Altitude race: Red ribbon, Camp Yagoog, 1953 | Local

Nat White (middle) became the first man in his 80s to complete the sprint route of the Soulstice Mountain Trail Run.


NAT WHITE Daily Sun Special

How many of you remember your first run? Mine was in July 1953, at a summer scout camp.

At 12, I had never raced where there was an official start and finish. I was raised in a Norman Rockwell scene in New England made up of dairy farms and orchards of apple trees, maple trees, hills, valleys, ponds and lakes. Why walk when a young child could run and run? Free to wander from adventure to adventure, I found the journey on foot through woods, along streams and through swamps as natural as biking in Flagstaff.

I was the smallest of my elementary school classes. In the schoolyard of our four-class school, midday recess often turned into a contest: Who could catch Natty White? I have become very quick and sneaky. I didn’t want to be at the bottom of what we called a “pig pile” of husky farm boys, and I loved to outsmart pursuers.

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So with a background of running from place to place or being chased, I headed off to Camp Yagoog in the summer of ’53. It was the first time that I had been among a lot of unknown boys. Except wandering around the lake and the woods of the camp, I was a little stunned and out of my comfort zone. The various camp activities focused on fulfilling the Merit Badge requirements in swimming, lifesaving, marksmanship, woodworking crafts and many more.

In the middle of the week, there was talk of a race for all through the woods from the entrance of the camp to another activity center on the other side of the lake. In my introverted little mind, I thought a run in the woods would be something I could do.

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