Open Mic Friday

Open Mic Friday: Meet Erin...aka "Eri-thon"

Open_mic_fridayFriends at Runners' Lounge get a double treat this week as our guest at yesterday's Take It And Run Thursday and today's Open Mic Friday are the same wonderful Erin, also known by her blog, Erithon.

Erin's name was submitted by several of her online friends as a great interview guest for Open Mic Friday.  They couldn't have been more right.  Perhaps the only thing that exceeds her enjoyment for the running and racing she's done is her excitement for the running that lies ahead of her.

We're thrilled to know Erin and know you will be too!

Golden_apple_5K 010 Your blog is exploding with enthusiasm for running. How’s it working keeping up with it?

Keeping up with the running or keeping up with the blog?  Let’s go with the blog.  I started the blog because I’d moved away from all my immediate friends and family but I wanted them to be able to follow me as I trained for my races.  I figured it would give them some insight to my life that they might not get otherwise.  I update the blog after every run and sometimes after other things as well (volunteering at a race, new cross-training attempts, etc).  I’ve been a blogger in one form or another since 2001 so obviously I love to write.  I’m not the best writer out there, but I do it anyway.  I love having a record and I love sharing it with people.  I try to keep the enthusiasm at the surface because, really, who wants to read a badly written whiny blog? 

How did you develop your passion for running and fitness?

Illinois Half Marathon 096 When I was in my late teens/early twenties my mom said to me, “Get in the habit now of making fitness a priority in your life.  Your will thank yourself when you’re my age.”  I took her words to heart, got a gym membership, and spent several hours a week weight training and hitting the elliptical.  After several years of this, though, I got bored.  I bought a treadmill and tried running.  Many of my online friends were running and I figured that if they could do it, so could I.  I think the longest I ever ran on the treadmill was just shy of a 5K distance.  Then I tried running outside.  Big fat fail.  Finally, I joined a Beginning Women’s Running Group in July 2007.  Our goal was a 5K race in September.  Having a group to train with and running a race with my friends and family cheering me on started a fever in my blood.  I’d never been athletic.  I’d never been into sports.  The closest I came was being on the dance team in high school.  But when I was out there running I felt amazing.  Plus, every time I run a race and tell my mom about it, she tells me how proud she is of me.  Even though I’m 29, that still means a lot. 

Human_race_10K 009 Chicago is one of the great metro areas for running.  Tell us about your experience running in Chicagoland.

Well, I’ve only lived here for a year so I haven’t gotten to experience everything yet.  I work downtown (literally less than a mile from the famous lakefront path) but live about 10 miles west of downtown.  Before I lived here I lived in a mid-sized town with a thriving running community.  However, I’ve found it easier to run in the Chicago area than I ever did previously.  There are just so many great places to run!  The Cook County Forest Preserve has amazing bike trails that go for miles and are perfect for running.  I can easily run along the lakefront path at lunch.  Earlier this summer a blog friend Kim at  and I discovered that we work two blocks away from each other and that we both love to run.  So, we’ve done several lunch time runs together and even volunteered at a water station at a 5K downtown together.  When I can’t run with her, there’s a group of employees at my work who also run at lunch a few times a week.  I never would have thought to run at lunch until now.  And then there are the races!  I tell you, I could run a race every weekend from April to November if I wanted to.  I try to run one race a month now that I have so many to choose from.  I also love that no matter where I’m running I’ll pass other runners. 

You just completed a half marathon last month.  What were the highlights?

Too many to name!  Seriously, though, this race allowed me to meet and run with one of my oldest online friends ever.  Holly (or hollyontherun at Runners’ Lounge) and I have been online friends for over 5 years but we’d never met in person.  She’s one of the people who inspired me to start running so I thought it was appropriate to run a race with her.  And since she lives in one of my favorite areas of the country, I made a vacation out of it.  My husband, my mother, and my step-father all came with and we stayed in California Wine Country for a week.  I got to meet and visit with a friend, run a fun (and super well-organized) race, and spend time with my family.  And drink wine!  My race time wasn’t a PR, but I have so many fabulous memories from the trip that I don’t even care.  If you’re looking for a destination race, I highly recommend the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon. 

