For 2012 TrailRunner Trophy Series winner Meira Minard, it was love at first trip, stumble, and fall.
The State College runner signed up for her first trail race, the Dam Half at R.B. Winter State Park, at the suggestion of a fellow runner. Despite a somersault near the end of the race, Minard won the womens division and was hooked. I had the most fun I have ever had in any race, she said of that first trail experience.
Minard has now won the TrailRunner Trophy Series non-ultra womens 30-39 age group two years in a row. Though the series includes races all over the country, the farthest Minard had to travel from her Houserville home to compete was Curwensville, thanks to the efforts of local race organizers to ensure that the Central PA Trophy Series races are included in the TrailRunner series. Another local runner, Michelle Herman of Bellefonte, won the womens 20-29 age group in the 2012 TrailRunner series.
In training, Minard often stays even closer to home, heading straight from her front door to the trails of Mount Nittany.
Prior to entering the Dam Half, Minards only trail running experience was the path around the Penn State golf course, but she immediately took to the trails. Ive always been an outdoorsy kind of person, and back in high school and college, I would suffer through indoor and outdoor track to get to cross country because I loved that no two courses (or) experiences were the same, she said. When Im running trails, Im never thinking about how much farther or longer I have to run, or whether Im running fast enough. Im just excited about what sort of obstacle course or balancing act the next bend in the trail is going to bring.
In the winter, Minard doesnt run for the treadmill. Instead, she embraces the changing conditions on the trails. One of my favorite parts of trail running is that you get to see nature in all its seasonal forms, she said, and lucky for us in these parts, that means four distinctly different looks.
Though trail running comes with risks in the form of bruises, scratches, and sprained ankles, Minard says it helps her avoid the overuse injuries that plague many road runners.
For road runners looking to get started on the trails, Minard recommends starting with the easier local trails, like the golf course path, Walnut Springs and Lederer Park, the State College cross country course at Circleville Park, and Spring Creek Canyon. From there, runners can progress to intermediate trails like the state game lands and Lonberger Trail in Rothrock State Forest, and black diamonds and double diamonds like Spruce Gap, Kettle, and Shingletown in Rothrock, and Mount Nittany. As Minard discovered when she hit the first major uphill in the Dam Half, trail running is more than just running. Depending on the terrain, it can be hiking, climbing, scrambling, or even crawling.
The 2013 Central PA Trophy Series includes five races: the Mile Run Trail Challenge Half Marathon (March 30), the Hyner View Trail Challenge (April 20), the Rothrock Trail Challenge (June 1), the Dam Scramble (Aug. 24), and the Dam Half and Dam Full (Sept. 15). More information about the series and all of the races is available at www.parunners.com/pa-trophy-series.
For those looking to embrace the elements on the trails before the end of winter, the Mid Penn Trailblazers will host a 3.5-mile trail run during SNOWFEST at R.B. Winter State Park on Feb. 10 at 1 p.m. Registration is $20 if received by Jan. 23 or $25 on race day. For more information and a registration form, visit www.midpenntrailblazers.com.
• Colyer Sno Big Deal 5.8-miler. Feb. 9, 10 a.m., Colyer Lake south parking lot on Lake Rd. The Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon kicks off the Tussey Teaser series with this race. The series takes place on mountain roads that comprise parts of the Mountainback course. All races in the series, except the Beidelheimer Sidewinder 10K in May, are free. The series continues with approximately one race per month through June. The complete schedule is available on the Mountainback website at www.tusseymountainback.com.
• Rodney Myers Memorial Run Around Egg Hill 10 Miler and Relay. March 24, 2:30 p.m., Old Gregg School, Spring Mills. Runners may register to run the full course as a solo race or may run as a three-person medley relay team. Two-person teams may also compete in the three-person category, with any order acceptable, as long as each runner does at least one leg. Leg lengths are 3, 5, and 2 miles. Website: http://keleitzel.com/egghill/.
• April Fools 5K. March 30, 10 a.m., Medlar Field.Hosted by the Centre County Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, the proceeds of this event go to a scholarship fund for Penn State students from Centre County high schools. The race course is on the Penn State Campus and is mostly flat. Online registration and more information at www.active.com/5k-race/university-park-pa/april-fools-5k-2013.
Tara Murray writes a monthly running column for the CDT. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.