March, 2017:

This month we feature runner Patrick Vaughan.

Tell us a little bit about your background?

I grew up in upstate NY in a small town called Elmira about 20 minutes from Ithaca & Cornell.  I played soccer, basketball and tennis growing up and in high-school. I graduated in 1995 and went to Hamilton College, a small liberal arts school outside Syracuse that several members of my family went to as well. I moved to the DC area when I transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park to study Computer Science a year later and have lived in VA since graduating from UMD in 2001. I have worked in IT sales for a little over 15 years.

When did you get into running?  Do you consider yourself a road runner or trail runner?

I played soccer through-out my youth but didn’t play beyond high-school. After college, I had chronic back and neck problems resulting in multiple surgeries.  I didn’t do much physical activity through my twenties because it was always painful. I stopped hiking and backpacking which had been two big interests and really became very sedentary like far too many other working people. When I got into running 5 or 6 years ago, it first started as stress relief (infant twins at home plus a busy job). However, I quickly realized that being active actually helped me significantly in terms of pain rather than making it worse. I initially started running on treadmills but soon became interested in taking it to the streets. Ultimately, I’ve transitioned into strictly trail running as I’ve come to recognize that it provides so many significant benefits (i.e. core strength, lateral stability, mental fortitude, etc…) to help me fight my physical challenges.

Do you remember your first race?  Any racing accomplishments that you are proud of?

My first race ever was the Clarendon Day 5k, I believe in 2012. It was the longest I’d ever run outside at that point as I had only really trained indoors. I found that running more than a few miles on the road, while fun, caused me significant knee and neck pain. I really enjoyed the entire experience; but, I didn’t get really hooked then because it still hurt a lot. A few months later, a friend introduced me to barefoot style running and overnight I was able to extend from 3-5 mile runs into the 10+ range with minimal pain. It was game changing. Within about a year of my first race I completed the Marine Corp Marathon; which I considered at the time to be my ‘ultimate accomplishment’ (still on of my top – I’ve never run another road marathon since). In the decade before where I barely left the desk or couch I never could have imagined running a marathon.

Very satisfied with myself, I all but stopped running after that for about 18 months. That’s when I discovered trail running and the NF Endurance Challenge races. Immediately it all clicked...running, love of nature, the trail community…trail running was perfect for me. I ran the NFEC DC half marathon in 2014 and again in 2015. Two weeks later I took on the NFEC NY race at Bear Mountain and it kicked my ***! That’s when I realized I needed to actually train if I wanted to run trails for real. Within a few months I had stepped up my training big time. I completed the Big Schloss 50k as my first ever ultra in September 2015 and then found my way to the DC Capital Striders "Wolfpack" and VHTRC groups. Everything took off from there and I haven’t looked back. I would say the accomplishment I’m most proud of is completing the Beast Series in my first full year ultra-running and then winning the VHTRC Rookie of the Year award last month. I would never have imagined being able to physically accomplish the races I did in that time frame and to be recognized by the incredibly talented and competitive group at VHTRC was a HUGE honor to me.

What are your future running goals?

I am definitely excited about using trail running as a way to explore new places and meet new people. I raced A LOT in 2016. An ultra-marathon almost every other weekend. I’m hoping to do more running with a cause or purpose rather than to just compete. I’d love to start guiding trail running trips in WV, probably my favorite place to be, but really just want to promote the benefits of trail running and the amazing community we have. It has made such a difference in my life and I want to spread that happiness to others as well. I still have some races planned in 2017; but far fewer and in more beautiful, remote destinations like Moab.

You have a business? House of Steep?  Can you share a bit more about this?  

House of Steep is absolutely a passion interest for me. It’s a wonderful tea café featuring high quality loose leaf teas and custom blends. In addition, we offer foot soak and reflexology services. It’s a very connected and caring atmosphere. As a runner, taking the time for a soak with Epsom salts, essential oils and herbs can be an incredibly relaxing and beneficial treatment. I encourage all my friends to try it. Add in a reflexology or massage session with one of our top notch therapists and it’s the ultimate recipe for relaxation. Outside our commercial offerings, Steep is simply a wonderful, loving community where people come together, share ideas and celebrate diversity…much like the trail family we all share. I only took over the business in January but I’m working on building more of a running community there as quickly as possible.

Tell us a little bit more about this week long adventure run in Lebanon?   How can people get involved and learn more?

In May, I’m planning a run across Lebanon on the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) . Created in 2009 with a grant of the US State Dept (USAID), the LMT is the first long distance hiking trail in Lebanon. Over its 295 miles, the trail is bringing diverse communities together, many of them minorities in Lebanon. It is empowering women, youth and families endeavoring to sustain their livelihoods, and to preserve their cultural and natural resources, endangered today by many economic, political, and environmental challenges.

On my first visit to Lebanon nearly twenty years ago, I distinctly remember being stricken with the incredible beauty of the mountains, always visible in the near distance. Sadly, this is not the image most people conjure when imagining Lebanon. Despite this naturally stunning environment, hiking and outdoor activities were not common in Lebanon and opportunities to explore the mountains by anything more than car were never a reality. Likewise, there is not wide public awareness of environmental issues. It would not be for several more years that the LMT would be conceived and implemented providing one of the first real opportunities for long distance hiking in Lebanon.

I’m running to promote awareness of the trail and trail running in general. As part of the campaign, I plan to help raise funds for the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA). The LMTA’s core mission is to develop and protect this corridor of hope, and develop economic opportunities for rural and often marginalized communities, through programs of socially responsible tourism, that safeguards the natural, cultural and historical heritage on the trail-side. In many ways, funding the LMTA will help strengthen a message of inclusion, tolerance, and co-existence that our world much needs today.

To help donate and learn more, please visit