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March 2019-Gary Haven

He’s had a good run.

Gary grew up in Southern Virginia in coal mining country. The stories he tells of his time in Virginia are told with a fondness that lets listeners know that he thoroughly enjoyed his childhood there.  At the age of 10 his family moved to Cleveland and Gary started running. He was the only kid in the neighborhood without a bike, so out of necessity he ran. “I was a poor kid without a bike. I ran everywhere.”  

In 1981, in his early 30’s, Gary started running a few times a week for exercise.  I can’t imagine Gary ever needing to lose any weight, but apparently he was a little heavier, and little softer back then.  His first race was a 4 miler at Silver Lake in Rochester, MN. He won that race and was hooked!!! Actually, I don’t know the outcome of the race but he must have finished and enjoyed it somewhat, because he kept running.

Gary moved to the Black Hills in 1986 and participated in races throughout the Hills.  Back in the day, he and Homer Hastings battled it out at various races. Homer with a strategic plan, and Gary with enough gear to supply an army, but a plan…not so much.  Gary enjoyed the races, and the competition. Always gracious and joking no matter the outcome. For Gary it was always about giving it your all, having fun, and shooting the bull with friends.

Gary’s best fitness memory was crossing the finish line of Primal Quest Badlands as part of Team South Dakota.  The race consisted of 4 person teams (typically 3 men, one woman) that navigated 600 miles of the Black Hills and Badlands on foot, bike, and boat.  There was running involved, but more often brisk hiking, biking, swimming, climbing, caving, and kayaking. At the age of 57, Gary was the oldest participant in Primal Quest that year.  During the 10 days of racing the teams were being tracked by Spot tracking systems. People could log into their computers and see where Team SD was, and worry about why they weren’t further along.  By the time Team South Dakota finished the race they had so many fans following them, that despite the late hour, they received a hero’s welcome at the finish line. Fire trucks flashing their lights and sirens, original Team South Dakota fight songs being sung, and friends and family gathered to welcome Team South Dakota.  

Gary prefers running and biking the beautiful trails around the Black Hills with his dog Briley and friends.  If you see Gary running down the road or sidewalk, pull-over and see if he’s OK. Chances are someone is chasing him or he’s just been robbed.  Gary only runs on trails, and gravel roads! He enjoys running and biking on trails, building new trails, and clearing existing trails. He is a true “trail fairy.”

Beyond running, Gary is a talented musician.  He plays the guitar, and banjo like nobody’s business.  He is a member of a local band, and a regular at the Thursday night Gaslight Bluegrass jam, and the Fridaynighter’s jam at Shipwreck Lees.  Music has always been a big part of Gary’s life, but in the past 5 years or so he has really honed his skills and gotten so much enjoyment from the music and people he plays with.  As a non-musician myself, and his #1 workout buddy, I sadly had to threaten to hide his banjo a few times to get him out for a run or ride. Honestly, priorities!

Gary’s advice for new runners is to leave the road behind and get out on the trails.  Give them a try. See if trail running is for you. Don’t worry about PR’s, instead, take a deep breath, relax, and get stoked for what’s around the next bend.

Sadly, Gary has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  He received this diagnosis in late January. The tumor is growing quickly and affecting his memory and ability to think clearly.  In typical Gary fashion, he jokes about “the tumor.” He can’t believe the length he’s had to go in order to finally be recognized in the BHRC Member Spotlight.  He keeps saying he’s had 67 good years…and he has. He’s had a good run.