|"I run because not running isn't an option"|
I get asked this a lot, actually, and I think the best short answer is that I run because not running isn't an option. I need that time to decompress and become me again. It gives structure to my day, my week, my month, my life. I can disconnect from Facebook, Twitter, Dailymile, and Gmail and just be with me. Also, I totally dig race bling.
How long have you been running? How did you get started? Why did you choose running over other activities?
I started running about two years ago. I saw a program on TV about Ironman triathlons, and I thought to myself, "THAT. I want to do that." I had never ran a mile in my life at that point, nor had I participated in any sport or physical activity. I started training in all three triathlon disciplines, but I really latched on to running. I liked being able to do it anywhere as long as I had shoes, and I loved the freeing aspect of being alone with my breath. It instantly became my favorite.
How do you motivate yourself to run regularly? What about on the days the weather is bad or your are feeling particularly lazy?
Motivation is tough! My main motivator is my schedule. I take my training schedules seriously and have fear and respect for rest days and run days. Pushing a run back or skipping a run messes with the system. Motivation when the weather is bad isn't usually an issue--running in inclement weather makes me feel like a badass--but getting motivated when I'm tired or stressed can require a kick in the pants from my boyfriend or my Twitter friends.
Do you use a running coach, or read any books to aid in your training?
No coach or books for me. I do a lot of research online, however, and I try to network with other runners. To a large extent though, I think that running is personal and that what works for someone else won't necessarily work for you. I try to listen to my body and adapt accordingly.
How do you fit running in with your daily schedule?
I get up early and get my runs in before work or school, usually. I like running when the roads are quieter. Thankfully my schedule is pretty flexible, though.
Do your friends and family support your running or think you are crazy?
A little bit of both! They support my being healthy and having healthy goals, but they definitely think I'm off my rocker when I tell them about the specifics of training and racing. Sometimes I say things like, "I have no idea why my legs are sore; I only ran 9 miles this morning," and all of my friends just stare at me with their mouths open, looking perplexed. I try to avoid talking endlessly about running to non-runners, though!
What is your favorite running terrain (road, trail, treadmill)?
Road. I love trails and have run many trail races, but I can zone out better when I'm on the road.
What is the hardest race you’ve run to date?
I ran the SweetH2O 50K trail run in Georgia last spring, and it was definitely my hardest race. It was boiling hot and super humid, so the dust I kicked up just stuck to my legs and arms and formed a muddy paste all over. Some of the toughest climbs on the course were following power lines up a mountain, which was brutally hot because there was no shade. When I finished, I made my best friend and boyfriend promise never to let me sign up for a 50K again. Of course, I'm doing another one this June.
What is the most enjoyable race you’ve run to date?
I ran a 10K in DC this past fall called the Run for the Parks 10K, and it was pretty magical to me. I had signed up for it on a whim to guard against post-race depression after my first Ironman. The 10K was the weekend immediately following the Ironman, and I had no expectations going into it, being I was still recovering and pretty exhausted. Everything was so perfect, though. I got there early; the weather was gorgeous; my boyfriend was there but not running, so he could hold my stuff and cheer for me; and, the race was small and well-organized. Everything lined up perfectly, and I not only PR'ed, but there was a rainbow at the finish line. Seriously!
Have you ever been injured due to running? What were the ramifications?
I've already had two stress fractures in the two years I've been running. They both occurred in the middle of training programs, and I trained through them by aqua-jogging the miles I couldn't run and supplementing with cycling and swimming. Both times, I was able to pick up running without losing a day of training once I was healed--I ran my first marathon after the first and my first Ironman after the second. That's not to say that I felt awesome and positive throughout the injuries--I cried for weeks when I found out about both--but both turned out fine in the end.
Do you use any music or run tracking devices when you run, or are you a naked runner?
I'm pretty addicted to my Garmin, but I try to put it away for at least one run per week. Sometimes it puts too much pressure on me to run faster than I probably need to be running. I do enjoy the distance tracking, though. As for music, I usually take it on long runs, but I like to be alone with my thoughts for the shorter ones.
How do you get yourself through the difficult parts of your runs? Do you have a personal mantra or do you just give up?
I talk to myself a lot when I'm running. When I'm running up hills, I think, "This is what separates the men from the boys," and, then, when I'm getting tired, "You don't have to win; you just have to finish." I also use the good ol' "Pain is temporary; quitting is forever," and the single word "Pancakes!". I really love pancakes.
A lot of runners know that “Who has the runs” has a double meaning. How do you deal with the occasional “problem” that plagues every runner at one time or another?
I have been blessed to have had this problem very rarely! I've always been close to a restroom the couple times that it's happened, but since I run in the city 90% of the time, I'm usually close to some establishment that will let me in.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking up running?
Don't be discouraged if it's not easy at first! It gets better, but it takes practice. Find a couch-2-5K program, and trust your training. Also, go to a nice running store and get fitted for a good pair of shoes.
What is your next big race?
My "A" race this spring is The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K in DC.
What is your immediate running goal?
I want to join the Marathon Maniacs, so I'm running two marathons back to back as training runs for my 50K.
What is your ultimate running goal?
50-miler? 100-miler? More? After my first 50K, I said I was never going to do it again and never going to go farther, but here I am training for another and planning a 50-miler for the fall. I always want me!
Do you have a way we can keep track of your progress (Twitter, Facebook, Blog, etc)
Please follow me on Twitter! I'm @VeganAli