Jenny Adams, left, Jackie Eddy, Wayne Spychka, Carol Spychka, Steve Kent, and Jim Gable are ready to take on the trails with the Sooke Trail and Road Runners. This group meets every Thursday at Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. STARR also has runs on Tuesday and Saturday. (Kevin Laird/Sooke News Mirror)

Running the mountain high

Sooke runners tackle local trails

Thursday trail runs with the Sooke Trail and Road Runners often wrap up with a get-together at a downtown Sooke coffee shop. It’s where runners check in with each other or follow up on text exchanges.

But don’t let the one-liners and zingers over eggs fool you.

The club members take their running seriously, but approach the social element with equal ferocity.

“Running is very social,” says Steve Kent, president of STARR, who’s run trails for more than 19 years as a recreational runner.

“The camaraderie comes with doing something a little bit tougher with friends.”

Trail and ultra trail running is one of the fastest growing segments of the running world, and while there’s always been a trail element with STARR, it’s only recently the sport has taken off and become more competitive within its ranks.

A large contingent of club members now competes in the Vancouver Island Trail Running Series, a circuit of six races spanning from Royal Roads in Colwood to Mount Washington in the Comox Valley, and other challenges ranging from local races to ultra-marathons throughout North America.

Two of STARR’s most ardent trail runners are Greg Balchin and Pauline Nielsen, who’ve only recently decided to take on some of the toughest races and terrain.

Balchin, 59, has run since his high school days, but in the last year became a competitive trail runner.

He runs upwards of up to 100 kilometres a week often with running mate Nielsen.

The pair competed in this summer’s Vancouver Island Trail Running Series, and working toward goal ultra-marathons.

“Trail running is way different (than road racing),” Balchin says. “The races are tough and demanding.”

The biggest draw to trail running is the runner’s high and enjoying the peaceful sounds of nature rather than traffic and crowds, say all three runners.

Compared to road running, trail running allows you lose track of time no matter what distance you run, Nielsen says.

“You end up dreaming it, thinking about it … every time you’re walking around,” Balchin adds.

Still, the sport has it challenges.

With road running racers faces a constant repetitiveness on their body, while trail runners ease that pressure with softer running surfaces.

But trail runners are also must be able to stay on the lookout for outcropped rocks, roots and other dangers on single-track pathways. And don’t forget the steep climbs at almost every turn.

“We like it a bit more rugged,” quips Kent, 64, who admits to injuring his ankles, back, and knees over the years, never mind the cuts and abrasions.

Balchin says you aren’t a trail runner until you’ve fallen flat on your face. It’s considered a badge of honour in the running community.

“You just brace for it and watch for it,” he says.

Nielsen is currently nursing a foot injury that’s kept her off the trail for three weeks and last years was out six months with a leg injury.

The three say that while running is a social sport, it hits a new level with trail running, where the community is closely knit.

Some people have started in the sport well into their sixties and competed into their eighties.

Balchin and Kent hope to run well into the future.

“I’ll do this until I’m dead,” Balchin says. “They’ll probably bury me in my running shoes.”

•••

The Sooke Trail & Road Runners, or STARR, is running group that caters to the non-elite runner who is interested in exercise and camaraderie. The group meets three days a week for group runs. Runners of all abilities and speeds are welcome. For more details contact the group online at www.runwithstarr.com.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke Fall Fair postponed until 2021

Organizers hope to still hold some form of competitions

Cyclists see potential and pitfalls in Sooke infrastructure

Getting from Sooke Road to Galloping Goose Trail a challenge for bike riders

Province buys Paul’s Motor Inn to house Victoria’s homeless population

Inn is the second hotel the province has purchased to support vulnerable community

SEAPARC solidifies plans for Sooke summer camps

Facility set to reopen to the public

Firefighters called for technical rescue at Sooke Potholes

Woman breaks her leg while walking along riverbed

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Vancouver Island school principal mourns family killed during US protests

Jelks says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from the community in the wake of this tragedy

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read