trail moments
She Moved Cross-Country During COVID: How One Runner Is Connecting to Her New Community on Trails

This blog was published in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trailblog on Oct. 26, 2020.


This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and true trail voices around the country, and how trails have impacted the lives of Americans during COVID-19. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.

I didn’t grow up as a runner. I was a swimmer for most of my time in college, but it wasn’t until my junior year that I discovered the power of running and how much freedom it gave me. I was lucky enough to go to college in the northern part of New York State, surrounded by nature and beautiful trails.

With running, you’re able to see the world around you. You’re able to watch the seasons change and experience that change first-hand. You’re able to see people from all walks of life enjoying and sharing the same outdoors as you. Since 2010, I’ve gone through hundreds of running shoes and run in over 30 states. I’ve watched the seasons change about 40 times!

As a military spouse, I’m no stranger to uncertainty and things changing at the last minute. For me, exercise and running are something I can control; I can decide for myself when I want to get out the door. Maybe that’s why in 2020, I’ve found myself more consistent with running than ever. Sadly, with the pandemic, 2020 is inconsistent and uncertain for everyone. It’s been a year of turmoil, with everyone being affected in some way.


“We stopped at several rail-trails and went on some of the most beautiful runs I’ve experienced in a decade …. Running on trails was one of the best and most enjoyable ways to see the country safely.”

—Hollie S., Napa Valley, California


In February, before the pandemic, my spouse and I found out that we were moving from New Jersey to California. This was a big move. I had spent most of my 20s in New Jersey and had met some of my closest friends there. A big move across the country was scary enough, and then COVID-19 hit. The uncertainty of moving, paired with the pandemic, was mentally taxing.

Our plans were delayed, and we finally moved in July 2020. Moving across the country during the pandemic was one of the scariest—but also most exciting—things we’ve ever done. Along the way, we stopped at several rail-trails and went on some of the most beautiful runs I’ve experienced in a decade of running. One of my favorites: the Snake River Canyon Rim Trail in Twin Falls, Idaho.

FueledbyLOLZ on Napa Valley Vine Trail | Courtesy Hollie S.
FueledbyLOLZ on Napa Valley Vine Trail | Courtesy Hollie S.

Running on trails was one of the best and most enjoyable ways to see the country safely.

Now, after moving and assimilating in California, my life is back to being uncertain. My spouse is often gone, and I’m currently searching for jobs and looking for ways to make friends safely. But there is one thing that has remained consistent, and that is my love for and enjoyment of running.

I can control when I get up and get out of the door.

Since moving to California, I’ve leaned into the beautiful Napa Valley Vine Trail. This grassroots nonprofit-led rail-trail is still a work in progress. Once it’s complete, the trail will run 47 miles from Vallejo to Calistoga, California. The vision is to build a trail system that connects all of Napa Valley safely.

The Napa Valley Vine Trail provides a safe way for bikers, runners and outdoor enthusiasts to be outside. Unfortunately, Napa County is in California’s top 10 counties for bicycle accidents with vehicles. On the Napa Valley Vine Trail, bikers can safely exercise or commute to work. The trail even has bike shelters and repair stations with maps and local information. During the construction of the trail, there have been over 300 new trees planted to provide shade, as well as a promise not to build on or destroy vineyards.

As of now, they are working on 10 sections. I’m lucky enough to live by a 12.5-mile completed section that runs through the heart of Napa.

Why Trails?

Hollie S. on Napa Valley Vine Trail | Photo by Hollie S.
Hollie S. on Napa Valley Vine Trail | Photo by Hollie S.

I feel so lucky that I have the Napa Valley Vine Trail as a safe place to go out for a run. Did you know 70% of Americans would work out outside if they felt safer?

It doesn’t matter what other life events I have going on; I know I can go out, get a run in and feel like I have some sort of routine. This has become especially important in 2020. In a world of so much uncertainty, I know running is always there for me. This is a similar mentality to that which I’ve taken through most of my adult life. As a military spouse, not much is routine, but I do know I can count on my workout time on the trails as my “me time.”

Hollie S. on Snake River Canyon Trail in Idaho | Courtesy Hollie S.
Hollie S. on Snake River Canyon Trail in Idaho | Courtesy Hollie S.

