Alan Gowen

Changing Times

Dylan was right. Indeed the times they are a-changin’. And apparently nowhere, other than at Apple maybe, are the times a-changin’ more rapidly than in our sport of trail running. That snowballing change is the topic for another day, and before I go there I want to share some observations.

I had a pleasant surprise recently. Came home and there in the middle of the debris of a thorough house cleaning were the May and June 1998 issues of Ultra Running magazine. Hmmm. Steering carefully around the pot holes along the way, I allowed myself a quick trip down memory lane. In black and white.

According to Ultra Running, it seems that back in the day the VHTRC was all over the place. The June, 1998 issue of Ultra Running featured a cover photo taken by our own Jeanne Christie during the running of the 6th BRR. Inside was the race report along with an accompanying article by Chris Scott about the number of hills on the course. (Nearly 100 according to him.) There was a note that Eric Clifton had won MMT in 23:03:37. Ultra Running Magazine began its online presence, and sifting through the print version results pages, it became apparent that VHTRC members seemed to be running everything in sight.

In the May, 1998 issue I could see that Courtney Campbell won the Wild Oak Trail 50 on snow covered trails, and that at age 54, Frank Probst finished 4th at Rocky Raccoon 100. Derrick Carr was 5th at HAT, Scott Mills was 10th, and James and Rebecca brought up the rear in a field of 162 runners. Before there even was a Blue Train, a large group of VHTRC members made the trip to North Carolina to run the Uwharrie 40 miler, and a bunch of club members participated in some west coast nonsense called the Nino No Go Mugu 50-50, that Chris Scott was responsible for.

Both of these fourteen year old issues were liberally sprinkled with VHTRC member’s race results from events all over the country. Some other observations? The race fields were, for the most part, a lot smaller then they are now. For instance Umstead had 56 finishers. And a lot of the races that crowded a surprisingly full calendar back then, have now gone extinct.

Alongside these old magazines I found my November 2012 issue of Ultra Running, resplendent in all its colorful, slick, and glossy modernity. The magazine, like our sport, is a work in progress. The times they are a changin’. But are they?

Looking inside my newest issue I see a full color picture of our own Suzie Spangler wearing her Furbutt visor, and I can’t miss Mike Strzelecki’s 12 year old son wearing his VHTRC shirt. The results for The Ring are listed along with the many other results postings that are strewn with VHTRC members names. Near the end of the magazine there is a note about mister Grand Slam himself Tom Green alongside a picture of Grand Slam finisher Jack Kurisky in his Blue Train shirt.

So, if this isn’t a review of Ultra Running magazine, which it most certainly isn’t, then where in the world am I going with all this? Well. It became apparent to me that things have changed a lot over the past fourteen years, and yet we still do what we have always done. We lace up the shoes and get out there on the trails with our friends. The VHTRC was a great club back in the day and it is a great club now. Many of us still travel all over the globe to experience new running adventures, just as many of us did years ago. We still put on events that just keep getting better and better. And we still revel in that magical camaraderie of the trail.

The times they are a-changin’. And that’s a good thing, I think. Because not only was Bob Dylan right, so in fact was that other guy (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) who remarked that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

At least where VHTRC is concerned, both Dylan and Alphonse Karr were pretty dead on.

If you have any insights into what trail running was like back in olden times, write about it and share it with the rest of us. I’m pretty sure we’d all love to know more about trail running back in the Stone Ages.

If you have any comments about ancient history or what you think may lie ahead, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Trails!