Please welcome the twenty seventh American Trail Running Association (ATRA) Trail Ambassador presented by CamelBak, and our third in 2019. A native of Upstate New York, 32 year old Laura Howard, is a runner, volunteer, and tireless advocate for the trails.
Mort Nace nominated Laura and wrote, “Laura is an all-star in our trail running community – and not just in Rochester but wherever friends are training/racing. When she isn’t racing herself she is the first to offer her time to help in any capacity, bringing that smile and endless energy of hers.”
Ellie Pell added, “Laura is someone who I’ve known seeing her at #TrailsRoc events for a few years, but until recently did not understand the depth and passion in her personality. She is quite simply the best.”
Howard grew up in the small town of Honeoye Falls, located just 20 miles south of her current home in Rochester, which she enjoys with her husband Jonathan. She has worked for the past nine years as a mental health counselor.
Howard was introduced to trail running in her local community. “I started trail running when #TrailsRoc started up seven years ago,” said Howard. “I had originally been a road runner, but found the trail fit my personality better. I run trails pretty exclusively except for the necessity of a training run on the road from time to time.”
#TrailsRoc is a non-profit trail running organization that focuses on giving back to the community in a number of ways as Howard explained, “#TrailsRoc helps people learn to trail run at our three weekly free runs, and provides a sense of community and connection to those that share a love of outdoor spaces. Our profits come from our trail races, which are affordable and low key. The money goes back into the community through trail work at the local parks, donations to other trail organizations, and emergency response organizations, as well as sponsorship for local runners to reach their dreams.”
Howard has been part of race directing teams for the past four years, and prior to that, she frequently volunteered at events in other capacities. She is the volunteer coordinator and a course manager for Twisted Branch 100k, as well as the Special Event Organizer for #TrailsRoc. She has experience crewing friends at every distance up to 100 miles.
Howard, a runner herself, said, “It is not personally sustainable to run all of the races, but I enjoy being out supporting other runners and spending time with friends at the aid stations. It is an incredible feeling to hang out in the woods, cheering on people to accomplish things they probably have doubts about.”
When asked to pick a favorite race, Howard had a tough time choosing just one. “There are so many great options in our region,” she said. “My top three are #TrailsRoc 0SPF half marathon, Red Newt Racing Cayuga Trails Marathon or Whiteface Sky Races. I haven’t run Twisted Branch YET, but I am sure it will sit on the top of my list as well.”
In addition to running and volunteering at races, Howard is an advocate for protecting and preserving trails. “I do regular trail maintenance with #TrailsRoc in the Monroe County Parks and on the Finger Lakes Trail where Twisted Branch is held,” said Howard. “Giving back to the trails in this way is fulfilling.”
Howard has learned so much from trail running. In fact, she shares, “Things trail running has taught me,” in her blog.
She also has advice for those considering getting into trail running. “Ease in to it and find what about it makes you happy and hold on to that tight,” said Howard. “I would suggest checking out #TrailsRoc TLC (Trail Learning Crew) runs on Sunday mornings to get a feel for the trail, and meet people who are into it so that you can get advice. Let go of the fear, and just put one foot in front of the other, even when it gets hard.”
What does 2019 have in store for Howard? “I have been working to overcome injury for a year and a half, so I am hoping to get some revenge on the Muddy Sneaker course in April 2019,” she said. “I have my eyes set on a few hiking-related goals including some 14ers in Colorado, Great Range Traverse in the ADK, maybe the Pemi loop or Presidential Traverse. I doubt all of that will happen this year, but I will keep dreaming. Otherwise, I plan to be a most of the regular regional races that are lined up to volunteer.”