Know Your Racer: Jamie Hobbs

Jamie Hobbs has been racing with the Roadkill masters team since last fall. He adds some much needed running/racing diversity to the men’s team. When not sporting a Roadkill singlet in team races, he can be seen in his trademark flannel flying along the trails of Western New York.

Muddy Sneaker 2014. Photo by Alex Tong
Muddy Sneaker 2014. Photo by Alex Tong

What is the first race you remember running?

When I was maybe 5 or 6, there used to be a “time estimation run” on about a 3/4 mile course at Olana State Park in the Hudson Valley. It was called something like the Bilbo & Frodo Birthday Runs, and the prizes were these amazing charcoal drawings of characters out of Tolkien books mounted on really nice pieces of wood. They were done by a local artist and runner and must have involved a ton of time. As a kid’s fun run, the point was not to be the fastest, but to come closest to your own prediction of your time at registration. (We didn’t have GPS, and I’m sure watches were not allowed.) My dad took me over for a time trial, and then we’d try to guess how much faster I would go with all the other kids running. You could say it was early practice for pacing myself and running my own race. Around the same age, I also remember running a mile as a first grade event. I’m sure it wasn’t really supposed to be a race either, but try telling that to me. I could be totally wrong, but I think I remember running 8:20 something. If you think about it, that means my improvement really tapered off after my first six years.

What is your favorite distance to race?

I’m drawn to long trail races, marathon and above, mostly because I’ve always liked to spend my time traveling through woods and wild places. In terms of normal road racing distances, I like half marathons. It’s a great balance of speed and endurance. The tempo doesn’t hurt, at least not until late in the race, and the toll on the body and recovery time is not all that bad.

What is your favorite race or running event?

The next one. I enjoy almost every race I run, but there are so many good ones and so little time. Once I’ve run a race a couple times, I’m usually looking to try something new.

What is the strangest thing you have seen while out for a run?

You can see a lot of beautiful and interesting things running in the woods, but if you get off the beaten track, you may also stumble upon people who think they are alone and are enjoying an intimate moment typically reserved for the bedroom.

Why did you join Roadkill Racing?

I was excited to run cross country again. Most of my running and racing is an individual thing, but I’m a big fan of variety. A team event adds a different kind of motivation and enjoyment. Throughout the rest of the year, my primary focus may be a bit different than most of the RKR runners, but I expect to benefit and learn from running with some fast road runners. In the end, we’re all running for the same overarching reasons: beer and glory.

What races are you looking forward to this year?

I’ll be excited to throw in some shorter races, but my mind is occupied with three ultras that are filling me with equal parts excitement and fear. All three have features that I am really drawn to, but each could be harder than anything I’ve run before. Zane Grey — an April 50 miler in Arizona — is a huge question mark. The terrain is unfamiliar; warmer temperatures and exposure to the sun could be a shock; and the altitude ranges between 5000 and 7000 feet. That’s moderate compared to some mountain courses, but it might be enough to take the wind out of my sails. I have some goals in mind, but if I’m sucking wind at a jogging pace, I may have to reset mentally and try to enjoy the scenery. In June, I have a 70 mile race on my calendar, Laurel Highlands. It’s part of a long term project of qualifying for Western States 100. Having never run longer than 50 miles, I’m trying to prepare myself for how hard those extra 20 miles are going to be. Finally, I might be most excited for the Twisted Branch 100k, a new race being run on the Bristol Hills branch of the Finger Lakes Trail. I’ve run big sections of the trail, and I’ve wanted to run the whole thing for years. It’ll be fun to race with friends and to have local support throughout, and I’ll take almost any excuse to visit some of the new breweries cropping up in the Finger Lakes.

What was your best race ever (could be the best time your ran, or just a really fun racing experience or a race that just meant a lot to you)?

I’ll go with a meaningful race experience. The Escarpment Trail Run is a classic trail race, on mountains that I hiked and backpacked as a kid. It’s estimated at about 30k, but may be shorter. Still, you can expect to run 30 to 60 minutes over your marathon time, even if you are a beast on trails. It’s some of the gnarliest, rocky-est, rooty-est trail you’ll find, going over a number of peaks on the northeast edge of the Catskills, with great views out over the Hudson Valley. When I was young, it was a pretty significant annual event for my dad and his running friends. Their stories and my experience hiking there instilled a healthy dose of respect for the course. I finally got around to running it in 2012. I went back and improved my time last year, but getting through it the first time, in decent form, meant a lot to me and gave me a lot of confidence for longer trail races. Having the sun come out at the finish and enjoying a picnic with my family afterwards made for a great day.

If you could give 1 piece of advice to a new runner what would it be?

Embrace hills. Don’t let the slow pace and heavy breathing be demoralizing. There is no shame in walking or even crawling. Just find a sustainable rhythm and chug along. As long as you are working hard, you are going to get stronger, and that will pay off in all running. Focus on the immediate rewards: the satisfaction of getting to the top; the view if there is one; and if the descent is a nice moderate grade, enjoy the earned momentum. In time, you may find yourself cruising easily past people on the uphills at a race, and there are few things more satisfying than that.