There’s Alabama, and then there’s Huntsville, a thriving trail running community that’s home to over 100 miles of trails within a few miles of the city limits.
It’s here that Luke Brisk challenges himself, building up to his goal to run a sub-five-hour 50K.
TS: How long have you been running?
LB: I ran in high school on the track team as a distance runner, but after high school running fell by the wayside. In 2006, my brother encouraged me to do a five-mile run with him, and I ended up really enjoying it. I wondered afterwards why I had stopped.
About a year later, I signed up for a 10K here in Huntsville and that’s when I really got into running. I also met this girl who was super into running and we ended up getting married, so that was huge as well.
TS: Why transition from the road to trails?
LB: I’m always looking for new challenges. Trail running is such a different mentality than road running. I really enjoy both a lot, but I like to be out there communicating with nature. We have hundreds of miles of trails within the city limits and a short drive outside of them.
TS: Have you always enjoyed exploring nature?
LB: I grew up in the country, and my grandparents had 300 acres—150 of which were wooded. Growing up, we would always explore their land, and I’m an Eagle Scout. Later, I spent a lot of time canoeing in the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
TS: Do you have a preference for the style of trails you run?
LB: I can’t say there’s one type of trail I like more than others. It really just depends on my mood. Some days I enjoy flat trails up on the plateaus, where I can really connect with nature and not focus on the trail as much. Other days, I want a challenge and find a steep technical grade to tackle. I’m fortunate to have those options here as well.
TS: What is the trail running community in Huntsville like?
LB: We have a great community. There’s a Facebook group with about 6,000 people that brings people together and allows them to share information. We also have a lot of different races and lengths, ranging from 10Ks to 50 miles right here within the city limits.
TS: Are you racing a lot?
LB: I just finished my first Grand Slam, which is four marathons (or greater races) in three months. It was kind of a trial by fire because the Dizzy Fifties was my first ultra, and then I did another two ultras within two months.
TS: So what did you differently from the first to the third?
LB: I definitely slowed down at the start. I went out way too fast on my first ultra, but by the third, I went out slower and had more energy left over. I still need to focus on my in-race nutrition, though. I’ve got what I need to eat before the event down, but not necessarily what to eat while I’m out there.
TS: How do you break through the wall?
LB: I try to think about who I am letting down if I don’t push through and make this happen. And it’s not like it’s life or death, but it’s a team aspect. That’s why the Grand Slam is so vital: It’s four races. Right before the second race, I got a stomach bug from my kids and I wanted to quit halfway through, but I knew there were still two more races. I didn’t want to let the people supporting me down. Really, it’s just peer pressure.
TS: What’s on your bucket list?
LB: When I think of bucket list, I think it more like taking what I’ve done and improving on it. Right now, I have the goal of a sub-five-hour 50K. There is also a marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, called the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon that I’d like to run.
TS: Do you have a favorite trail?
LB: Flat Rock Trail. Mainly because it’s the longest one on the mountain and not a lot of people have run it. It’s not marked and it traverses from one side of the mountain to the other through all these small micro-climates. It’s just a fun trail with a decent length.