Ian Torrance

SCA 1992 & 1993, Shenandoah National Park

Ultra-Runner | Allegheny, PA

Ian has been on the run since high school, competing in track and cross-country “but I loved covering my miles on the trails.” That led to ultrarunning – technically, tearing through any distance greater than a marathon’s 26.2 miles, and often up to 100 miles.  His two SCA summers led to something else: a ten-year career as a national park ranger. We asked him about both fields, once he slowed down…

Is racing down a trail a better experience or just a faster one?

I see just as much as the hiker or slower trail runner, but the visual experience is simply condensed into a shorter period of time. I think runner and hiker alike remember the mountains, wildlife, flowers, the burning quads, sweat, bugs, the clean air, the storms, the rocks and roots, the falls…and we’re both leaving only footprints. If it wasn’t such an awesome experience, I would have quit doing it 20 years ago!

Does running trails give you a better appreciation for the work of SCA crews?

Yes, when a trail is well maintained I notice and appreciate that. I know that someone has worked very hard to make it so. If a trail is on a map, it should be signed and cared for. Eroded, overgrown trails leave much to be desired.

What’s your perspective on the state of today’s trails and the outdoors in general?

I’d have to say that we’ve built more trails than we can maintain in the US. The idea of a trail in the woods from Point A to Point B is awesome. It gets people psyched and engaged. But after the initial work is done and the ribbon is cut, the novelty wears off. There’s no glory in trail upkeep and it is always an afterthought.

What do you remember about those two summers at Shenandoah?

I was a Backcountry Resource Assistant in the Central District and worked out of the Big Meadows offices. I marked boundary and trail, cleared trails, took part in bear, fish and campsite surveys, helped work a few small fires in the park, participated in several hasty searches and litter carry outs, and assisted in reintroducing peregrine falcons on Hawksbill Mountain.

That sounds fast-paced, right up your alley…

SCA got my foot in the National Park Service door. Without my summers at Shenandoah, those ten years of service at Delaware Water Gap, the Tetons, Lake Mead, Arches, Canyonlands, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges wouldn’t have happened. I have grown to appreciate the work that goes unnoticed and unrecognized in our backcountry wildlands. I still practice Leave No Trace ethics, volunteer with the Arizona Trail Association, and spread the word on good back country behavior.

Read more from Ian on his ultrarunning blog: http://iantorrence.blogspot.com/

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