I was born and raised in a small town called Hemingway, South Carolina. Home of tobacco, pit pulled pork barbecue (the best around) and seafood. What can I say, we love to eat good. Clearly, those items don’t describe what you need to become a runner, although the food is great post-run.
After high school, I left Hemingway and moved around. I lived in different places and finally landed in New Orleans, Louisiana. Home of the Saints, Gumbo, Jambalaya and Étouffée. What can I say, I seem to find my way to good food. I was living in New Orleans, about a year after Hurricane Katrina and went to work at a shipyard.
Me, Join The Navy? No Way
During my time at the shipyard, a friend of mine convinced me to join the Navy. He said to me that he remembers me telling him that I had had several jobs in just a short period of time. I had finished a technical degree but would still struggle to get a job until I got to the shipyard in New Orleans. I lost that job due to sleeping in and maybe a few other things. He told me it felt like I needed the life-changing discipline, opportunity, and medical and dental benefits that the Navy provided. It was a heart-to-heart discussion that included him telling me that he could see the trajectory of my life, even though I couldn’t. He felt that if I didn’t make a change that I was going to keep repeating the failures of lost jobs until I wasn’t able to get any more opportunities. This was a wake-up call because I wasn’t able to make decisions about my life, because I didn’t have to. In the military, I wouldn’t have a choice.
What isn’t mentioned here is that I was 28 years old when this conversation happened, plus I didn’t know how to swim. Those first few months in the Navy were hard. VERY HARD. I was in Illinois, older than most of the men around me, didn’t know how to swim and was lacking in self-confidence.
Fail Navy Weigh-In. Start Trail Running.
Throughout my time in the Navy, I wasn’t the most fit soldier. I made it through a few years that way until one day I failed the Navy weigh-in. There are two choices in that moment. One was to feel pity for myself and the other was to do something about it.
I chose to do something about it and I got started on the path of the trail running endurance life. That was 2013 and I still carry that with me to this day. Most people will tell you that they would just want to get in shape, get better at running and to never return to that way of life. I’m not different except that I was graced with the opportunity to get connected with Bonita Road Running and Coach Tony.
The Bonita Road Running club, BRR, had Tuesday and Thursday morning training sessions. We would meet at Rohr Park and train, but Rohr Park also had trails. The passion for trail running began then.
The Trails Are Home For Me
Those first few trail runs were all that I needed to know that this was home for me. I enjoyed being out there and started preparing for my first trail race. It was during that time that a friend told me about a few other trails to run at. Learning about those trails, being outside enjoying the challenge and fresh air. Honestly, it was a wrap at that moment. I knew I didn’t want to run anywhere else but on the trails.
I got involved with other running groups in the area. Groups like the YMCA South Bay trail runners got me further entrenched. That groups runs trails for breakfast, lunch, dinner and that snack we didn’t know we wanted. That’s not to say that I don’t run on the road because I do, but the trails are my personal playground.
I love the different scenery, the community, the peace, the calm, dirt and nature. I even love the beatdown from the trails. The trails have challenged me to be my best, kept me on my toes and most of all…..the trails have kept me alive.
What Trail Running Means To Me
Since I’ve started trail running, I’ve been asked what I want to accomplish. That is a deep question to which I don’t have one answer. I want to show some like me, coming from Hemingway, South Carolina, that if I can run trails so can they. Being a part of a movement and represent for black people is also important to me. There are black people out there running trails and I want to be a part of that community performing well at trail and ultra running. And by performing well, I mean…..showing up. Lead by example.
I want to let those reading this article that if you’re going to pursue the trail and ultra route, get those miles in but more importantly, have your reason for doing what you’re doing. Enjoy the moment, respect the trails, be patient, don’t rush. HAVE FUN. You will fall, but keep getting back up.
And one last thing, I wanted to share. With what we have endured since the end of 2019 and during COVID, I have been through a transformation. Running had started out as a personal reason and has become a passion. Bigger than that it has become a purpose.
I now run in servitude, gratitude and strive to be better. Join me in this movement at Live Run Boundless.