David Tosch Loves Nature Running
By Lee Davis
David Tosch has participated in just about every type of running competition. He was a track and field athlete in high school and competed seriously in road runs and marathons for years.
Tosch said his love affair with long-distance running began when he was a young man watching the 1972 Olympics in Munich, when Frank Shorter became the first American to win the gold medal in the marathon.
“I remember when the German student ran out on the track, wanting people to think he was Shorter,” Tosch said. “The crowd started booing the imposter, but Shorter thought they were booing him. The whole thing was amazing to watch, and it made me think, ‘I want to run in marathons.’”
But as Tosch began to run marathons, he soon learned that there was nothing quite as good as going back to nature.
“Trail running is the best,” said Tosch, 65. “Where else can you be out running and almost get knocked over by a deer?”
Tosch, who lives in the Cahaba Valley area, is the founder of the Southeastern Trail Series, which organizes and promotes trail running events from March through November. Many of the events will take place at Oak Mountain State Park. The first will be the Village 2 Village Trail Race in Mountain Brook March 7, and while the distance will be only 8.6 miles, Tosch said it will be a great preparation for the future events.
“They’ve had the Village 2 Village Run for a number of years, but this is the first year they’ve added a trail run,” he said. “It’s going to be an exciting day because there are some great trails in Mountain Brook.”
Tosch’s first off-road event was the Azalea Trail run in Mobile in the late 1970s, and he became hooked, he said.
“It was just a lot of fun,” he said. “Trail runners were a little more laid back than road runners. There was competition, of course, but it was just much more enjoyable than what I had done before.”
Another year at the Azalea Run, Tosch met legendary runner Bill Rodgers, who would win the Boston Marathon four times.
“Bill came down and wanted to see the course,” Tosch said. “He could not have been any nicer. Then he decided to run 18 miles with us. A bunch of us stayed close to him during the first lap, but by the third, Rodgers really took off and left most of us. I had read his book on marathon running, so it was a real thrill to meet him.”
Soon afterward, Tosch gave up road running completely and devoted all his time to nature trails, even participating in the Pike’s Peak Marathon and the Hard Rock 100 Endurance Run in Colorado.
As time went by, Tosch’s love for trail running grew, particularly at Oak Mountain.
“It’s great to just run and watch nature,” he said. “You’re likely to see a lot of deer. I’ve even run in the snow.”
Trail running isn’t always as idyllic as it might sound.
“Once I got caught in a tornado at Oak Mountain – and there was a time that I actually liked to run during storms,” he said, laughing. “And there’s always the chance of stepping on snakes.”
Tosch said training for trails is different than preparing for road races in one important way.
“You have to be very sensitive to the environment in which you are running,” he said. “A runner has to be aware of the dips on the trail and understand that every course is going to be different. No two steps are alike, and you’re not just pounding the pavement as is the case in road running.”
Trail running takes less of a physical toll on a runner, Tosch said.
“The running through differences in terrain is better than just constantly running on a straight, hard surface,” he said. “Some of the trails in the Northwest are similar to a soft cinder track.”
When not running, Tosch, a retired businessman, spends much of his time setting up and maintaining trails for races. He works closely with Steve Clones of Oak Mountain State Park to prepare the trails for competitive events as well as for casual runners.
“Steve does so much of the work on the trails on his own, I just help him where I can,” Tosch said. “People don’t realize how much is required to maintain these trails and to get them ready for the races.”
Oak Mountain will host the Tranquility Trail Run April 11, a Memorial Day run May 23, the Hotter N’ Hell race July 25, the Ridge to Ridge Race Sept. 5, the Birmingham Track Club race Oct. 17 and the Tranquility Lake 50K and 25K Nov. 21.
“Setting the atmosphere is so important in trail races,” Tosch said. “It should be more than just a run. It should be an experience.”
And when it comes to experiences – whether on the road or on the nature trails – few have had more of them than David Tosch.