As the 2016-2017 XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series comes to a close with XTERRA Allatoona Creek on August 12th, runners are hoping their performances this year are fast enough to earn a free ticket to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Ogden on September.
Matt Haley is one of these runners. He has been the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run regional champ every year since 2013. He is currently leading the series in his 30-34 age group and he has no plans to slow down. We recently caught up with Matt to talk trails, training, and how to make time for work when your full-time love is running.
Q. How did you get into trail running?
A. I got into trail racing about six or seven years ago when I moved to Georgia and was looking for places to run. I saw this big green spot on Google Maps about 30 minutes from my apartment and I went to check it out. On the trails, I stumbled on a sign for the XTERRA Thrill in the Hills race at Fort Yargo State Park put on by Tim Schroer's company, Dirty Spokes Productions. I've run nearly every race Dirty Spokes has put on since then.
Q. What keeps you coming back?
A. One of the things that I like about what Tim has done with the XTERRA series is that it lasts pretty much all year and has a variety of distances. I also like the challenge that it provides - everything from 10k to a half marathon and even a full marathon. Because it spans most of the calendar you have to stay race ready all year.
It helps that Tim and his family (Linda is the real superstar!) put on fantastic events. That's really what keeps me coming back. They are on top of every detail and that makes for a fun experience for everyone, whether you are at the front of the race or the back. I've run a lot of races and I've yet to come across anyone else that puts on a better event.
The events have continued to grow too, which is awesome for runners in this area - but maybe not so awesome for me. I used to be the young guy that was out there flying. Now there are more and more 24-year-old kids coming out and smoking everyone.
Q. How do you stay motivated to train all year?
A. With my job, I get incredibly busy in the fall. For a couple years, my running suffered. I'd get lazy and slack off or just say that I was too busy to run. Once I started doing XTERRA races, with the season beginning in the fall, I had new motivation to make time for those runs. Sure I might not be firing on all cylinders in the fall, but knowing that I've got a trail race coming up makes it a lot easier to get out the door and keep training.
Q. What's next for you this year?
A. I will be traveling for work on the weekends this fall, which kind of limits my options, but I'll be at as many of the XTERRA Georgia races as possible. It's motivating and also a nice reminder to have fun and enjoy it. Tim has a couple of night races scheduled for this fall that I am hoping to do. I've never done a night race before so that sounds like it would be a fun challenge.
Q. What advice would you give to someone just getting into trail running?
A. I would say that if someone wants to try trail running, XTERRA Georgia is a great place to start. The XTERRA Harbins Park race, which kicks off the season each September, is a great introductory race. It's on a nice, wide hiking trail with rolling hills and the terrain isn't very technical so it's a great way to dip your toes into train running. The XTERRA Battle at Big Creek is a must do race for any train runner in the Atlanta area. It's tough with a lot of up and down and a good amount of roots and rocks, but it also has some fast sections. It's a great mix of everything. And then my personal favorite race is XTERRA Little Mulberry. It's a mix of trails and cross country course with a couple of good climbs and it's in early November so it's usually a perfect day for running.