By Donald Quinn
XTERRA Trail Run Intern
Matt Haley has been dominating the XTERRA Georgia trail race series for quite some time now, having finished on the podium in every race he's entered. Says Matt, “I keep coming back to the XTERRA Georgia Series because Tim Schroer and the crew from Dirty Spokes Productions put on great races. I love the atmosphere they create, the community they have built, and the courses they design. XTERRA Georgia offers a little bit of everything and that’s a fun change from my day to day running, which is mostly done on the road. The series takes advantage of some of the best trails in the metro Atlanta and North Georgia areas.
I also really enjoy the fact that it is a series not just a single day event. It’s fun to see how everyone progresses over the course of the series and there are always some really good battles both at the front of the races and down through the age groups. I know that every time I run an XTERRA Georgia race it’s going to be on a well thought out course that’s going to be both fun and challenging.”
Despite his long streak of success, Matt is still focused on challenging himself with new goals:
“My future racing goals are to keep progressing and keep trying to test myself with different distances and different races. I want to defend my XTERRA Georgia and Dirty Spokes trail series title and I’d like to take a shot at a couple of trail races up in the Chattanooga area; they have some really cool races up there. I would also like to lower my half marathon PR; right now it’s 1:13 but I think I can get down to 1:10 or faster. And I’d like to figure out a marathon to take a shot at; I haven’t been able to put the training together to run one, but it’s something that’s always been in the back of my mind as something I’d like to do. Really I just want to keep challenging myself.”
But don't get too confident challengers, Matt says he will still be back for the XTERRA Georgia series this year: “Yes, I am hoping to defend my series title. I’ve already got the XTERRA dates marked on my race calendar. Winning the series last year was one of my goals and I had some really good battles, some good days and some bad days, but I was really proud to be able to be at the front of every race, especially since it’s a long series, beginning in September and finishing up in May. Winning the series is definitely one of my goals for 2014/15.”
Even though he's a high-caliber XTERRA competitor, Matt still takes time to give advice to those who are new to the sport of trail running, saying, “Ditch the GPS/watch or at least don’t worry about time/distance/pace. Just go out and run by feel and have fun. Enjoy being out on the trail and all that comes with it. If you obsess over the pace or the distance you’re not going to enjoy trail running for what it is. It’s different. Embrace that part of it.”
This philosophy of enjoying running has without a doubt contributed to Matt's success on the trails. When asked about his favorite race in the Georgia series Matt said, “That’s a tough question. They all have parts of them that I really enjoy, but if I had to pick one race I would say Little Mulberry Park. It’s one of my favorite spots to run because it has a ton of variety. The race features a little bit of everything: it has paved paths, gravel trails, parts of the high school cross country course, and of course trails. It has a couple tough climbs, but it also has some fast sections where you can really get rolling. Now that I’m talking about it, it’s hands down my favorite race in the series. Even the weather is normally perfect for it.”
So beware challengers for the 2014/15 XTERRA Georgia series championship: Matt Haley is on the trail, and he's loving it!