Fly it, Wyatt

I recently ran across a guy named Wyatt Hornsby. I was amazed at how much we had in common.

* We both have a passion for trail running.

* We both write running blogs.

* We’re both 6’2”.

* We both began serious distance-running about five years ago.

* We’ve both worked at hospitals. He’s a fundraiser at University Hospitals in Cleveland. I once did public relations for Lake Hospital System in Willoughby, Ohio.

* We’ve both run the Cleveland Marathon, the Buckeye Trail 50K and a bunch of other Northeast Ohio races.

* We both did an Ohio-Indiana move, although in opposite directions. I lived in Cleveland and Akron before moving to Indianapolis four years ago. He lived in West Lafayette, Indiana before moving to Cleveland a few years ago.

* We’re both in newspapers. I write for one. He’s often written up in one.

* He once worked for a Democratic governor of Indiana, Frank O’Bannon. I once worked for a Democratic congressman from Ohio, Charles Vanik.

* My last name is Russell. He lives in South Russell, Ohio. (OK, this one was a stretch.)

* His first name is Wyatt. I live on a street called Wyandott. (Another stretch.)

* Wyatt has a marathon PR of 2:58. He finished first in the 2009 Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run.

Wyatt Hornsby

Wyatt Hornsby

Hmm, on second thought, maybe we’re not that much alike after all. I’ve never won a race. I’ve never run 100 miles. My marathon PR is a humble 3:40.

But the reason I bring this up is because last night, I couldn’t get to sleep, so I picked up an old copy of my favorite running publication, Marathon & Beyond.

I found a story I hadn’t noticed before. It was about a race called the Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run. The author wrote about running the race during its inaugural year in 2007. He finished sixth out of a starting field of 144.

The author was Wyatt Hornsby.

It was a terrific read on many levels.

First of all, it was a good human-interest yarn about a guy trying to face his past. As a high-school kid, Wyatt had quit his cross country team during a preseason run of eight miles.  That was just too far, he decided. He walked away and never went back to practice.

So what was he doing running a 100-mile race two decades later? Trying to find redemption, of course.

“This race was my destiny and a challenge I had to confront. It was an opportunity to face a significant challenge and prevail, as I had failed to do the day I quit cross-country,” he wrote.

Of course, he prevailed, and blossomed into one of the most competitive distance runners in Northeast Ohio, within just a few years.

On another level, the story was interesting because I knew many of the places and landmarks. The race connects numerous parks and trails in Northeast Ohio. I’ve run on or by all those places when I lived in Ohio — Boston Store, Pine Lane, O’Neil Woods, Stanford Road hill, Happy Days visitor center, Everett Road covered bridge, Glens Trail, Signal Tree, Sound of Music hill, etc. etc.

br100I also knew some of the other runners he mentioned (Jim Chaney, Vince Rucci), and had heard of many others.

And any 100-mile race in August makes for a great story, as the runner battles with heat, injuries, doubt, darkness, mental fatigue and exhaustion. Wyatt writes about them all in a nice, fluid way.

The story read well, because I could identify with Wyatt, someone who took up running fairly late in life, worked hard and was trying hard to accomplish big goals.

It’s easy to assume that accomplished runners have been running all their lives, and do it without any effort. Reading Wyatt’s story shows that it’s about setting big goals and working hard to achieve them.

Plus, how could you not root for a guy who finishes the story this way:

“Somewhere on that home stretch, I dusted that kid who had quit on his cross-country team 20 years earlier and finished with a time of 21 hours and 8 minutes — an hour ahead of my goal and in sixth place. At this late hour (2 a.m.), the cheering section was modest, but it didn’t matter. Overcome with emotion, I hunched over, covering my sweaty face with my grungy hands.”

After reading the story, I decided to check out Wyatt’s blog, to see how it was different from mine.

Well, the two blogs are only as different as Beethoven and the AC/DC. My blog is a hodge-podge of daily running, stupid/random thoughts, family tidbits, little stories, trail cheerleading, free association, and oh yeah, a race report or two.

Wyatt’s  blog is very serious, very focused, very organized, just like his running.

Maybe I should take a page from Wyatt. Then maybe I’ll have a few more accomplishments to boast about, instead of just reading about his.

****************************************************************************************************

Well, I can’t just sit around and read about other runners’ great feats.  I have to get out there, too.

This morning, I ran about 4 1/2 miles on neighborhood roads before work. It was a bit chilly at first, in high 40s, but I warmed up in the last half. My time was 34:06.

I felt much better than yesterday, when I was huffing and puffing during a trail run, following too many days of rest. I’m feeling positive as I think about the Knobstone Trail half-marathon, which is just four days away.

My goal is to beat last year’s time, when I ran a fairly slow race of 2:18:02, finishing 64th out of 94. (A few hundred additional runners ran shorter distances of 5K, 10K and 10M.) If I can finish in the top half, so much the better.

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