ATRA’s View from the Pack series presented by RaidLight shines a spotlight on Collin Yarborough

In this series of articles, the American Trail Running Association recognizes and celebrates trail race volunteers and trail runners like Collin Yarborough who have dedicated themselves as everyday athletes to grow trail running in their community. “View from the Pack” is supported by ATRA corporate member RaidLight.

Nominator Emily Zbehlik writes, “As an athlete, student, and Marine Corps veteran, Collin Yarborough puts his best foot forward no matter what. Collin’s runs are not only driven by distance and time, but the power of forward momentum. Collin views running as a tool to commune with the present moment and encourages others to do the same. Collin’s leadership in the outdoor community is apparent in his most recent endeavor, a 110-mile run for veterans’ suicide awareness. Through fundraising and advocacy, he illuminated the struggles of veterans in transition to a wide audience of supporters who admire his heart and commitment. His miles made a difference. Although Collin has completed some serious missions, he remains humble and gregarious. He always comes back with a smile after a jog. Collin continues to strive for new challenges, new trails, and new ways to leave the world a little better than he found it.”

Meet Collin Yarborough
Age: 25
Hometown: Siler City, NC
Years Running Trails: 7
MPW on Trails: 15-25 miles
Number of Trail Races run each year: 1-2, started my racing career in 2017
Longest Trail Race Completed: 110-mile endurance run over 5 days for the charity organization Hope for the Warriors

What got you into trail running?
I started trail running during high school when I joined the cross country team. I had always run on roads, but something about running in the woods has always brought me happiness.

What motivates you to keep running?
It’s my stress reliever. I love the way my body feels after a long run. I’ve been using trail running as a way to help cope with difficult times in my life as well.

Have you witnessed any differences between trail running and road running?
For me, the difference is being around people versus being secluded. However, when I’m trail running I feel more connected to the earth and my surroundings than I do when I’m road running. I road run when I’m trying to fit a run in between classes.

Trail running is a sport where you can line up at the start with some of the best trail runners in the world. Does this intimidate you, foster a sense of inclusion, or fall somewhere in between?
I think I fall somewhere in between. It can be a little intimidating knowing you might be racing with some of the best, however, they have been doing this a lot longer than I have. I also feel included knowing that I am also running this race with top runners and that it doesn’t matter your skill set. What matters is having fun with people that all love the same thing…running.

What is your opinion of the camaraderie you’ve witnessed in trail racing?
Camaraderie is helping a fellow runner with just simple words of encouragement, or talking them through a steep ascent. You may have different goals as individuals, but the overall goal everyone is trying to achieve is reaching the finish line. I witnessed a runner take a nasty fall during a half-marathon trail race, and everyone stopped to help this runner back on their feet. Putting aside who was in the lead, we are all still humans.

What advice would you give to a fellow runner who may be hesitant about entering a trail race?
Everyone has their own goals at the race, so don’t be intimidated. Pick a race you feel comfortable to run and go for it. You also don’t have to run the whole thing! It’s okay to walk during a trail race!

People often reward themselves after a hard trail race. What is your post-race indulgence?
I actually have two indulge meals. The first is a large cheese pizza. After my 110-mile run, I ate the whole pie in one sitting. The other is Pad Thai with fried tofu. Yum!

Do you have a favorite motivational trail race story to share?
I have always used trail running as an outing for any difficult time I’m having with anything. It clears my head so I can think things through. When I learned that a friend I served in the military with had passed away by taking his own life, I was crushed. It hit me hard because this wasn’t the first time this had happened. So, I did what I always do and took off running on the trail thinking to myself that this was the last straw…I was tired of losing friends.

During my run that late evening it hit me that I should put together a trail race that raised awareness for mental health and transitions for military and veterans. In order for this to gain attention I knew I would have to do something big. I would run 22 miles – a number which represents the national average of veteran suicides per year – for 5 days, equaling 110 miles. My running crew – Richard Hannon, Cory Willoughby, Gennaro Ringley – and I partnered with the charity Hope for the Warriors and raised over $2,000 in about 45 days.

Over those 5 days of running, I pushed my body through some of the most difficult of conditions. I learned that no matter how tough things may get in life, if you reach out to someone, there is help. It’s okay to ask.