Jeff Wilson: Running Strong

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A few years ago, Jeff Wilson started running to lose weight. When he hit his target weight, Wilson just kept running. “I’ve always been a heavier guy. I was 26 years old and felt it was either now or never. I started running and I have never looked back. I started to enjoy running as a fitness goal and running became something I just enjoyed doing. I fell in love with running.”

Moving to Huntsville, AL for a new job, Wilson found a vibrant running community that fueled his passion. “There’s a very great active running community here. Running is a social event with group runs. I can get out and meet people and see friends.”

New friends from a group, We Run Huntsville, introduced him to local trails. “I started to run longer and met people who were running on trails,” says Wilson. “Monte Sano State Park has a wonderful network of trails. There’s just miles and miles of trails to explore.”

Although Wilson enjoys the camaraderie of running with friends, he finds peace in solo runs. “For me, if I want to go for a run and my goal is to relax and have fun, I just head for the trails. I find the trails very peaceful, just being in the trees and nature,” he says. “Occasionally, I like to get out and simply lose myself in my thoughts. It’s a Zen moment with just you and the trails. You don’t have anything to think about or worry about other than where to put your feet. That can be an awesome experience.”

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Many runners who switch from road to trail find the early trail running experiences aggravating. Uneven trails, half-buried rocks and roots reaching out to tangle your legs and trip you up. Over time, that experience changes.

“It’s almost an epiphany. There’s not an 'ah-ha' moment where you understand, but you gradually become better instinctually where to put your feet. You don’t even think about that anymore,” says Wilson. “It happens without you really noticing. Before long you feel like you have been running trails forever. It’s really fun to feel confident out there.”

Running to get in shape has evolved into consistently participating in local trail races. Earlier this year, Wilson finished the grueling 25k McKay Hollow. He also finished the Grand Viduta, a 3-day stage race. “I’m not incredibly competitive or superfast. My goal is to get a little better with every race,” he says. “The racing atmosphere is fun. The environment and being with other people who share the passion is a wonderful experience.”

Every race offers a new experience. Wilson has found a way to endure when a race course beats him down physically and mentally. “I don’t know if there’s a secret to it. Since I started running to lose weight running was something that was always hard to do. When I first started, moving at all was a chore,” he says. “You have to develop the mental fortitude to finish a race. I hate quitting. I’m not very good at quitting. When it gets tough, I just find a way to keep going. I always feel better.”

Whether exploring a new trail system, sharing a run with friends or pushing to the finishing line of a race, running now plays an integral part of Jeff Wilson’s life. “These experiences make me wish I started running sooner. I can’t see a reason why I won't continue running for the rest of my life.”

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