You set a goal to run a marathon next year.  Have you chosen which one yet?

Chicago_marathon_signs I haven’t.  Part of me wants to run the Chicago Marathon.  I mean, I live here, it’s a premier event, there are always training groups training for it, so why not?  But part of me wants to run the Illinois Marathon in my hometown.  It’s fewer people, but it’s my hometown.  Plus, this year it’s at the beginning of May so it probably won’t be hot.  As we’ve learned, there are no guarantees of that for Chicago.  So, I could run a huge race and never be on the course alone and see more of the city in one day than I’ll have seen in my entire time living here but run the risk of melting in the heat or feeling cramped. Or I could run a smaller race in familiar territory with a better chance of decent weather, but risk running alone with few spectators.  Decisions, decisions. 

Who from your past would you like to know that you’re now a runner?

Believe it or not, an ex-boyfriend from high school.   He ran cross-country in high school and I always complained that it took up too much of his time.  But now that I’m a runner, I realize how running can be a passion.  That sometimes it comes first.  And now I’m okay with that.  So, I want him to know that I understand that now.  And I apologize for not getting it back then. 

Golden_apple_5K 018 What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

They think I’m crazy, but they’re super proud of me.  I get so many comments from them telling me that.  I think they’re also amazed that I, the girl who never did anything athletic, can run over 13 miles!  They’ll also say that I’m really hard on myself.  My mom even made me promise that regardless of my time in my most recent half marathon I wouldn’t let it get me down.  I think I kept up my end of the bargain.

Best race experience? 

Interestingly enough, I would have to say my best race experience was not even a race I ran.  Last year I went to watch and cheer at the Chicago Marathon. It was my first time being a race spectator instead of a runner.  I came up out of the subway and was walking down the street to meet a friend.  Suddenly, I came upon the race.  I stood there in awe at the number of spectators.  I watched, open-mouthed, as the runners streamed by.  As I took it all in, I started to tear up.  That was when I knew I was really and truly a runner who loved to race.  The sign I held up that day could not have been more appropriate.  It read “You Inspire Me”. 

Any quirky running traits?

Before December 2008 I owned a Nike+ iPod and a $5 sports watch as my running gadgets.  My husband got me a Garmin 405 for Christmas.  Now, I won’t run outside without it.  I have seriously almost skipped runs because the battery was dead or because I forgot it at home.  Thankfully I have good friends to tell me it doesn’t matter and to just get out there and run.  Doesn’t mean I was happy about it though!  Also, I hate running in non-matching running clothes.  I try my hardest to be color coordinated before I go out the door.  And, if you’d asked me this question before March 2009 I would have said that I had to run with a cotton bandanna do-rag to sop up the sweat.  Now, though, I’ve switched to a visor and just carry the bandanna instead of tying it over my head.  Hey, I’m a sweaty girl! 

Westchester_veterun_10K 089 What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

My long-term goals are to break 2 hours in a half-marathon, get my 10K time solidly under an hour (my current PR is 59:59 and that was at my first 10K.  I haven’t gotten it back under an hour since.), and get my easy-run pace closer to 9:00 than 10:00.  And, of course, run a marathon. 

What gets you excited about running?

My outlook on running is totally anomalous in my life.  Normally, I prefer structure, predictability, and success.  But with running, I’m okay with not having those things.  Every time I start running it’s an adventure.  Typically the only aspect I know is how far I’m going to go.  Will the run be good?  Will I be fast?  Will I struggle?  Will I meet my time goals?  I never know.  And I think that unpredictability and the suspense is what keeps me excited. 

Non-running and non-blogging interests?