A huge part of the reason I love trails is I never know who I’ll see out there. There are many fast runners—but there are also families, dogwalkers, bike riders, commuters and people of all ages. The diversity of people you see on the trail is truly beautiful; there is no one “type of person” using the trails. Everyone is out being active.

Even though I’ve only been here a few months, I’ve grown to see familiar faces out. There are morning “hellos,” waves and smiles from people in all walks of life. It’s something I’ve grown to appreciate.

When I’m out for my morning run, I feel a sense of community.

Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.

You can share your story here.

me walking
How Are You Doing? No Really.

How are you doing?

The phrase how are you doing often comes with a quick: I’m fine, thanks, how are you. There are very people we trust to go into detail when we are “not doing fine.”

How many people can you trust with a complete mind dump: I’m not doing great?

Or heck trust to say more than an “I’m fine thanks.”

To be transparent, I’ve been stewing on this post for a while. I’ve written bits and pieces of blog posts, but they haven’t come together. I can’t quite say this blog post is “much better.”

The post itself can be categorized into different parts: 

  1. It’s ok not to be doing ok.
  2. I’m not doing ok, but I’m working on it. me walking

Read More

under armour copper mountain race me running
29 Years Old

Today is my 29th birthday.

For some reason, I always imagined at age 29; I would look and feel older.

Maybe like an adult? It hasn’t come (yet). Anyway, looking back at age 28, I had a great year. I’ve been an “adult” for a decade now.

What Did I Do During Year 28?

Last year, I started age 28 with my first “real” trail race. I ran the Copper Mountain 25k, and it was one of the best running memories I’ve had.

under armour copper mountain race me running

It’s hard to believe that was a year ago now!

under armour copper mountain race me running

Last summer, I did a lot of traveling up and down the East Coast. We visited family, I saw friends from college, and I just had a good summer. In August, I ran/hikes my second trail race in Killington, VT. To me, it was more challenging than the race in Colorado because the terrain was much more technical. Then in the fall, I changed gears entirely and trained for the NYCM. I didn’t think I would do another marathon, but when the opportunity to run in the “sub-elite” corral presented itself, I couldn’t say no. I’m glad I did, and it was one of the best running experiences I’ve had.

New York City Marathon me running

Since the NYCM, running hasn’t quite come into place. I’ve trained, but I haven’t had any “spectacular” or amazing races. I’ve had a lot of great and fun races, but I’m well off PRs. Right now, I’m content with that.

In January, my husband and took a trip out to California. We drove from San Diego to San Francisco and just explored. We had no agenda (as most of our vacations are).

Hiking anderson park santa clara county

Marin Headlands San Francisco

The highlight of the Spring was adopting my two cats: Frick and Frack. I always had cats growing up, and I’ve wanted them for years, but our landlords or landladies always said no.

Finally, after proving we were good renters, they agreed. We found these two cats at the local shelter, and when I found out they had been there for five years (YES 5), I knew I wanted them. They were shy at first but have come out of their shell.

View this post on Instagram

Personality pic #noisycat #confusedcat

A post shared by Frick and Frack Sick (@frickandfracksick) on

The last few months have been quiet as far as personal and running life goes. I’m training for the Big Cottonwood Marathon in early September.  Running another downhill marathon terrifies me because the last one wasn’t my favorite race ever — cheers to doing things outside of your comfort zone.

Fulfilling my other hobby, I also went to over 50 New Jersey diners last year and have now been to 253. I don’t know if I’ll make it to 300 (if we move).  When I started this journey 5 years ago, I never imagined going to 250 diners. But as they motivational quotes say: you never know until you try! Bridge-Way Diner Old Bridge NJ

Anyway, thank you age 28 for the memories and to family and friends for supporting me!


This year, I wanted to do something and different for my birthday, so on July 20th, I’m running the Teterboro 5k to Homes for Our Heroes: a mission to build safe, affordable housing for military and military families.

This includes Veterans who have nowhere to live as well as military families in the NJ area.

I appreciate anyone willing to donate and support this cause with me.

My goal is to reach $500 and any amount matters. Here is the link if you are interested.


Questions for you:

Tell me about a charity you support.

What did you do for your birthday? 

 

 

Four Years of Marriage

Four years ago was the best day of my life because my husband and I got married.  We had a wonderful wedding, and there is nothing we would have wanted differently.

