At the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School last week, an MBA student team presented research findings that showed the potential impact of a national running movement for Mizuno Running, asking the question: What if everybody ran?.
The general thought was that running made the world a better place.
In a separate and independent – and very informal study – observational research seemed to indicate that, if everybody ran, the entire world would look, well ... a lot like Chapel Hill over the past week.
A week after about 6,000 runners participated in the Tar Heel 10-mile events, hundreds forsook pavement for the pines of Carolina North Forest at this past Saturday’s seventh annual Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs, staged by local running group, the Trailheads.
The event consisted of 15K (9.73-mile) and 7K (4.3-mile) trails run on the twisted trails traversing UNCs Carolina North Forest, benefitting the forest management which promotes and employs sustainable practices to ensure that the natural 750-acre oasis at the heart of Chapel Hill is here for the community’s enjoyment for years to come.
Making quick business of his tour through pristine woodlands was overall 15K winner Jordan Lynx Stafford, a Trailhead himself. Stafford (1:04:51.3) finished ahead of second-place finisher Paul Francis (1:06:36.1) and Brian Schneider (1:06:49.7). Earning gold in the mens master division was Jeff Caiola (1:08:06.5).
Stafford used his home-court advantage to lead from start to finish, negotiating patchy, low-lying mud left over from rains from earlier in the week.
“It was a little wet, but no more than usual for the Carolina North Forest this time of year,” he said. “I figured I was ahead by about 30 seconds by the three-mile aid station. I was judging my pace more on perceived effort than anything else.”
It was Jordan’s first time running the race, as he has usually spent the morning volunteering alongside fellow Trailheads.
“I signed up just a couple days ago,” he explained. “I usually try to let other people sign up first – people who don’t run out here all the time – but it hadn’t filled up, so I said, ‘Why not?’”
In the women’s 15K, it was Jana Grindheim (1:16:32.7) atop the podium for the second straight year, with Lia Weiner earning silver (1:19:24.4) and Katya Harris (1:20:03.7) rounding out the top three. Jennifer Howard (1:26:38.2) captured the women’s masters crown.
“I just love this course, Grindheim gushed. “It’s like an adult playground… You’re jumping over stuff and swinging around corners. You don’t even know how hard you’re working.”
Grindheim has been true convert to trailrunning.
“I won this last year,” she said. “I’d been a trailrunner, but not like this though – this is something else. It’s so much fun.”
In the 7K race, Chapel Hill’s David Dunson (28:39.7) scored a victory over Dan Richey (29:38.1), with Matthew Davis in third (32:14.5). The men’s masters winner was Carrboro’s Dan Thornton (33:03.2).
Holly Leddy (35:42) crossed the line first among women ahead of Laura Tuson (36:27.7) and Mary Flood (37:51.3). Karen Coffee (37:51.3) won the women’s 7K masters title.
“I’ve mountain biked out here before, but I’d never run the trails,” Leddy said. “I was by myself enough that I actually thought I was lost for a little bit.”
Saturday’s PWTR reflected the second of two annual events staged this year by the local off-road enthusiasts the Trailheads,( www.trailheads.org), a local group of off-road running enthusiasts who seek to promote the joy of trail running and who celebrate and support the natural environments like the Chapel Hill North Forests.
The other 2014 event was January’s annual Little River Trail Run at the Little River Park Regional Park and Natural Area on Guess Road in northern Orange County. Funds raised through both races benefit the trail systems on which the events are staged.
Joining Kate “Trigger Albrecht, a returning race director from the sixth annual PWTR in 2013, was fellow Trailhead Mike “Lego” Broome, who said the transition was made easier by his fellow runners.
“Over the last four weeks, (Albrecht) and I met a number of times, and planning really started ramping up,” Broome said. “But with the support of the Trailheads and everyone chipping in and volunteering, it’s been fantastic and we couldn’t do this without them.”
Albrecht said there were few changes to the race for 2014.
“Last year, the course had a re-direct due to some construction,” she said, “but this year we’re back to the traditional course—the one that everyone remembers – and it’s still a fast course.”
“Also, this year we actually added another aid station because we just had so many people that wanted to volunteer,” Albrecht added. “It was actually a husband and wife who run with the Trailheads, and their children are really enthusiastic about the forest as well.”
Albrecht said numbers were slightly lower than last year, likely due to the number of races competing for runners recently.
“It may be because the Tar Heel 10-mile was just last week,” she said, “but we were still above 350 runners, so we’ll have a great donation that goes back to the Carolina North Forest.”
While Stafford and several other runners are already looking forward to the Big Horn 100-mile trail run in Wyoming later this summer, Albrecht and Broome were already looking forward to the 2015 PWTR.
“There’s one thing we’d talked about and I’d love to see it happen soon: that’s to work with local musicians,” Albrecht said. “We’d have them at Unity Church and a couple easily-accessed aid stations to volunteer their time and ‘jam-out’ during the race.”
While Broome predicted a nice long nap in the wake of all the planning for Saturday’s race, Albrecht said she wouldn’t be able to sleep for days.
“It’s adrenaline, but it’s also knowing all of these people are out here to support Carolina North and helping to make sure that what we love is going to keep going,” she said. ‘That’s what keeps me going: I don’t want to see these trails disappear or go into disrepair, and every person racing today is helping to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The Trailheads will present a check to Carolina North Forest Management soon. Local organizations looking to engage in projects supporting the area’s natural environment should the Carolina North Forest Management office at 919-201-7063 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next race to be stage by the Trailheads will be next January’s Little River Trail Run, staged in the effort to discover the answer to the Trailheads’ own proposition, “What If Everybody Ran ... Trails?”