I’m supposed to have other interests?  Just kidding.  I’m a voracious reader and currently have two books that I’m in the middle of reading.  The Lost City of Z and Ahab’s Wife.  I’m also getting into archery with a wooden recurve bow and try to go once a week.  I’m not very good, but I hit the target somewhere more often than not.  Just not always where I was aiming.  I also scrapbook, but I only scrapbook my races.  My husband is fabulous about coming out to all my races and taking photos.  Each race takes up at least two pages and consists of, at a minimum, my race bib, a map of the course, a photo or two of me, and my time. 

Running hero?

I have several.  My online friend Aimee who truly runs for the joy of it.  My friend Holly (previously mentioned) who never says “never” or “can’t”.  When she sets a goal, she achieves it.  She never lets injuries, speed, or anxieties stop her for very long.  My friend Lindsay who has run two marathons and is training for her third… in less than a year.  And I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but, really, my heroes are people who aren’t necessarily the fastest, but who have jobs and lives and struggles and still get out there and run. 

Friend on the Beach What is one unique thing about you that most people don't know?

When I was in high school I wanted to be Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs. I even went through the entire interview process to become a police officer in my hometown.  I didn’t end up in law enforcement, however.   Instead, I ended up in records management.  It’s as exciting as it sounds. 

What’s going on in your life outside of running?

My husband and I are looking into adopting a former track greyhound.  We currently have a German Shepherd-Husky mix, but I’ve always wanted a greyhound.  When I saw an 8 year old grey listed on a rescue website I thought he would be perfect for us.  We’re still jumping through some hoops but I’m hoping that by this time next month we’ll have our answer as to whether or not he’ll be coming to live with us.

If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

A coach to work with me every day so that I can achieve my running goals.  I suppose technically money can buy me that dream.  I just need more of it!

IMG_1535 Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t know if I can say the “best” advice.  I can say, though, that I’ve absorbed a ton of it over the past two years.  I’m still sorting out what works for me and what doesn’t. 

Best running advice you’d like to share?

Run with someone faster than you.  It’s easy to become complacent with your running.  Especially if you’re like me and want to get faster but aren’t really good at pushing yourself.  I’ve found that running with people who are just a few seconds faster than you can really make a huge difference. 

Also, I think everyone should give back to running.  Whether that’s helping out a local running group behind the scenes, volunteering at a race, or encouraging someone who’s expressed interest in running.  I’ve volunteered at several races so far doing everything from packet pick-up to handing out water at an aid station.  It gives you a completely different perspective and one that I think is invaluable.  

Thank you, Erin!

Do you know a runner you would recommend for Open Mic Friday?

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Open Mic Friday: Meet ExtraOrdinary Runner Award Winner, Reid Axman


We met today's guest, Reid Axman,catching up from  last SeptemberToday we're re-connecting with Reid after winning the July ExtraOrdinary Runner Award for his story, My Mile Story.

Reid is a great runner and friend. Perhaps the only thing that exceeds Reid's running talent and drive is his devotion to his family. 

Enjoy meeting Reid a year later and learning more about his life in and outside of running.

Bracelet Give us a little more background behind your sub 5:00 goal.

I was extremely inspired when I started learning about the man, Steve Prefontaine. He was so fast, so fun to watch. He went out hard every time, giving his all. I started imagining what it would be like to run like that. It was in a conversation with my wife after watching the film "Without Limits" that I decided to see what I could do. I made the goal of breaking 5 minutes in the mile, about 30 seconds faster than my high school times. That's crazy! I'm 29 years old! What am I thinking? I had to fight back those thoughts and just go for it. And as hard as it was, it was so much fun!

Many runners focus on goals related to 5k to marathon.  How did you select the mile for your “I did it” moment?

I think it was maybe a week prior that I read in Runner's World about Alan Webb breaking the American record for the mile. That article entered our conversation, and was one of the things that got me focusing on the mile. But I think the main reason was that I just wanted to run fast. Like Pre. Sure, I also thought about the marathon, but a 7 minute mile seemed pretty slow compared to a 5 minute mile (even though I'd only be doing one as opposed to 26). A fast marathon is still on my radar so stay tuned.

