Laura is someone who I’ve known seeing her at TrailsRoc events for a few years, but until recently did not understand the depth and passion in her personality. She is quite simply the best.
Let me explain, she loves Kodiak Cakes, runs a crap ton of trail miles, and ALWAYS has a huge smile on her face. We send photos to each other daily of our breakfasts (of course) and she is a wealth of knowledge and encouragement. I can only hope to carry her enthusiasm someday. She is my breakfast twin. If only I could run trails like her…some day.
If this sounds like a love story “they locked eyes over the Kodiak cakes and coffee. The next course featured beets and then they knew it was forever…” it kind of is! She also shares my love of the Sweet and Sassy Molassy sandwich from Strong Hearts Cafe and I can honestly say MY GIRL IS A WINNER!
Get ready for a wonderful read!
Name: Laura Howard
Current Shoe: La Sportive Mutant for trails and Mizuno Wave Sonic for roads
How long have you been running: 14 years
Favorite Distance: Anything ultra trail
Favorite post run meal: Kodiak cakes with fancy syrup (equal parts maple syrup, coconut oil and nut butter) with fruit on top or Beet Smoothie
Things running has given me, told in a series of short stories:
A group of 3 male runners are gaining on my walking as we close in on the last mile of Table Rock Ultras 50k. They strode up beside me and encouraged me to run to the finish with them, it was so hot that day I had stopped sweating, but there I was moving forward. I smiled, gritted my teeth and believed I could. 3 slow miles ago I had considered napping in the dusty dirt on the side of the trail, heat and humidity my nemesis. I was channeling my inner Danielle Snyder who has been known to have similar inclinations in trail races, but that is another story you should ask her about. I couldn't keep stride with my 3 new friend (trail friend are fast friends), so I allowed them to go ahead but I maintained my trot and crossed the finish line of my first ultra. It wasn't fast but I fought and loved every moment, even the moments I didn't love. Tears filling my eyes in the amazement and exhaustion of the experience. Not just the day. The experience of the journey to get here. I specifically chose to run in the Pisgah National Forest to feel closer to my grandparents who loved the mountains in this area and lived in Kingsport, Tennessee. The training and the race facilitated my healing from losing their physical presence in my life. I found running made me feel closer to them, and other losses I have had. It is a place that I can feel their love. So I keep running.
7:00pm at the Twisted Branch finish line and there is a serious situation. Michele and Scott are discussing what to do about a clogged port-o-potty. Michele walks away, leaving us to look perplexed, this is definitely not my area of expertise. As she walks back to us, she is holding a golf club that somehow made it's way into the rental truck. No words even have to be exchanged, we are laughing silently, breathlessly, as tears roll down our cheeks that only come with sleep deprivation. A solution was found, the port-o-potty cleared. The golf club got cleaned and will absolutely be in the rental truck next year.
"Oh Shit!" Moments.
It's the middle of night in the middle of nowhere, near McCall, Idaho. The mountains of Payette National Forest looming over our car and Payette Lake lapping the shores quietly in the darkness. I am in the driver's seat, reclined, with every piece of clothing I brought on, expect for my frozen sports bra I left outside overnight after going in Burgdorf hot springs the night before. I have my runner's winter jacket on me backwards, with the hood over my face. Passed out cold. Mort can sleep anywhere, so he is also passed out in the seat next to me, and Josh is definitely not sleeping in the back. "MORT, STRAT, LAURA!" Our names come booming through the cracked window, and the three of us spill out of the vehicle to greet our runner's over night pacer, Marta. We miscalculated Danielle's speed in that section and missed her arrival at the aid station. Her plastic bin of gear gets broken, scrambling to the aid station definitely happened. And then there was Danielle, our runner, just hanging out drinking some hot broth not even noticing that we were not there. Out she goes with Strat, into the night. I still haven't recovered from the adrenaline rush.
The scene is littered with breakfast foods, utensils and the smell of dark coffee is strong. We sit gathered around a dining room table, or sometimes a coffee table, or on the unique days a diner or trunk of a car. We laugh, tell stories and usually inappropriate jokes. But more appropriate than the ones we told each other on the trail, because we are technically at the breakfast table, although the literal table is relative. Welcome to Sunday trail church. Many of us may not have a formalized approach to faith, spirituality or religion, but the time we get in nature and together is the connection to a power that we feel and honor.
This is a short list of things trail running has given me, when in reality it is endless. #TrailsRoc opened up a world of wonderful people and experiences in my life. Mountains and wild spaces, laughter and love. I would never be the person I am today without these things. I know I would still be a runner, even without my community, but it wouldn't bring the same joy to my life.