Please welcome the seventeenth American Trail Running Association (ATRA) Trail Ambassador presented by CamelBak, and fifth in 2018. At age 40, Floridian Carrie Meng has amassed an impressive resume in our sport. Her passion for trails and can-do spirit is evident in all that she does, be it race directing, trail building, volunteering, or organizing group outings to relay races. She is described by nominator Jessie Magee as someone, “Always up for adventure.”
Wrote Magee, “Carrie is an avid explorer of new trails, always asking fellow runners where they’ve been and what they enjoyed. She has run trails in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Washington, Georgia, North Carolina and West Virginia and recently hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail, mostly by herself. She enjoys travelling to trail races all over the country to appreciate different terrain and challenges and has planned multiple group trips to trail relay races. She maintains a social media presence on multiple sites, posting pictures, discussing different trails, making and receiving recommendations, and asking and answering questions. If anyone is interested in trying out one of our trails but doesn’t want to attempt it alone – whether a runner, hiker or biker – she makes herself available to join them and show them the way and teach them about trail etiquette.”
Meng grew up in Hampton and for the past 12 years has called Flager Beach home. Although she spent lots of time on the trails, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she really got into trail running and racing. “I love being in the woods,” said Meng. “The change in terrain and scenery is stimulating…it adds a challenge the road doesn’t. I love the sounds of nature and feeling the earth beneath my feet.
“I run trail races pretty often all over the country – as short as 5k and as long as 50k. So far my favorites have been Mt Rainier Ragnar Trail Relay and the SWAMP 50k, which is my home trail,” she said. “Mt Rainier views were unbeatable and the elevation very challenging. The Swamp is where I run the most, the place I call my church. I feel at home racing there.”
Meng not only races on the trails, she has been an event director for the past ten years. She worked for event companies for three years before starting her business, Triumph Races, which includes mostly running and biking events. “I picked ‘Triumph’ because I believe success and being triumphant is different for every person presented with a challenge, whether it be a race, or in daily life,” said Meng. “I wanted to create events where every individual felt successful and contributing to something good. I take pride in hosting events with a personal touch, exceeding expectations and being incredibly organized.”
Meng also owns Wild Women’s Adventures, a company that encourages more women to spend time outdoors and empowers them with skills to camp, hike, run, bike, etc.
Volunteerism has been part of Meng’s mindset since her foray into the sport. “Volunteering at races is rewarding in the way you get to help people accomplish their goals and support something you love,” said Meng.
She also loves doing trail work. “This means cleaning and maintaining trails,” said Meng. “It’s probably my favorite volunteer work. It gives me a chance to be outside, be active and contribute to something so many people enjoy. I belong to the Graham Swamp Trail Crew and we maintain my favorite trail, Graham Swamp. It is a challenging mountain biking and running trail less than 4 miles from my house. It’s known all over Florida, and beyond, for it’s surprising change in elevation and challenging terrain. Being a part of this club and working on the trail is extremely rewarding when you see people having so much fun on the trail.”
As a lifelong Floridian, Meng is no stranger to hurricanes and the aftermath of devastation, something she experienced first-hand in her home town. “Our trails took a huge beating the past two years with two hurricanes,” said Meng. “This meant A LOT of trail clean up. I spent countless hours clearing trees, limbs, debris off several trails in Flagler. I met so many nice, like-minded people during this time. All of us with the common goal of creating and maintaining a space so many people enjoy.”
Added Magee, “If it wasn’t for Carrie and her crew, the trails would have been closed for months. We had so many fallen trees blocking the trail it seemed an impossible task. Carrie’s organizational skills as well as sweat and love, had the trails cleared before many of the private homes. It was a much-needed return to normal for our community to have our trails open again.”
From the experience, Meng learned some important lessons, “Doing trail work really makes you appreciate what goes into building and maintaining a trail – erosion, rain water management, sand mitigation as examples. It’s a labor of love that takes countless volunteer hours. Making the connection between animals, humans and nature is also a great lesson when you’re building using natural materials. You get a sense of pride when you look at your work, knowing your efforts improved an area that people spend quality time on. There’s no doubt of the benefits of being outside, physically and mentally. Anytime I contribute to more people spending time in nature I know I’m doing something good.”
From trail running, Meng has learned other important lessons. Primarily, “To pick up your feet!” said Meng with a chuckle. “I’ve learned that everyone has a different reason for being out there. Being out on a trail and away from the craziness of a busy technological driven world helps keep people grounded and connected with our earth. I’ve learned a lot about the fundamentals too – trail running form, gear, nutrition and hydration.”
Her advice to others getting into the sport includes the following, “Start by doing some runs with a group or experienced partner. Feel comfortable running in the woods, dealing with roots, rocks, trees, etc. Start with a manageable race distance, one they feel comfortable with. I think everyone should incorporate trail running in their normal running routine. I often discuss the benefits of running trails that you can’t get on the road. I attribute regular trail running to staying injury free.”
Meng’s goals in 2018 include lots of time on the trails. “I’m currently directing the Glamping program at the Ragnar Trail races all over the country,” she said. “I’m building and growing that program, which is my primary focus right now. In November, I will hold the 2nd annual Trail Fest at Graham Swamp (running biking hiking yoga music), which is one I own and the big event I’m training for is Trans Rockies in August – 120 miles over 6 days – all trails in the Colorado Mountains.”