“I keep giving away this gift, that was so freely given to me if I want to stay sober.”
If you know Astrid Hoyt, you’ve most likely met her favorite four-legged running partner, Aggie. Aggie was a wedding present for her and her husband, Jonny. A vivid memory for Astrid was sitting in the vet office with her dog one day in 2012, when she was told Aggie was overweight, by the vet. “That really was the trigger for me. It wasn’t my own weight gain, I was making Aggie overweight, that triggered me to get moving again.” So the pair set out for a mile run that day. On that run, an idea was born, “I promised myself that I was going to run a 100 miler, you know, on day one of that mile run.”
The year was 1973, in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, where Astrid’s formative years began. “We grew up in an immigrant neighborhood, with not a lot of sports, maybe some kids were active, but, my parents were primarily artist; reading, indoor activities like television, were the norm.” Astrid’s earliest influence with running came from her mom. “When I was thirteen, my mom started running with a casual running group, and I joined in on that.” The Hash Hound Harriers, this group, one of many chapters world wide, brought folks together young and old. A drinking club with a running problem, as they called themselves. “I don’t know if I cared necessarily about the running, but I enjoyed having a group activity, I was definitely really comfortable hanging out with adults, way more than kids my age.” They ran all over the city, following a trail of white flour, for four to seven miles. As Astrid grew older, she was running three to four days a week. “The group runs would end at a bar and everybody would socialize, my mom met my stepdad on one of those outings.”
The summer before her senior year, Astrid opted to head to Vermont to live with her mom and stepdad. It was a chance to leave the city behind and see what else was out there in this great big world. “I really liked it, I felt like I could be a big fish in a little pond.” Astrid joined the cross-country team and met a lot of nice friends before school started. “Erin was so kind, I connected with her right away.” The team was a positive balance for Astrid adjusting to her new surroundings of farmland and open spaces.
Astrid’s first discovered ultra running in 1991, when her mom and stepdad (whom she lovingly calls her dad) paced a friend from NJ, at the VT100. Astrid crewed that day, getting an up-close look at the event that would become such a big part of her life. “I remember the finish line so clearly, when it was at Smoke Rise Farm. It was so haunting for me, it’s always stuck with me. It was a special kind of crazy, I was doing three mile races at the time, how could anybody do a 100 miler.” Little did she know, that twenty-three years later, she would be running along these same trails, as a participant.
After attending Skidmore college and receiving a double degree in both fine arts and history, Astrid left her running shoes behind and pursued a more ‘glamourous’ lifestyle of bartending, socializing, drinking and shopping. She calls it her ‘shiny chrome coating era’. She was a snowboard instructor in Tahoe, where she lived for four years. Upon turning thirty, she moved east to manage a nightclub in Burlington, Vermont. Astrid got sober in 2008, replacing her using and drug addiction with food, gaining seventy pounds in a years time. She was safe, not drinking or using, but her life wasn’t where she wanted it to be and decided she must find herself and change her ways. That’s where Aggie came in.
“My main focus is my sobriety, anything I put before my sobriety, I will lose. I go to four to five meetings a week, sponsoring women in recovery, and I work with a sponsor myself. I keep giving away this gift, that was so freely given to me if I want to stay sober.” Astrid is ten and half years sober and feels so blessed. “It’s a gift.” Astrid and Jonny lean heavily on each other throughout their sobriety together. They met in 2009 in recovery, and married a little over a year later. “I got hooked in by the blue eyes.”
Astrid feels most at home on her local VAST trails, “We refer to them as Aggie’s trails, that’s where my heart is.” She also loves the beauty and ruggedness of the last thirty miles of the Vermont 100 trails. “After you get over the ass-kicking of the first hill, Heartbreak.” Sunrise runs are an incredible way Astrid starts her day, but she’s excited about anytime she can spend on the trails.
When I asked Astrid whom she would like to go for a run with, it was, elite ultra runner, Courtney Dauwalter, without hesitation. “Courtney is unbelievable and her gratitude is the through the roof. It’s real, her gratitude. I got to witness her thanking volunteers and joking around with them at the Tahoe 200.” I can just imagine the laughter coming off the trails with these two.
In 2013, Astrid ran her first 50k at the Pineland Trail Running Festival in Maine, just a mere year after her first mile run with Aggie, post sobriety. “I cried when I crossed that finish line, uncontrollably. Those miles from the marathon mark to the finish were some of the proudest of my life.” Astrid shared the day with a woman named, Sherry, whom she had met at the start. “She was my partner in crime.” They ran together, almost step for step, for those thirty-one miles. Astrid had a million questions, as Sherry had run an ultra before. “Part of me felt like I was sucking every last ounce of goodness out of her, to know what this ultra thing was about and if it was possible.” The Pineland race became an annual running date for those two for years to come.
Astrid’s running was sidelined in the Fall of 2014. She started having abdominal pain which got progressively worse, resulting in emergency surgery. “I had finish VT100k three months prior and I knew something was wrong. I found out later, I was full of two-pound tumors.” Two more surgeries followed, the last resulting in a full hysterectomy. “It was a process. It was my first time being injured, there was a lot of soul searching. I had to rebuild everything from the ground up.” She beams when she speaks of her coach, Chris, from Ascend Endurance Coaching, who has taught her the importance of building core strength. “I had to learn to stand straight and engage my core.” This will be an integral part of her training and she’s excited for what 2019 will bring. She’s got an early 100 miler in the books.
When I asked Astrid about her non-running hobbies, she laughed, “Is there anything else other than running.” She spends her day as a production potter, where she is covered in clay and loves it. She also enjoys cooking, hiking or trail running with Jonny, and petting their favorite girl, Aggie. If you’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Astrid, you’ve witnessed her warm and contagious laugh, “I have to get a laugh out, it’s like taking a big breath.” she giggled.