Barbara Ezell didn’t start running until she was 45. But you’d never know that by looking at her. Not only is she the epitome of health and fitness, Ezell is a three-time XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series Champ, has been on three world duathlon teams with Team USA, and has competed at seven national duathlon events.
“I used to do trail runs to keep in shape for duathlons in the winter,” said Ezell. “But for the past two years, I’ve been competing in XTERRA trail running all year round.”
Ezell is an intensive care nurse who works four 12-14 hour shifts a week. Additionally, she is a fitness instructor at her local gym and teaches Les Mills’ RPM Cycling and Body Pump. While it’s hard to find time to train with her busy schedule, Ezell makes time.
“You just have to figure it out,” she said. “I love running so I find time because my body wants it. Once you get into it, you gotta have it.”
Ezell’s job as a nurse is stressful, and running has become an antidote.
“I don’t listen to music when I run,” she said. “I love getting out on the trails and listening to the birds and the creek and being in nature.”
Yet, while Ezell runs for the love of it, she also has a strong competitive spirit. In the 2018 XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series, Ezell won her age group at XTERRA UNG, XTERRA Fort Yargo, and XTERRA Harbins Park. She placed third at XTERRA Allatoona Creek, Thrill in the Hills, and Mt. Tabor. In the 2019 XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series, she won her age group in XTERRA Harbins Park, Battle at Big Creek, and Little Mulberry.
Last year she competed in the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, and this year, Ezell traveled to Hawaii for the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. Of the two races, Ezell felt that Worlds was tougher, even though Nationals was at altitude.
“At XTERRA Nationals, I felt like I was out of breath before I left the parking lot, but I still had 13 miles to go,” said Ezell. “But at Worlds, the mud was so slick, especially at mile 10. I began to hear the sounds at the finish line but I still had a long way to go and my body was so tired.”
Yet, despite the effort the trails demands, Ezell found an equal amount of camaraderie and adventure.
“At one point on the course at Worlds, I looked up and it was like a wall of mud. I had no idea how I was going to get up. You just had to start crawling. Then a man next to me grabbed a little stump and then reached over and took my arm. I told him, ‘You don’t have to do this. If I fall, I’ll take you with me.’ He said, ‘You fall, I fall, so what.’ I never did find out his name. I really wanted to thank him for taking my arm and helping me up.”
Ezell said she finds the same kindness on her home trails in Georgia at the XTERRA races produced by Tim Schroer.
“The people are so kind,” said Ezell. “It has the feeling of a family. Everyone cheers for everyone else and Tim knows everyone’s name. And the races are so professional and well-organized.”
In Hawaii at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, Ezell took a little bit of her XTERRA family with her. Fellow Georgia trail runner, Andrea Morgan, gave Ezell her XTERRA jersey to wear at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. In return, Ezell made Andrea proud by finishing third in her 60-64 age group and with a smile on her face.
"Barbara, Nozomi Wade, and I are age-group competitors in the XTERRA Georgia races," said Andrea Morgan. "When I heard that Barbara was headed to Kualoa Ranch, I thought she might enjoy wearing my XTERRA jersey. She did that tank proud! For the three of us Georgia girls, she added another podium finish! I'm so proud of her and appreciative that my shirt took another trip around the ranch even if I did not."
“It was such a tough race,” said Ezell. “My eyes were on the trail the entire time and my shoes are still full of mud. But it was also incredibly beautiful. I’m so excited and I’m still flying high. I want to go back next year and do it again.”