Family RA You draw a lot of motivation from your family.  Tell us how they inspire you.

I have the greatest family on earth! My wife is so supportive. She always has words of encouragement when I need it. It's so nice to know that she believes in me and my crazy running goals. And I love seeing her cheering for me at my races. She also ran through most of her most recent pregnancy, and is about ready to make a comeback! Can't wait for that!

I also want to be a good example for my kids. Health and fitness are important to me, and I want to pass that on to them. I want them to see me working hard at something. I want them to see me setting and achieving goals. Lofty goals. I want that to rub off on them. And I would love to see them come to love running as much as I do.

What role did your online friends play in the pursuit of your goal?

When I started my quest for the 5 minute mile, I never imagined I'd get so much attention. It started out pretty quiet, just writing about my attempts on my blog (who reads my blog besides my wife?). It wasn't long before I started getting comments from other bloggers showing their support, wishing me luck, giving me encouragement, sharing tips, and even recommending books. It was great! I was getting closer to my goal and I was making new friends at the same time. It was after a disappointing attempt #12 that I really enlisted the help of the online running community. I put together a virtual 1 mile race for others to run with me. I was utterly overwhelmed with the response I got.

My announcement started popping up on other blogs, getting the word out and rallying support. For me. I started feeling a little pressure. I especially noticed that pressure during workouts when I started getting tired and wanting to stop. I imagined all those people sitting in the stands surrounding the track. I couldn't let myself slow down in front of them. They really kept me going, gave that extra push. By the time my race day rolled around, I knew there was no way I couldn't do it. I had to. I didn't want to disappoint all those new friends who rallied around me, all those people who really believed I could do it. I can't even describe the elation of not only reaching that goal, but doing it with so many other. It definitely felt like a group effort.

Thanks again to everyone who was there for me! I don't think I could have done it without you!

Award What goal are you working toward now?

I've shifted my focus to the 5k. I'm currently running in the 19:30s, good enough for a couple age groups awards at races this summer, but I want to cut that time down. A lot. My ultimate goal is to run around 17 minutes. I figure if I was able to run a 5 minute mile, I could probably train to run two miles in 11 minutes. From there, it's only a 6 minute mile for a 17 minute 5k, right? Sure, there's that 0.1 to add on, but I think that's pretty doable. Obviously, I'm not there yet, and it is going to take a lot of work to get there, but coming off my experience with my mile quest, I am certain I can reach this goal.

What’s your favorite run or workout?

I read about this workout several years ago in RW called the "Quick-Step Quickie" designed to get a good workout in a short amount of time. It's very simple. You run hard for 20 seconds, then run easy for 40 seconds. Repeat 15 times. A great workout in only 15 minutes. I've done this a few times in the last couple months, and it really helps train your body and brain to shift gears when you're fatigued, especially towards the end of the workout. For some odd reason, I think that's fun!

Ax You let RL interview you last September.  What’s changed in and outside your running life since then?

Wow, a lot has happened since then! On the home front, there's the exciting new addition of my son! He was born in April, and has since become quite the little chunk. He's very active, and I can tell he's going to be a great runner with all that energy. And my girls absolutely love him. Speaking of my girls, my oldest just started kindergarten! I can't be old enough to have a kindergartener! Good grief.

I had another great year coaching cross country and track at the middle school. We had bigger teams than the previous year, and had some kids do really well. This year, I will be coaching cross country at the new local high school. I'll be coaching with a friend of mine, and we look forward to building the program.

My running has kind of been up and down. Not long after my 5 minute mile, I somehow injured my knee. It's flared up a time or two since then causing me to take some time off, during which time I volunteered for a few races. I ended up not doing the marathon I was planning for in January, and have had to keep my runs relatively short (partly the reason for my 5k goal). Right now, things are going really well. I've run a couple 5ks this summer and am making a lot of progress. I've got my eyes peeled for more 5ks, and hope to get closer to that goal.

