Along the Trail
Meet Sidney Allen. He's a Martinsville native, an Eagle Scout, an aspiring engineer and he loves to run! Sidney has been running since he was in the fifth grade and has been competitively running for the past five years. He is a high school junior and competes in track, cross country and organized races throughout the region.
Sidney's list of accomplishments is quite impressive. In the past several years, he won All-Conference Cross Country for his high school three times, he was an All-State runner in 2015 and also named 2015 Cross Country Athlete of the Year by the Martinsville Bulletin. He's won numerous conference championships and all-region awards for track, and it is no surprise to see him on top of the awards podium following area 5K races.
This young man also has a huge heart and a desire to give back to the community. His 2014 Eagle Scout project was to design and construct a cross country course at the Smith River Sports Complex (SRSC) in Axton, Virginia. Since the course's completion, it has been the host site for numerous meets including the Bengal Clash by the River which brought in 16 high school teams from around Virginia. His contributions to the community are boosting tourism revenues for the area and bringing in new visitors.
Sidney uses another local amenity frequently to train on: the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail. He runs the trail during practices for cross country and track and also runs on it during his free time on the weekends. His practice runs measure between 6 to 13 miles.
According to Sidney, "The trail offers so many ways to enjoy it. First of all, the trail offers a safer alternative to running on the road. Next, the trail offers a great variety with the incline of the hills." He also noted that the semi-wooded trail allows him to train in peace without the distractions of vehicles.
Sidney is a very results driven person, always striving to give his very best. He noted a memorable day on the trail when he set a new personal record.
He said, "Every Sunday I drive to the Dick & Willie to get my Sunday morning long run completed. I start at the beginning of the trail, and I make my way to the end of the trail while I also include the Uptown Connection Trail going both ways. That day, I started at a good pace for the run and, as the run progressed, I began to pick-up the pace each mile. Once I got to the last three miles of the run, where it is all downhill, I was running 6:00 minute miles. I felt amazing, and I owe that greatly to what the trail offers for running. I was able to complete the entire 11 mile run in 1:12:30 (just over 6:35 per mile), which was a personal best time for all of my long runs."
Several weeks after that run, Sidney went on to finish 4th at the 2A State Cross Country Championships. His training had paid off to prepare him for the meet.
The Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail feels secluded due to its forest lined corridors, but the trail is really in the center of lodging, dining, shopping and attractions in the area. In the summer months, Sidney trains with his friend Joel Johnston, and they frequently dine out near the trail following the run. They dine at El Parral often since it is adjacent to the Virginia Avenue Trail head. They also go to Chick-Fil-A and Biscuitville which are also near the trail. Other times, they will travel to the Villages of Martinsville near the Liberty Street trailhead to shop at Dunham's Sports.
Finding places like this to dine, shop and visit has become easier since the EDC's Tourism Division has launched Trail Helper. A series of signs at each trailhead kiosk and a companion, mobile-friendly website help trail users locate points of interest within a 15 minute walk of the Dick & Willie Passage. If well received, this service will be expanded to other trails in the area, soon.
Sidney's advice for new runners is to "ease into running as much as possible. To become good as a runner, it will take time, and you will need to be patient about running." In the end though, "all that matters is that they are trying their best," he added. He noted that it is all up to how much work they want to put into it, and how much they want to improve.
According to Sidney, "That is one of the great things about running. The results show exactly how good a person is doing at running, it is fact, and cannot be based on an opinion. They just need to remember to try their best and learn to love the sport."
Photos 1 & 3 courtesy of Pam Allen