What Trails Mean to Me: Ultra Runner Ciara Wilder Massingale’s Inspiring Journey

Ciara Wilder Massingale loves trail running and nature’s serenity. As an ultra runner, trail and Uwharrie enthusiast, amateur nature photographer, and the founder of Wilder Uwharrie Trail Running in Asheboro, NC, Ciara’s trail experiences tell an incredible story of perseverance, love for nature, and community building.

“Trails have both improved my life and helped me make a difference in my community,” Ciara shares, her words brimming with passion.

Ciara with a wall of hiking sticks for the kid’s hiking stick decorating event she leads.

Journey to Transformation
Living in Asheboro, NC, with her three-year-old daughter, Ciara’s transformation began on August 2, 2021. She candidly reminisces about starting her trail and ultra-running journey, where she could only manage 3/10 of a mile. “I was literally starting from the couch,” she says. Having faced the challenges of weight loss post-pregnancy, with a formidable 100 pounds shed, Ciara’s entry into the world of running was no walk in the park.

Although not naturally athletic and struggling with asthma, Ciara’s resilience saw her through. “At age 29, starting to run was extremely hard,” she confides. However, her self-belief, coupled with an inspiring documentary on the HURT 100, fueled her determination.

“Slow progress is still progress,” Ciara often tells herself, recalling her early days. It wasn’t long before she embarked on greater milestones: a solo half marathon within two months, her first full marathon by seven months, an ultra distance of 50k by nine months, and a whopping solo 40-mile distance by ten months. By April 1, 2023, she accomplished the feat of running the entire 40-mile Uwharrie Trail in under 12 hours, potentially setting a new record for women.

Connecting with Nature
Ciara speaks of nature with a tender reverence. “Running in nature felt like therapy. Trails made me feel strong,” she expresses. Her dedication to trails led her to start the Wilder Uwharrie Trail Running group in 2022, extending its offerings to include ‘Wild Walks With Littles,’ a free nature walk initiative for families.

“My daughter and I have so much fun on the trails with other families. Watching kids play and explore is incredibly refreshing,” she beams, sharing how children get to experience nature, borrow binoculars, and even receive nature stickers.

Ciara representing Wilder Uwharrie Trail Running

Making a Difference
Ciara’s efforts in the community didn’t go unnoticed. From handmade hiking sticks for kids to promoting trail activities on Fox 8 WGHP, a local news station in High Point, NC, Ciara has been relentless. Her association with the Randolph County Public Library to promote ‘Wild Walks With Littles’ and a proposed program to take shelter dogs hiking reflects her commitment to community welfare.

Photography and Trails
Wilder Uwharrie Photography, founded in December 2021, became Ciara’s platform to share breathtaking nature shots. “I love being able to help friends and family document important milestones at different trail locations,” she shares with enthusiasm.

A Supportive Community
Trails introduced Ciara to the Uwharrie Trailblazers, a group dedicated to maintaining local trails. The group’s chair, David Craft, generously donated poplar sticks, which Ciara transformed into hiking sticks for kids.

Parents and kids at one of Ciara’s events.

Words of Wisdom
Despite her incredible achievements, Ciara remains grounded. “I am just an ordinary person,” she says, emphasizing her belief in chasing personal happiness, embracing challenges, and persisting through hardships. Her mantra? “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

In Ciara’s journey, we see a tale of sheer willpower, the magic of nature, and the beauty of community collaboration. As she gears up for the Uwharrie 100 race in October 2024, her story remains a testament to the transformative power of trails and an inspiration for many.

Trails foster healthy communities!

August’s Year of the Trail them of “Wellness and Trails” deeply resonates with personal experiences. Trails have indisputably played a pivotal role in improving both physical and mental well-being. As many grapple with societal pressures, emotional turbulence, and identity crises in this digital age, trails emerge as sanctuaries where one can find solace, strength, and self-acceptance. They not only foster a sense of belonging and community among enthusiasts but also serve as platforms for creative expression, as evidenced by the success of Wilder Uwharrie Trail Running and Wilder Uwharrie Photography. Immersing oneself in nature has an unparalleled power to heal, connect, and inspire, and it’s imperative to share this revelation with the world to encourage everyone to embrace trails as a path to wellness and self-discovery.

To learn more about Ciara, visit @wilderuwharrietrailrunning, @wilderuwharriephotography, and wilderuwharrietrailrunning.com