Humble, helpful and hard working. Smart and strong. Friendly – and fast!
Those are just a few of the ways people describe Noah Combs – one of the unsung heroes of the New River Valley running scene.
Few runners have attended as many local races as Noah in the past few years, yet you will rarely find his name in the results. Where you will find Noah is out marking the course, setting up the finish line chute, cheering on runners and compiling results. As a member of the Runabout Sports events team, he’s often one of the first to arrive at a race and one of the last to leave.
Noah found early success as a runner for James Demarco’s Blacksburg High cross-country and track program.
He earned a varsity spot as a freshman, helped the boys cross-country team earn a Top 10 finish at Nike Cross Nationals as a sophomore, and ran a 15:45 5K PR as a junior, one of the fastest times in the state.
But Noah was not on the starting line for the first cross-country meets of his senior year. Suffering from burnout, he decided to take a break from the sport he loved.
“Leading up to outdoor track my junior year I hadn’t been feeling well during training,” he recalled. “It was taking a toll on me physically and mentally. I felt tired throughout the days and had nothing left to give come practice. The plan was to take a month off to recuperate, but at the end of that month I hadn’t found the motivation to come back.”
Demarco supported Noah’s decision, but always let him know he was welcome to rejoin the team. As the post-season approached, he decided to give it a try.
“I had a lot of encouragement to start running again from people around me and I began to miss training and being with the team,” he said.
With limited training he ran 16:45 and finished 23rd at the 3A state meet in Great Meadows.
Noah started working at Runabout the summer of 2015 after graduating from BHS and continued while studying computer science at Virginia Tech.
He never stopped running, but only in the past 18 months has he made it a priority – juggling it with a schoolwork, an engineering project team, and other commitments.
“Several times in college I resumed training, but I never made it into a consistent habit until my junior year,” he said. “If I’m busy, I view running as a time to take a break and clear my head. Getting out the door to run, no matter how long, makes the day better.”
Make no mistake though: Noah is a fierce competitor when he does race. He finished second in the Gateway 25K last May and followed that up with a third-place finish against a strong field in the Eastern Divide Ultra 50K a month later.
“Gateway was my first race in a several years and my first trail race ever,” Noah said. “It was refreshing to be able to race without having any previous results at those distances because I didn’t care about the times or the results, I was just racing for the experience.”
–Michael Showe, Runabout Sports/NRVruns