Do you know a runner you would recommend for Open Mic Friday?

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Open Mic Friday: Meet Lauren


This week's guest is a delight to know.  New to running, but she's already totally immersed in the challenge and success.  She's ramped up quickly to longer distances and shares a lot of excitement for running in her blog, When I get a little, run run run.  She loves her races and turns them into adventures and fun.  Currently, she's training for a marathon in the heat of the Southwest, but not complaining.  That's enough of an intro.

Open Mic Friday readers, meet Lauren!

Your running story is impressive. You’ve been running a relatively short time and you recently completed a HM. Tell us more about your progress.

RNRAZ finish I don’t know that impressive, running, and I all belong together in one thought!  Wow!  [shocked and flattered] 

I don’t come from a particularly athletic background.  In fact, I dreaded the annual one mile run we had to complete in high school.  Even though it was just once a year, it was enough to strike fear into my heart every time, and I struggled to beat the 15 minute cut off.  

In college I was a rower for the crew team because I loved to be on the water and share the camaraderie of the team.  When I wasn’t rowing in my final 2 years, focusing on school work, thesis, travel, and friends, I lost every last bit of fitness I had and packed on some extra pounds.  After school, I knew I had to get back into shape, I knew I wanted to challenge myself, and I decided to run the RNR Arizona half, pretty much out of nowhere.  I gave myself 6 months to train, starting with the Couch-to-5k plan, and built up from there.  In the last year I’ve run about a dozen races, from a miserable first 5k to the half marathon, and recently my second half marathon where I managed a PR well beyond my goals

Tell us what you’re looking ahead to.

I’m currently training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October, which will be my first marathon!  I have a few fun races scheduled between now and then, including a redemption run of my first 5k a year ago and a 15.4 mile trail run I’m using as a long training run. 

Mcm logo Why did you choose MCM?

From the time I started running a year ago, I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to do a full marathon, but I didn’t allow myself to really think about it until after RNRAZ.  My fiance’s family is a Marine Corps family – most notably his grandfather and late grandmother – and I really wanted to do this race as my first full marathon as a way to honor them and to have a stronger connection with his family. 

What are you most excited about running MCM?  Most nervous about?

I’m really excited for the challenge of the distance, and I want to prove to myself that I can do it.  My fiancé has decided to run the race too, so it’s very exciting to be able to go through the process with him and to see him progress.  I’m also very excited because DC is close to our home in PA, and I’m hoping to see all sorts of friends/family as well as a few blogger friends! 

I’m nervous about logistics of traveling and the race, but I know a lot of that is out of my control.  I’m also nervous about completing my really long training runs in the Phoenix summer heat.  I’m a slow runner, so they are going to take me a long time.  I’ll be up early to run for sure. 

B2B 005 You recently ran the famous and fabulous Bay to Breakers.  Most runners will never have a chance to run such a quirky race. Describe it for us.

Bay to Breakers is one part race, one part giant drunken costume party, run through the streets of San Francisco.  It’s one of the oldest and largest races in the country, at 98 years old this year’s race had about 30,000 participants.  Years past have had up to 110,000.

There are big name elite racers at the front of the pack, tearing through the city for big prize money.  In addition to final cash awards, there’s also an award for the first person to reach the top of the Hayes Street hill – a massive uphill from miles 2-4.

The center of the pack has a middle ground of people who want to have fun but run as well.  This is where I was this year.  The back of the pack is just one giant party with crazy costumes, nude old guys, floats, and plenty of booze.  This group traverses along the streets, lined with tailgaters, and maybe half of them complete the full distance.  

There are so many traditions that go along with the race; I recommend grabbing a group of friends, researching it all so you don’t miss out, and experiencing it for yourself.  And don’t run for a fast time, run for a fun time. 