As most people know, he is in the military and has been gone a lot.  While his deployments aren’t long (about two months), they are frequent and so are his other trips.  I won’t say it’s been easy and there have been plenty of hard days. I will say we are still as happy as the day we met.

Today I knew today I wanted to post about our anniversary but had no idea what to post.  I finally settled on a “how we met post.”  Many long term readers know “how we met,” but many people don’t. I’m always interested to see how other people met their significant other, so I thought I would share.

So How Did We Meet?

My husband and I met during college cross country season in 2011.  It was a scrimmage race between our respected two universities.

Tim ended up winning the scrimmage race for men, and I won for females. After the scrimmage, we talked for a while and went on a run a few weeks later.   Cross country season went by, and we still chatted after the season.  During this time, I was coming back from my first serious running injury a tibial stress fracture.  Tim did multiple sports and was getting ready for ski season.  Since cross country was over, and he was no longer running competitively, running at a slower pace didn’t matter.  I was running easy after my injury, and he was running easy just to run.

YAY an old school college picture.

Eventually, after several runs, we hung out outside of running. When the semester ended, we both went to our hometowns for the winter break. Tim drove down to Virginia Beach and visited for New Years.

Later in the spring, we officially started “officially dating”.  I was blogging at the time, and I don’t think I even mentioned on the blog: OMG you guys, a new boy in my life”.

In May of 2012, we both graduated from college and decided to try a long distance relationship.  Our options at that point were long distance or break up.

Tim went to Air Force Undergraduate Pilot school in Texas, and I began working in Oswego, NY.  During that time, we both learned a lot about ourselves, interests and hobbies.  We went just over six months without seeing each other.  It was one of the hardest times of our relationship but worth it.  The first time we saw each other again was that Thanksgiving, and it was as if nothing had changed.

My first visit to Texas

After Thanksgiving, we saw each other again for Christmas, then in March and in May. It was a lot easier than the first few months.  After nearly a year of distance, we made the decision I would move to Texas. As much as I enjoyed my job in Oswego, I wanted to continue my relationship with Tim, and we had to eventually move (he did not have that choice).

In Texas, they have these for decoration…
Winning a growler at a half marathon in Texas

Then in late 2013, Tim graduated his pilot training, and we were told we would be moving to New Jersey. Neither of us knew anything about NJ (except people drive very quickly on the Turnpike).

I’ve now lived in NJ for five years, and I love it. We never thought we would stay here this long, but I don’t mind. I’ve made incredible friends, I enjoy my job and there is always something to do.  We are only a few miles from Philadelphia and a short (3-6 hour) drive from both of our parents, New York City and Baltimore.

On April 1, 2014, Tim proposed to me.  It was exactly what I wanted, low key and at our house.  We are low key, and I could not have asked for a better proposal.  As much as we both love running, proposing at a race or in front of hundreds of people is not either of our scenes.  Neither are big crowds or making a huge scene.

 

Engagement photo

Even though we lived in New Jersey, we decided to get married in my hometown area in Norfolk, Virginia.  We spent a year wedding planning and got married on April 12, 2015.  While planning a wedding further away was more difficult, it wasn’t as stressful because we both have such supportive and helpful parents. For each of the things. We couldn’t have dreamed for a better day.

After our wedding, we took a few days to relax and went straight on our honeymoon.  We decided to spend a few days in Key West and go on a cruise in the Carribean.  It was a great vacation, and it was perfect.

Then a few days after we got home, he was deployed for a while.  For the first six months of our marriage, he was gone for just over 4.  Afterward, he was home for a bit more, but for the past four years, he has been a lot.

Throughout the first few years of marriage, we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other.  Even though I grew up as a military child, being a spouse much different.  It’s not always easy, but the time we do have together makes it worth it.  I’m also thankful for my family and friends who help me get by.

We aren’t able to celebrate today, but that is okay. We might talk today; we might not.  It doesn’t mean I love my husband any less.  I could not ask for a better person in my life.

Although we met through running and it’s a part of both our lives we do a lot of other things together too.

Flying together

new york city private flying

 

 

grand canyon north rim
Visiting the Grand Canyon

hiking flagstaff mountain boulder

Here are some other posts about my husband and I (or just my husband): 
Wedding Post
Honeymoon
Flying Together
Tim’s Recap of the Mercedes Marathon

Questions for you: How did you meet your spouse?  When is your anniversary? 

 

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