Eddie Habeck III | Reader Athlete March 2011

Eddie Habeck III
Residence: Williamstown
Family: Son, Edward Habeck IV, 9
Associate Director of Admissions at Norwich University
Primary sport: Snowshoe racing

VS: How long have you been a snowshoe racer?
EH: This is my fourth season. The truth is I’d never even heard of this sport until I was getting fitted for some running shoes in New York and the salesman told me they were going to branch out into running snowshoes for the winter. Something clicked and I thought it would be really cool to do. I hate running on roads in the winter; I’m always afraid of getting hit by a snowplow or a big SUV. I went home, did some research and found the Western Massachusetts Athletic Club and their race series. I did a race in Bennington that year and I was hooked and bought my first pair of racing snowshoes.

VS: How hard was the transition from “regular” running?
EH: It’s one of the most difficult athletic endeavors I’ve ever tried. The first time out all I did was a stutter step; not even running. But your body quickly adapts and before I knew it I was really comfortable.

VS: What is it about snowshoe racing that you find so appealing?
EH: Just being in the snow and out in the woods makes me feel extremely fulfilled.

VS: Have you experimented with different types of snowshoes?
EH: I race on Dion snowshoes. They make great shoes and the company provides great support at races.

VS: Do you ever go out in the woods in your snowshoes just to hike?
EH: I have never been on a snowshoe hike. I’ve never even gone on a winter hike in the snow. I’ve always wanted to run. I love to find little obscure trails in the woods but I like to run on them. I’d never even owned snowshoes before I started racing.

VS: What other kinds of races do you do?
EH: I only got into running four or five years ago and I immediately gravitated toward trail running. I enter as many trail races as I can. It’s the best training for snowshoe racing. My longest race was the Vermont 50k. I did it in 2008 and finished in 16th place. That was a really good finish for me because I’m not a long distance runner.

VS: Do you also do regular road races?
EH: Roads are for cars. I want some change of scenery. I do some road races, but I’d rather do trail races.

VS: When did you move to Vermont?
EH: I moved here two-and-a-half years ago. I was running a family business in New York and commuting eight hours round trip every weekend to be with my son. I moved here to be closer to him.

VS: Have you gotten him into snowshoe racing?
EH: He’s done two kids races so far. One of my favorite events is the annual race at Smuggler’s Notch. I entered him in the kids division and he came in second to a girl. I was worried about how he’d react to that but he said he didn’t mind that he lost because he came in first in his age group.

VS: You don’t have a military background. How did you end up at Norwich?
EH: I actually went to Norwich as an undergraduate. When I moved here I didn’t know what kind of business I wanted to get into so I decided to start my career at a place I was familiar with. I love working here. It’s a great environment and I’m extremely happy to be part of the university. I’ve gotten Norwich to host a snowshoe clinic and they’ve asked me to be a consultant on student snowshoe races.

VS: How do you find the time to practice?
EH: It’s definitely hard. I work full-time and have a pretty demanding job that requires travel and I want to spend my weekends with my son. I try to get out before or after work which means that in the winter I’m out with a headlamp at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m., but I actually like running on the trails in the dark.

VS: What was your most memorable race?
EH: My most memorable snowshoe race was the Pittsfield Half Marathon in 2009. It was my second year at that distance and I really love the course. It’s exceedingly challenging. Conditions were really good that day and I finished third which was my best finish ever. It’s an amazing race so just finishing feels very satisfying. Another memorable race was the U.S. National Championship last year. That was the highlight of my life; the biggest and most prestigious event I’ve taken part in. It was a true honor to be there but it was really tough because I was working full time and in graduate school and didn’t have much time to train. I was surprised at how few Vermont athletes were there, even though it was so close (Syracuse).

VS: Do you think snowshoe racing will become more popular here?
EH: It’s a shame there aren’t that many races in Vermont. Running snowshoes aren’t that expensive so it’s an easy sport to get into but I suppose most Vermonters already have a winter sport. It’s growing in popularity in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and I’d like to see it grow here. One of the challenges is convincing people who already have a winter sport to venture out and do something different.

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with two spoiled orange cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”