(September 29, 2005) — Alan Hatch started running and didn't want to stop. So he kept going. And going.
"It was supposed to be one hour," he says, recalling a trail run he made in Mendon Ponds Park soon after moving to the Rochester area five years ago. "Well, some three hours later I finally made it back to where I had parked my car — and without running on the same trail twice."
Hatch didn't get lost. But he did lose himself in the moments.
Trail running will do that to you. The deeper you travel into nature, the farther you want to run away from the rest of the world. It keeps you going.
Gae Orsini will attest to that.
She'd heard trail maven Mort Nace talk about trail running and say the "roads are poison," but she admits: "I never really grasped the meaning of that when roads were the only terrain I knew."
That was until she went off-road a few years ago.
"Now I consistently run — and ride — off-road," says Orsini, 38, of Mendon. "I'm very hooked and have little desire to return to the exhaust, the muffler noises and the dangers associated with sharing the road with automobiles. I prefer the easy access to nature and the soft ground, which has kept me injury-free for the past two years."
Orsini says she'd rather risk tripping over a tree root than "becoming someone's messy hood ornament."
Dennis Vankerkhove, 45, of Rochester, spends about half of his running time off-road.
"I enjoy hiking and running, so trail running is a good mix of both," says Vankerkhove, who also runs with the Genesee Valley Harriers.
"Running on trails (is) much more interesting than the roads and (has) less impact on my legs. Trail running seems less competitive and most of time I am by myself in the woods."
Not that trail running has to be about solitude and oneness with nature.
Vankerkhove was part of a team that finished fourth out of 350 teams at the annual Dances With Dirt 100-kilometer relay Sept. 10 in Hell, Mich. His running mates included Linda Grossman, Ian Webber and Greg Crego of the Rochester area and Al Evans of Corning. Two other Rochester teams finished 20th and 21st, respectively.
Autumn is peak season for trail racing in the Rochester area with the inaugural Out of Bounds Half Marathon Trail Run on Saturday at Bristol Mountain; the 13th annual Ridgewalk & Run on Oct. 16 in Wellsville, Allegany County; and the 12th annual Mendon Trail Run on Nov. 5 in Mendon Ponds Park.
There's also the Rochester Autumn Classic Duathlon, a run-bike-run-bike-run Sunday at Mendon Ponds Park, and the first-year Black Diamond Off-Road Duathlon on Oct. 21 in Victor.
Hatch is doing the Autumn Classic, which precludes him from going to Out of Bounds. However, Orsini is hoping to do the half-marathon.
The Out of Bounds is being organized by Nace and Tim Ratkowski, directors of the grueling and popular Muddy Sneaker 20K Trail Run in Naples every April.
"I downhill and telemark (ski) at Bristol during the winter and it will be fun to see the mountain from a different perspective," Orsini says.
Hatch and Orsini both did the 14-mile trail run at last year's Ridgewalk. "It's a race that's often mentioned in the same sentence as the Muddy Sneaker in terms of scenery and pure difficulty," says Hatch, 30, of Pittsford, who was third among Ridgewalk runners in 2004. "Needless to say, it didn't leave me disappointed in either category."
Hatch enjoys mixing up his training regimen, which includes biking and snowshoe running.
"I always try to hit the trails once or twice a week as a planned or unplanned workout," he says. "It really helps to keep your training interesting and fun, which in turn keeps you coming back for more.
"Each year I try to find at least one new trail race to do, and this year it was the YellowJacket PowerBar 9.5-mile Trail Race in Mendon Ponds Park. You would think that after all of the running that I've done in the park that I've run on a majority of the trails. But to my surprise that just simply wasn't the case."
Hatch found new trails to keep his interest. New trails with bends he hasn't been around and scenery he hasn't seen.
"I think it takes a certain type of individual to run or race on trails," Hatch says. "You have to be light and nimble on your feet and take what the trail gives you because you never know what lies around the corner."
That's part of what keeps a trail runner going. And going.
Gary Fallesen is our outdoors writer. Besides finding him trail running, you can reach him at gfallesn@DemocratandChronicle.com or (585) 258-2454. (Copyright Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, All Rights Reserved)