Father, son running first marathon at XTERRA

FROM STAFF REPORTS

What started as a form of rehabilitation has now become a passion for Harris Napier.

The 15-year-old from Mount Pleasant, S.C. started trail running just four months ago as a way to rehabilitate a broken leg. This Sunday, he will attempt to run a trail marathon.

Harris and his father Joe are entered in the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Runs, which are scheduled for Sunday, May 20, at the Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham.

Harris is a freshman at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant. He, his father and his cousin Tanner Hollars will be making the trip to Alabama this weekend to participate in the Oak Mountain Trail marathon.

Harris will be the youngest runner in the marathon field, and likely the most inexperienced.

“I’m a little nervous about it, but I’ve been training for a while now, so I think it should be good,” Harris said.

In truth, he hasn’t been training that long. Harris was struck by a car while crossing the street in October of 2011. His broken left leg was kept in a cast for two months, so his rehabilitation started in January of this year.

Prior to that, his longest run had been three miles. “I would call him an athlete because he plays a lot of lacrosse, but he wasn’t really a distance runner until this year,” his father said.

Joe, however, is an experienced runner and he has been training regularly with Harris. They have been planning to run the marathon together for the past four months.

“We have relatives in Birmingham, so when we heard about this marathon, we thought it would be a fun thing to do – make a weekend out of it,” Joe said.

The XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Runs offer four different courses to accommodate the various levels of runners – a 42-kilometer full marathon, a 21K half-marathon, and 10K and 5K “mud runs.”

Harris said he saw the options, and it was an easy choice.

“I suppose I could have done the shorter races, but once I saw ‘marathon’ that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “It seemed to me like it would be more of an accomplishment to finish a marathon.”

The fact that it is a trail marathon makes it even more impressive. Unlike road marathons, which are generally on flat roads, this trail marathon will take the runners on uphill climbs, downhill descents, with obstacles such as tree roots, rocks and stream crossings.

Although the Napiers often train together, they said they will be on their own during Sunday’s marathon. “Once it starts, it will be like we don’t even know each other,” Joe said. “We both want to finish in around 4-and-a-half hours, but we’ll be trying to beat each other.”

It will be quite a weekend for Harris, who is also in the middle of preparing for his final examinations for school. He said he will attend classes on Friday, then his father will drive them from Mount Pleasant, S.C., to Pelham – a trip that should take them around eight hours.

After the marathon on Sunday, they will get back in the car and drive back to South Carolina so that Harris can be back in school by Monday morning. “I have a final on Monday, so I’m going to have to study in the car,” he said.

The Napiers will be two of more than 600 runners participating in the trail runs on Sunday.

The trail runs will bring runners from 22 different states to Alabama for the event. Another 500 or so athletes from around the world will participate in the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships/XTERRA Southeast Championship off-road triathlon on Saturday, May 19, also at Oak Mountain State Park.