What are some key things you’ve learned about yourself and about running since starting your training for the marathon?

RNRAZ I’ve learned that I really am an engineering nerd.  I can’t get enough of all of the number crunching that goes along with running.  I’m constantly reviewing different plans, distances, paces, races, splits, trends, totals… I can’t help myself.  Regarding running itself, I’ve learned that it’s really what you make of it.  Running can be casual and fun, it can be nerve-racking and competitive.  It will give back what you give to it.   

What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

Most of my family limits their knowledge to ‘sometimes she runs pretty far and I don’t know why’ which I think is funny.  My friends are pretty active, outgoing kids.  I know my BFF is very surprised and proud of what I’ve done and she’s recently ran her first 5k!  Otherwise, I’m just like everyone else – just slower and occasionally further.   

BFF Wedding Any quirky running traits?

I pick up on every smell around me when I’m running.  Most of the races I’ve done have a smell or set of smells associated with them.  The Grasshopper Bridge 5k in Phoenix ran through a development. There was a house doing laundry that was clean and fresh, and then 3 others cooking bacon – it made me hungry!  

RNRAZ was pretty miserable in this regard, since it was such a crowded race.  Every few minutes I’d pass someone with really bad smelling sweat or BenGay all lathered up.  There was a lot a gagging.  Since I’m so slow, the Cytomax spilled at all the aid stations had turned sour (and slippery!). 
I think the real reason that I run road races though – I love the smell of fresh rain on hot pavement, and this is exactly what you get at most water stations!  Best. Smell. Ever. 

What gets you excited about running?

I love looking forward to the challenge, and then conquering it.  I always know that I’ll feel good when I’m done.  I also get really excited when sharing running with my running partners, both real and virtual.

IronGirl Favorite distance?

I like the half marathon distance because it’s a manageable challenge.  Can’t wait to see how the marathon treats me though! 

Greatest running accomplishment?

I’m really proud of my recent PR at the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon.  I was hoping to best RNRAZ by 3 minutes, and I ended up taking off almost 8 – completely surprising myself in the process.  I feel that I started to learn how to fuel and pace myself well in training for the race, and I implemented it well! 

Current running goals?

Survive the marathon, and break 30 minutes in the 5k before the end of the year.  Speed’s obviously not my thing, but I’m going to do it!

Non- running and non-blogging interests?

Spending time with my fiancé and puppy, roadtrips and camping, hiking, miscellaneous art projects, and photography – luckily all of that can more or less be done at once on a good weekend!  There’s something about exploring new places and watching the country go by on a long drive that’s pretty fantastic. 

Running hero?

A friend from college ran on the varsity team year round while being an active student leader, completing one of the hardest majors at Penn State, in the honors college, and attending / throwing our fun parties.  He’s working full time as an engineer and running at a near elite level in his spare time.  We didn’t appreciate what he did while in school, but I think I can speak for our whole group of friends that we all are truly inspired and in awe of him. 

Greatest running moment?

The morning of my birthday this year, I went out early to do intervals.  When I turned around for the return portion of my out-and-back, there was the most stunning sunrise unfolding and I got to watch it as I ran.  It’s mornings like those that make me feel very satisfied with knocking out early morning runs, and it was a perfect start to my birthday.

Go Lions If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

I’d love to have the freedom to take time and travel to races, and to take my friends along with me, swapping them around every few runs.  I had friends fly from the East Coast to Phoenix and then we drove to SF for Bay to Breakers, taking the scenic route and 19 hours to get there.  Pretty darn fantastic.  For Bryce Canyon, the fiancé and I did another roadtrip, about 8 hours one way and camped.  So much fun. 

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s ok to walk.  I’m slow, and I do walk in training and occasionally in racing.  In the end, I still cover the same distance that everyone else does.  I’m learning what works best for me, and running as I am now would not have been possible without the option to walk.   

Best running advice you’d like to share?

