Q&A with Austin Ultra Runner Erik Stanley

Erik Stanley
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New Balance and RootsRated have teamed up to profile runners making a difference in their communities. We asked each of our runners a series of questions to learn a little more about what running means to them, where they like to run, and what some of their running goals are.

No matter where you go in Austin, if you’re talking about trail running, people know and respect Erik Stanley. And when you learn more about him, see him run, or meet him you quickly realize why. He’s been a pack leader for many years, starting when he was ranked #1 in the nation for the mile (4:04) in high school. Then he was an NCAA All-American at The University of Texas (UT). Now he’s a leading pro trail runner; and he’s founder of the Trail Roots trail running training program.

Trail Roots?
I started a local running group in Austin called Trail Roots. We have a variety of runners, who might be training for trail races like the Bandera 25k, 50k or 100k, or the Big Bend race. People want to learn about the trails in and around Austin. Getting together with a group of people and feels a little more comfortable exploring the local trails. It’s a great community.

It’s rewarding to work with people every day and help them get healthier, run faster and achieve their goals. There’s nothing more I’d rather be doing.

Favorite trails?
We have a lot of trails in Austin. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is the go-to trail. Parts of it are really beautiful single track that winds through the hill country. You can get about 20-30 miles of running in there. It’s definitely one of my favorites. There’s a little spring you can drink out. It’s clean and safe to drink.

This time of year the leaves are changing color. That changeover lasts for just a few weeks. It’s a perfect time before everything turns brown for the winter.

Morning runner or after work?
Typically I’m a morning runner. I like to start my day off with a run and if I don’t I feel a little out of sync. Run and bike with the people I coach.  While I’m helping them I can get a workout in myself.

Treadmill Yes or No?
I will use one if I have too. It’s not something I enjoy. Rather run in the cold or rain then use a treadmill.

Do you listen to music?
I listened to music when I was recovering from an injury. The playlist would vary day-to-day depending to my mood. Move around from sad songs to 80’s songs like Tina Turner to pump things up a little. Out on the trails before a coaching session, its nice to have something in my ear once in a while to keep me going.

In the middle of a hard race and devil on your shoulder telling you time to quit, how do you keep going?
I never quit a race but a few years ago at the Bandera 100k I was pretty close. I spent 30 minutes walking up and down the same hill thinking about quitting. You have to know your body but ultimately your mind controls your body. If you can stay positive you can keep going. I’ll start talking to people on the course or start singing to keep those negative thoughts away. Reflect on my training and how I am. Try to share that with people I coach so they can use that in their races and redirect their thoughts to a more positive mood.

What’s your motivation for ultras?
I love being out on the trails and in nature. I enjoy the community aspect of trail running. It’s not about how far I can go, the challenge is going out and running on your own for a long time. A lot can change in an hour.

In an ultra, all the variables of nutrition, training, terrain and competition make a race interesting. The distances make the race more challenging to get all those elements right on that day.

How do you answer friends when they ask “Why?”
My career is focused on running. Running is part of my identity and routine. My career is focused on running. When I wake up every morning I look forward to my run. I want to run and have fun on the trails when I’m old and gray. I struggle with missing my run when I’m dealing with an injury.

Favorite post race / long run activity/approach to recover?
For me it’s about the community. I like to go with our group and friends for breakfast tacos after a long run. Pair that with coffee and a few beers and I’m set. The water in Barton Springs is always about 68º and its a nice place to sit and rest your legs and swim around to cool off after a run.

Bucket list races?
Planning to run in Bandera 100k in January. Definitely would like to run Western States, Hardrock and Leadville. All of those races are exciting to me.  I haven’t done a 100-miler so I’m thinking I’ll be ready within the next 2 years.

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