Matthew Longworth (pictured at right in blue) of Charlotte, N.C., has been the overall winner at both of the races held so far in the XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series. Here is a Q&A interview with the 33-year-old after his latest victory, the XTERRA Beech Mountain Trail Run on July 27.
Q: How would you describe the course and conditions?
Longworth: It is the most strenuous and challenging course I have ever raced on. Especially this year with the heavy fog and then the wet conditions added to already being one mile in elevation. Now you would think that by 8 a.m. that it would be light outside, even in a dense forest, but the fog blocked out the light so much that at times it made foot placement between the roots and rocks a treacherous gamble. This definitely slowed the pace down trying to avoid a sprained ankle.
Q: How would you describe the race with the other leaders? At what point did you break ahead?
Longworth: At the beginning of the race I knew I didn't want to push the pace up the long incline and that I would try to encourage a more sensible pace than the usual made dash to get position before entering the single track portion of the course. It was much easier this year to be patient and remember that there was still a long ways to go. I entered the woods fourth and at one point actually asked, "Is the kid in front running the long race?" I asked because he was beginning to open up a gap to where we couldn't see him and I was trapped on the single track behind two other runners. After I could no longer tolerate the lead getting so far ahead, I knew I better pass soon. I finally had an opportunity to do so. Once I caught up with Michael, the lead runner, I realized who he was after hearing a volunteer say his name. He led nearly the whole way until we came out of the woods and onto the asphalt road, which was all downhill to the finish line. That's when I made my move, knowing we had only a little over half a mile left to go. A year ago I regretted not putting myself in a position to let my leg speed give me an opportunity to race to the finish. I knew I didn't want a repeat of last year's performance. So as soon as we hit the road I was off like the roadrunner.
Q: How much did your experience from last year come into play for this year's race, especially in terms of knowing the course?
Longworth: Last year's experience did help a lot in knowing how to pace myself. I was also mindful of the altitude difference, knowing that I would have to hold back from the rate that I normally covered ground at. The previous year's experience taught me that I would be okay if I took it easy up the steep hill at the beginning and ignored the urge to separate from the pack. Last year I entered the woods first and finished third, this year entered in fourth and finished first.
Q: What was it like for you to run with a couple of high school "kids" in the lead pack?
Longworth: The age of the competition didn't make a difference to me. I was cognitive of it, but thought nothing of it. To be transparent, last year it did bother me that a teenager passed me, with just a little over a mile left in the race, and best me.
Q: Any final thoughts?
Longworth: Overall, the XTERRA Beech Mountain Trail Run was an experience that will be retold as if it were a war story, for years to come. It was quite the battle to fight. To anyone who finished that course: You have a warrior's spirit. To conquer that mountain it took a lot of courage and guts.