Saturday, June 8, 2013

Meeting Awesome People Through Trail Running

Jannine Myers

Topic: Tell About Someone Awesome You've Met Through Trail Running

I've met some great people over the years, and some even greater folks through running, but there's one person who immediately came to mind when I saw the topic for this month's Trail Runner Blog Symposium - her name is Virginia Winstone and she is a trail runner who lives in New Zealand.

Virginia - Tarawera Ultramarathon 2013

Typically, when asked to think of someone "awesome" you know, through a sport, there's a tendency to think initially of those who have won awards, or those who have competed at some distinguishable level. I've met one or two trail runners who would fit that bill, but Virginia embodies other traits that I feel are far more inspiring.

I met Virginia a little over two years ago, while running the Tarawera Ultramarathon in New Zealand. We struck up a friendly conversation while running, and what I most admired about her was that she took the time to slow down, chat, and offer encouraging tips. We didn't see each other after the race, but we later became Facebook friends and have kept in touch ever since.

Virginia began running just five years ago, in 2008. She has set an exemplary example of what can be achieved when one finds a goal and purpose. In the book, The Runner's Devotional, one of the authors makes the point that goals with a reason or purpose are those most likely to be achieved. Virginia found her purpose for running after reading the book Running Hot, written by Ultrarunner Lisa Tamati.

Inspired by Lisa's amazing return to running after a crippling back injury, Virginia wanted to break free of what she claims had become a satisfactory, but routine life. She set some running goals, starting out with just a few evening walks and progressing to a 5k race, and in 2010 she ran her first 20k trail race, followed by a full marathon. Those latter two races marked the beginning of a very avid pursuit of trail running and a subsequent active involvement in New Zealand's trail running community.

In 2012, Virginia attempted her first 100-mile race, the Northburn100. At the 90k mark, she took a wrong turn down some slippery turf and wound up fracturing a bone in her foot. Instead of feeling defeated, Virginia says she felt "empowered," and stirred in that moment by a deep desire to not only run more races but to also help others in their quest to do the same.

Just a little more than a year has passed since she experienced that "epiphany," and already her dreams are being realized. Her new business, Thir, which specializes in trail running apparel and gear, was established in March 2012. While not all of the products in Thir’s line-up are currently available, their headbands are on sale in more than ten sporting stores throughout New Zealand. Thir donates a percentage of all product sales to athletes needing assistance with race fees and/or training expenses.

Virginia's interest in helping others within the local trail running community is so genuine that when she met Lisa Tamati at the Northburn 100 in 2012, Lisa instantly took a liking to her. Also dedicated to supporting fellow trail runners and ultramarathoners, Lisa recognized the same zealous spirit in Virginia and in an interesting twist of fate, she asked Virginia to write the introduction for her new book Running To Extremes.

I was able to take a sneak peek at Lisa's book on Amazon, and also read Virginia's introduction. In it, she shares about her rather extraordinary childhood and how she sailed the Pacific with her father, experiencing, she says, "one adventure after another." Virginia credits Lisa for helping her rediscover, through trail running, the adventurous spirit she enjoyed as a child.

I love Virginia's story; it's a story of hope for anyone who dreams of one day doing something that seems impossible. But beyond the victory of setting and achieving life-changing goals, Virginia also reminds us that greater rewards come in the form of helping others, and those who know her, including Ultrarunner Lisa Tamati, will agree that that is something Virginia does very well.

To find out more about Thir, check out their Facebook page here:

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