Runners Of Vermont is an ongoing series here at the VTRunCo where we get to meet and start to get to know some of the amazing people that call Vermont home and share our affinity for running. So, sit back and enjoy. The people profiled here are the main reason Vermont is such a great place to live and run. Also, if you know someone that lives and runs in Vermont who you think should be profiled here… Let us know. We’d love to be introduced and give them the opportunity to share their perspective on Vermont’s running scene.
Name: Will Robens
Occupation: Event coordinator
Location: Hyde Park,VT
Hometown/Birthplace: Charlottesville, VA
Website: www.catamountultra.com & www.trappmountainmarathon.com
How did you first get involved in running and what was it that kept you coming back? Did you develop your habit easily, or was it something you had to work at?
I ran cross country in high school. Basically because my friends did it… It was painful at first, but once I got in shape I loved it. I didn’t realize it would become so important to me back then, but it has become an essential part of my life. Running helps me focus, relax, and makes me a happier person. When I can’t find time for a run, I am pretty grumpy. Now I know that even a short run almost always improves my day in one way or another!
Racing… Did you start racing right from the beginning? What has been your favorite or best racing experience… Your worst… Why?
I did in high school and really enjoyed the competition back then. I didn’t run at all in college, and only sporadically for a few years after that until signing up for my first marathon in Seattle in 2002. I finished and was hooked on distance races. After that I had what I consider my best race to date in the Leavenworth Half Marathon in Washington. It was relatively small but I finished in the top 5 which was exiting and unexpected.
Do you have a favorite distance…Why?
The 100 mile race distance is my current main focus. I love the fact that it’s an adventure every time. Even if you show up well trained, mentally prepared, and geared out and supported, you might not finish. But if you do, it feels like you have accomplished something that you shouldn’t necessarily have been able to. I don’t think there are enough experiences like that in life.
Any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
Lots of coffee.
Non-racing experiences… Besides racing and training, what are some other ways you enjoy running, or running has improved your life? Your favorite non-racing experience… Your worst?
I really love the community that is built through running. Most of my best friends I have either met through running, or I have dragged along running enough that they are runners on their own now. My most recent favorite was a group of runners with a bunch of kids getting together to run, and take turns kid sitting. That kind of community is hard to find! There have been lots of training runs that have been crappy….dehydration, not enough food, getting lost, frostbite, blisters, etc are all a part of running regularly in VT. However, those runs are the ones that I often feel the most satisfied by after the fact.
Running In Vermont… What do you love about it? What do you wish was different?
I love trail running, and VT has a ton! I do love snow, but I also find myself missing dirt trails by about mid February.
Do you have a favorite route/trail here in Vermont? This doesn’t have to be a route you run regularly. We’re looking for something you think is special and think other people should experience.
On of my recent favorites is the section of Long Trail that starts in Codding Hollow and crosses Laraway Mountain outside of Johnson. It’s a steep climb up but a really runnable, gradual downhill on the other side. With an incredible view on top! Plus you can connect a spur trail to a section of dirt road and make a great loop!
During a typical New England winter what do you do to stay in shape, keep motivated, and have fun? Do you continue to run? Do you engage in any other activities?
I try to keep running, mostly on plowed dirt roads where they have sanded but not salted. I love backcountry skiing and conveniently it is great cross training for running. All the skinning up in winter pays major hill climbing dividends in the summer!
Can you provide some advice for running during the cooler months then into and through winter?
Run with friends!
Do you have a mantra or strategy to get you out the door when you don’t feel like running, through those tough moments in training, or during a long event?
I mostly think about what I am going to eat afterwards. It always tastes better after a run.
Favorite/best piece of running gear you own or wished you owned?
Patagonia Houdini jacket is a Vermont off-season must.
Favorite thing to eat during a long run/race?
Favorite aid station food?
Favorite reward (do you do anything to treat yourself… food or other) after a long training cycle/race?
I eat all the food…all at once.
Next season what event or events are you are most looking forward to… Why?
The Moosalamoo Ultra in Goshen VT. It’s small and quirky and the community aspect is really great. Lots of folks camp out before and after the race. Plus the course is challenging and beautiful.
What are 2-3 Vermont running events/races that people should check out?
What’s the best piece of running or training advice you’ve ever received?
Try not to take yourself too seriously.
Do you have any running/training tips or tricks you’d like to share?
Run with friends!
Who is a Vermont runners that inspire you… Why?
Jack Pilla. He is a really accomplished runner, but more importantly, he always seems like he is having a blast!
Anyone out there you want to give a shout out to? Sponsors/Friends/Partners/Coac hes/Etc… Why are they important to you?
As an event director I couldn’t possibly put together great running events without the help of a ton of family members, friends, sponsors and partnering organizations. These people make the running community what it is and make me want to be a part of it. Most importantly though, I would have to appreciate my wife and kids for always tolerating long and frequent training runs, and my late night race planning obsession that has allowed running to be such a big part of my life.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far. Stay tuned for our next installment of Runners Of Vermont. Our goal is to post a new interview every week or so until we’ve profiled everyone that lives and runs in Vermont!
Train Smart. Run Well. Do Good.