Q&A with Huntsville Runner Ali Edwards

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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 are some of their running goals.

Ali Edwards shares her thoughts on running and why the sport means so much to her. You can read more about Ali in her full profile.

Why do you run?
I feel like the best version of myself when I am running: strong, peaceful, grounded. I love the outdoors and adventures. When I'm in running the woods, I feel wild and free. I love the simplicity of the sport, the connection to nature it provides, and the way it forces me to live in the moment. Running constantly challenges me and pushes me past my comfort zone, while broadening my views on the capabilities of the human body. Then, there's all the incredible people I've met and the amazing opportunities running has provided to see cool places all over the country. Running is awesome!

Favorite local trail?
Probably the Blue Trail at Oak Mountain state park for its diversity and beauty. The trail goes by the waterfalls and past some really great overlooks (king's chair and eagle's nest), while the terrain goes back and forth between being challenging and technical to smooth and runnable.

Favorite place to run anywhere?
I love so many trails out west- especially the Pacific Northwest. Also, running in Ireland is wicked cool. But I think I'd have to say the Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina. The Appalachian Trail has special significance to me after my thru hike and those mountains feel like home. I love that green tunnel! Plus there's the waterfalls and rivers, smoky mountains, rugged trails, killer views, banjo music- those mountains have it all!

Best running experience ever?
Recently I was able to pace one of my best friends in Wasatch 100 mile endurance run in Utah. It was one of the most epic running experiences I've ever had because of the incomparable beauty and struggle of the event. I ran and hiked with my friend all through the night and the next day, seeing him through the exhilarating highs and gut-wrenching lows that the hundred mile race is known for. The struggle to overcome altitude sickness, technical terrain, and extreme temperatures was enormous, but somehow we made it through. Watching the sunrise over the mountains on the second morning of the race was transcendent. At the end of the run, I felt like we had been to heaven and hell and back- which is exactly what the race promised.

Most challenging running experience ever?
This wasn't meant to be a running experience, but a hike became a run when I got caught in a hail storm backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The weather there is notoriously inclement, and it was sunny with blue skies one minute, then a swirling cloud of freezing rain and hail descended upon me the next. I started running (aka scrambling and sliding) down the exposed mountain ridge that was covered with car-sized, sharp edged boulders. Fearing hypothermia, I fortunately was saved when I stumbled into a luxury "hut," cold, wet, and disoriented. I weathered the rest of the storm inside there with a cup of cocoa in hand, and I remember thinking that I'd never felt so alive!

Best running life hack?
I'm pretty fond of my invention of the beer koozie handheld. For lack of better options and funds, I once had the idea to put a koozie on my water bottle then stuff gels and snacks inside (like the pockets in a handheld hydration sleeve). Not only was the contraption functional, but the custom handheld gives you some unique trail swag. Afterwards, just slide that koozie on your next cold beverage of choice! Winning.

If you could go on a run with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be (and why)?
Probably Anton Krupicka. First because I'd love to run the flat irons in Colorado and he knows them like the back of his hand. Second, because he seems like a really cool dirtbag who embodies the spirit of the sport with his spiritual connection to the mountains and minimalist approach. Third, because I think he looks like a sexy trail god.

Favorite piece of gear (and why)?
I love head buffs because they are super practical and multipurpose. Besides the traditional headband use, I've also used mine as a neck warmer, hat/hood, sunshield, towel and "sports" bra.

Favorite food while out on the trail (and why)?
For a quick snack on the trail when I'm doing a long run, I'd say a Clif bar, sour gummy worms, or some chocolate chip cookies. However, if we are talking about an aid station at an ultra race, nothing beats pancakes!! Pancakes are my favorite food in general, but they're also perfect for trail running- portable, easy on the stomach, and a great vehicle for some nutella, bananas, fried egg, etc.

What life lessons have you learned while running?
Time spent outdoors is never a waste of time.

There are highs and lows in both life and running. The lows will always pass, so just be patient; when the highs come, savor them.

Embrace the suck! It makes you stronger.

The word "epic" doesn't always mean fun, but it does mean memorable. Live epicly.

We all have the power to create our own happiness.

If you think you love someone, pace or crew them in a 100-mile race. If you still love them after that, then they (or maybe just you) are special.

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