In this new series, the American Trail Running Association recognizes and celebrates trail race volunteers and trail runners 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 Andy Shawver writes, “Vanessa Shawver has become a distinct part of the Colorado Springs running community based on her innovation of the Brewers’ Cup, a competition of almost 40 running events over an 11-month period where teams of 15 runners each from nearly 30 local breweries compete to earn awards and build camaraderie in our community. Vanessa’s dedication to this endeavor has massively increased race attendance at Pikes Peak Road Runners races and brought literally hundreds of new runners to our trails. This is just her latest running “club.” Starting in 2006, Vanessa led various training groups such as Moms in Motion and Garden of the Gods 10 mile training teams. On her own, Vanessa loves to run trails and has completed six marathons along with the Bear Chase 50K trail race. Her passion for the running community is evidenced by her undying energy and enthusiasm for other runners, no matter what level they may be. You can regularly find her out on the trails encouraging and cheering for everyone she meets.”
An interview with Vanessa Shawver by Nancy Hobbs
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Years running trails: 13
Miles per week (MPW) on trails: Varies greatly from zero to 25
Approximate number of trail races run each year: 30
Longest trail race completed: Bear Chase 50K
[NH] What got you into trail running? [VS] When I moved to Colorado Springs in 2005, I fell in love with the beauty of the area and the incredible number of trails which are easily accessible from almost anywhere!
What motivates you to keep running? I like to drink beer, and yet don’t want to weigh 500 pounds and not be able to enjoy an active lifestyle, therefore I need to run off the hops…and the crazy from my mind. I also love being able to motivate others through running because it is such a positive physical outreach, which in turns keeps my own inner demons in check and stops me from sinking into the inevitable pit of despair that we all experience from time to time. Positive physical actions are the best way I’ve found to combat negative emotional reactions.
Have you witnessed any differences between trail running and road running? Trail running feels more free and zen-like to me. I don’t ever run with music so being able to just absorb myself in nature and zone out the world is incredibly therapeutic.
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? It motivates me since we have many incredible world class runners in our area and they are all so down to earth and approachable that it reminds me that running truly is an every man and woman sport. Being good at it doesn’t matter as much as just showing up. You are always welcome into the fold regardless of ability.
What is your opinion of the camaraderie you’ve witnessed in trail racing? It is life changing for so many because fitness is only a gateway to learning self-discipline, personal accountability and the rush of accomplishment from pushing yourself beyond what you thought was possible. I’ve watched individuals and entire family units transform through the trail running community and the Brewers’ Cup competition. The Brewers’ Cup is a beer/running competition in partnership with the Pikes Peak Road Runners that officially began in 2016, after a group of friends had already formed a small Red Leg Brewing team for the Fall Series competition a few years prior. People from other breweries started forming their own small groups and I decided it might be fun to organize something bigger, determine a scoring a tracking method and pit friendly competition among local businesses and running teams. I decided to invite as many breweries as I could and I thought I’d start with 6-7 teams but ended up with 19 the first year and now it’s up to 30 in three years’ time! During this time, we have surmised that there is high correlation between good runners and good beer drinkers. In fact, it’s fair to say that many of the fastest, funniest and most dedicated runners have been regular, enthusiastic patrons of our local breweries and rightly frequent the winner’s podiums of our local races. Therefore, by extending this fun competition and encouraging loyal patronage of our local craft beer establishments, breweries in our local area establish teams of up to 15 runners and need only team shirts and a penchant for fun to join. The group is for runners and walkers of all abilities so whether you are a hardcore runner or coach potato looking for some motivation, accountability, camaraderie and fun — there is likely a spot waiting for you!
What advice would you give to a fellow runner who may be hesitant about entering a trail race? You cannot possibly go wrong entering a trail race. Look at it as a chance to reward yourself for the rat race of life. Line up with what you will find to be instant friends and supporters that will make all the difference in making it to the finish.
People often reward themselves after a hard trail race. What is your post-race indulgence? Beer, beer, and maybe some more beer.
Do you have a favorite motivational trail race story to share? My favorite story is of my youngest son when he was about five. I entered him in the Kokopelli Kids trail race which was a very short distance. However, he was very awkward and slow but always flailed along with a giant smile on his face. He was coming down the home stretch and his sister went out to run him to the finish. He was the second to last kid and as soon as he crossed the finish line, he turned around, pointed to the last runner and then with an even bigger smile told me, “I beat HER!” While it probably isn’t the best sportsmanship to point out the last kid, I was impressed that while I’ve seen so many others beat themselves up for not being faster (including myself), he chose to see it as a success that he achieved ONE particular goal, which was to beat the last runner. It always reminds me to be positive and respect what I HAVE achieved instead of what I have NOT.