MORGANTOWN — Becky Walters has gone through many shoes in her life.
Not just because she is a business owner, a wife and a mother of three.
No, most of those shoes have worn through due to her love of running. Especially as an ultra-runner. Now, she is bringing her love of running and the ultra-running community to the Morgantown area with a pair of races set for July 23 at Coopers Rock State Forest.
“Because I wasn’t very good at tennis or soccer, or anything that involved a ball — I started running,” Walters, a native of Virginia, said. “I was the slowest runner on the (high school) team in the first season and halfway through the second season. Something just clicked and I became MVP my senior year.”
That love of running has developed into a business and an opportunity to meet new people to train with and coach during their running journey.
Currently, she is the owner of Off the Grid Running where she has a group of clients who she is developing coaching plans for as they prepare for ultra-marathons of their own. Ultra-marathons are considered any distance beyond the 26.2 miles of a normal marathon. In fact, Walters completed a 52-mile run with 9,000 feet of elevation gain that crisscrossed along the Appalachian Trail for her longest run, but she hopes to one day complete a 100-mile trek.
“To run further, you have to run slower,” Walters said. “That does involve walking up the hills, sometimes. It is very much a mental activity. You have to be strong mentally for all of the miles and you have to eat and drink during the race — it kind of switches over to the sport of eating while in motion.”
Walter said her love of running long distances developed after high school when she attended Liberty University. She took a class from Dr. David Horton at Liberty and was introduced to the longer distances.
Horton, who is sometimes called the grandfather of ultra-running, said one of the requirements for his class is to run an ultra-marathon. Walters completed that and learned she had a love for the sport.
“The longer the distance, the more I liked it,” Walters said. “Once I signed up for that running class from Dr. Horton, it really introduced me to a different world.”
Walter’s run at Coopers Rock in July is called the Rattlerock Ultra Marathon trail race. The cost for the 25k is $80 if runners register prior to June 30 and $95 after that date. Cost for the 50k is $95 prior to June 30 or $110 after.
“I know that she will do a great job,” Horton said of his former pupil. “She has a lot of enthusiasm and organizational skills that are going to serve her well.”
This isn’t the first race Walters has organized. She previously organized the Mad Marsh 50k in Beaufort, S.C., in 2010. The next year, she added a night run to the same event, and it currently still exists as the Badder Marsh Nigh Ultra.
July’s race at Coopers Rock gets the Rattlerock name from the obvious connection of running at Coopers Rock and from the occasional rattlesnakes runners might see during their long trek.
“That’s part of the extreme nature of these events,” Walters said with a laugh. “My husband and I have both seen rattlesnakes while running the trails at Coopers.
For Horton, it’s great to see the sport he had a helping hand in creating get the attention and notoriety he said he feels it deserves.
“It’s exploded,” Horton said. “It used to be a fringe activity. Now it’s not. More and more runners and younger and faster runners are getting into it. This is a mainline activity now and everyone know someone who has at least attempted it.”
Walters, 35, said she does not plan on running in the event as she will be busy with her race director duties. But she is likely to have a few runners she has coached in the race. She coaches several runners through her business along with those she teaches during classes at the WVU rec center.
“I’m coaching eight runners individually right now,” Walters said. “I’m also writing some training plans. This is something that I kind of always have done. Have gotten some of my friends into ultra-running without them even knowing it.”
For those who want more information about the July 23 Rattlerock Ultra marathon races, visit Rattlerockultra.blogspot.com and runners are encouraged to sign up before June 1 to ensure they get their correct shirt size.
By ERIC HERTER