I do know that at this point in my life, being out there among the trees, trail under my feet, feels pretty great, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.
As for right now, you can usually find me doing a few easy miles in the evening on the Valley View/Ridge Trail at Patapsco State Park (I currently live in Baltimore), or, if I’m lucky, discovering a new trail up at the ‘Shed on the weekend.
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