Dan Holt: Trail Run for Fun!

“It doesn’t need to be your personal best. It doesn’t need to look pretty. It doesn’t need to improve from the last run. It just needs to happen.”

Sign beside trail, author unknown. Dan Holt and Penne on a Sunday morning trail run.

From Mt. Pleasant, this is 52-year old Holt’s mantra. He has run three Boston Marathons and qualified for a few more. For those of you who don’t know (like my wife, Ginnie), in order to run the Boston Marathon (26.2 miles), you have to “qualify.” Runners who qualify for the Boston Marathon are world class athletes.

Because of COVID-19 and very few races, Sunday morning now finds Holt running trails in state and county parks across Iowa. These are adventure, or exploratory fun runs. Most of the time, except when it’s too hot, Holt has his basset hound, Penne, with him. Yes, a basset hound can be a pretty good running dog, if eased into it. Holt also has his iPhone with him and sets up shots of himself running with Penne on these trails, sort of as proof that he was there. He posts these photos on Facebook.

It started a few years ago when Holt would go to Geode State Park, by Danville, every Sunday and run around Lake Geode twice — 14 miles. From then on his Sunday running would be on fun, interesting and sometimes challenging, trails. This year he decided he would run all the trails in Shimek State Forest in Van Buren County. It wasn’t long before he had conquered Shimek, so each Sunday he now gets up early, picks a park to go to and runs the trails, usually with Penne. To date, he has run Hoover Trail, Lacey Keosauqua Park, Lake Wapello, Wildcat Den Park, Oakland Mills, Indian Lake, Stephens Forest, Port Louisa Refuge, Keomah State Park, Pinicon Ridge Park, Flint River Trail, Cairo Woods, Lake Darling, Lake MacBride, Cedar View Trail, Palisades-Kepler Park, North Gorge, Garrison Rock at Chief Wapello Trail, Hunt Woods, Big Hollow Lake, Lake Belva Deer and Eddyville Dunes.

Most people (including me) have never heard of some of these places. Holt and Penne are usually the only ones there, which is what they like. (Shhh, don’t tell anyone.) The runs are mind-clearing adventure or challenge runs. Holt stops to take pictures of caves, old bridges and gristmills, then posts them on Facebook.

Holt’s enthusiasm for exercise may come from his 89-year-old father, Ray Holt, of Ft. Madison. Ray has had quadruple bypass heart surgery and both hips and knees replaced (and may have a shoulder replacement in the future), but still goes to the Y in Ft. Madison three times a week to work out.

Of course, Dan has been a track star and athlete all his life, right? Nope. Truth be told, he shed a 100 pounds and ran his first race in 2005. It was the Lilac Bloomsday 12K (7.5 miles) in Spokane, Wash. Dan has returned many years to relive the experience of where it all started. But he doesn’t like to dwell on the past, let alone talk about himself. He’s a now, forward looking person, who likes to set goals and then go after them.

Some other tidbits about Holt: he’s a “closet artist,” having made some outstanding wood sculptures with a chain saw and beautiful Christmas ornaments from scrap lumber. He rides his bike to work at Hearth and Home everyday, even in subzero weather. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s working mostly at home now and champing at the bit to get back to his routine of swimming at Mt. Pleasant’s Rec Center as restrictions ease. Trail running keeps him sane, which is much appreciated by his wife, Amy.

One more detail: while on vacation in France, feeling stuffy from his lack of exercise, Holt ran up the Tour de France hill at L’Alpe-Huez. Yep. That’s our Danny Boy.


Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in

Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.


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