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GU Spotlight: The Older the Better
The older the XTERRA Malibu Creek Challenge Trail Run gets, the better it gets.
Hans Unger knows the feeling.
The 10th running of the Malibu Creek Challenge is scheduled for May 7 at Malibu Creek State Park. More than 800 runners of various ages and skill levels are expected to participate. Registration is still open at www.trailrace.com and www.xterratrailrun.com.
One of the interesting entries is the 68-year-old Unger (pictured above courtesy SamLafoca/ www.SupersportsPhotography.com ) who started trail running after he turned 60, and is now a Southern California regional champion.
“When I hit my 60s, I started to get heavy, so I had to do something about my weight and running seemed like an easy way to do it,” said Unger, who resides in Sylmar, Calif. “It took me about a year to really get into it and lose the weight. But after that, I wanted to keep running and that’s when I started looking for races and I found XTERRA.”
In recent years, Unger has also found success in XTERRA races. Since the start of the 2009 season, Unger has entered 14 XTERRA Trail Run races. He has won his age group at 13 of those races, and shed 30 pounds along the way.
And he’s not just fast for his age. He’s fast, period.
For example, at the XTERRA Black Mountain Trail Run on April 10, Unger placed a respectable 114th overall in the 15-kilometer race, beating more than 140 other runners. The field featured 256 total runners, so Unger finished in the top half of the overall standings, well ahead of several runners in the 20s age groups.
“I try to keep track of some of the guys in my (age) group, because you get to know each other through the races,” Unger said. “But it always feels good to beat some of the younger ones.”
Making it more impressive, Unger is not some retiree who has lots of free time to train. In fact, he is a full-time mechanical engineer who works on various aircrafts. Due to his work schedule, Unger actually doesn’t put in as many miles during the week as he’d like.
“Some days, I’ll just run a 5K or something short like that during lunch,” he said. “I really don’t run on trails until I get to the race. Sometimes I’ll train in a park, but that’s not the same as a trail. I think that might be why I like the (XTERRA) races so much. It’s my chance to get away and be in nature and run with all those people away from the traffic and the buildings.”
It is that same appeal that has made the Malibu Creek Challenge one of the most successful events on the entire XTERRA Trail Run national circuit.
Brennan Lindner and his Generic Events crew have seen the participation numbers more than double for the Malibu Creek event in the past few years. Lindner said part of the attraction is the “family atmosphere,” which includes a post-race breakfast spread for all participants.
He added that there are other draws, including the fact that scenic Malibu serves as the backdrop. “Who doesn’t want to hang out in Malibu?” Lindner said with a laugh.
In addition, the 22-kilometer long course at Malibu Creek is one of the most challenging events in the XTERRA SoCal Series. As the veteran Unger stated: “It’s really tough. I would rate it first or second out of all the races (in the SoCal Series).”
The May 7 race at Malibu Creek will also be the final event on the 2011 XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series, so it will be the last chance for runners to earn points for the season. The top age-group runners in the final standings will receive a free entry to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Ogden, Utah, in September. To enter the Malibu Creek Challenge, or learn more about the SoCal Series, please visit www.trailrace.com or www.xterratrailrun.com.
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