Find a plan and a race (or lots of races).  The accountability of “3 miles today, 6 miles on Saturday” is what really keeps me going.  

And find some really great people to share your running with.  If it weren’t for the support system of other runners around me, both real and virtual, I would not be where I am today. 

Open Mic Friday: Meet Redhead Runner


Our guest this week is preparing for her first marathon--in the warmth of Orlando.  Yet with each long run, she is celebrating her accomplishments.  She's counting down the weeks and days and her excitement for running is contagious.  Her blog, Caution: Red Head Runner, is filled with her running and non-running musings. 

We're delighted to introduce you to Morgan, or Redhead Running.

Your blog is exploding with enthusiasm for running, especially long runs. How did you develop your passion for running and fitness?

GasparillaFinish I’ve always enjoyed running but never, EVER would have pictured myself doing all this. (I’ve never even participated in an organized sport!) Prior to catching the running bug I just ran to clear my head, get some cardio and help me sleep. (I have insomnia) But after I did my first 5k last year, I felt like I discovered a part of myself I didn’t even know I possessed. I loved the way running made me feel, inside and out. I became so positive and it really helped me get on track in other areas of my life. Once I made up my mind to do the Gasparilla Half Marathon and began racking up the mileage training, that’s when I fell in love with the long run. I’ve been training alone for months but recently I’ve had the opportunity to do a few long runs with my friends, Beth (of Discom-bob-ulated Running) and the “Lazy Runner”. Long run conversations are the best! Not to mention, through them I’ve been discovering amazing new places and meeting really great people! (The Brandon Running Association is the best group of runners ever!)

You might be the most excited runner we know preparing for the Chicago Marathon.  Why did you select Chicago above others?

You noticed that huh? LOL! Well first and foremost I knew I needed a marathon that didn’t have much terrain and I also wanted to make sure my family could be there. I’m a transplant from Michigan and when I did my first Half I realized just how much I wished they had been there for it. So with those perimeters in mind I narrowed down the options to Chicago or Detroit. They fell within a week of each other and during that week just so happens to be my birthday so I opted for Chicago so I could celebrate Marathon success AND my birthday. Win/Win.

How is your marathon training going?

It goes. I have good days, I have bad days. Each day I learn something new about myself, my body and what I’m capable of. There have been schedule conflicts/hurdles/injuries that have gotten in the way of progress but I take each day as they come and try to stay focused and positive. Every run is a learning experience.

Marathon training in Orlando during the summer.  Describe.

  • Picture it: Orlando aka Land of the Mouse…
  • Humidity: 100% - 24/7
  • Terrain: Flatter than a pancake
  • Elevation: Below Sea level (Read: Not a chance in heck you’re getting a breeze)
  • Average Temp: 80+ (All.Day.)
  • Daily Weather Report: SUNNY with an afternoon monsoon.
  • Basically you step out the door and you’re immediately drenched in sweat. If you even think of starting a run after 7am your chances of being found sunburnt and dehydrated in a ditch are pretty high. Let’s just say the amount of freckles on my exposed limbs have more than doubled since I started training…

What are you most excited about running Chicago?  Most nervous about?

Chicago is a beautiful city and I’m really excited about running through the different “towns.” But more importantly I’m excited to RUN the marathon and FINISH. To say that I have run 26.2 miles. What am I most nervous about? NOT being able to do/say that.

What are some key things you’ve learned about yourself and about running since starting your training for Chicago Marathon?

Listen to your body. Rest when you need to rest. Eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, about ANYTHING. Do I always heed these words of wisdom? Ehh… not so much but I’m working on it.

MuddyBuddy What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

This can best be summarized by my grandmother’s reaction upon learning I started “running”; “Ooooo, that’s a good “hobby” for her! Maybe it’ll help her get rid of all that nervous energy she has.” – Gotta luv the Gram’s.

Any quirky running traits?

Two words: Skip Start. I have to put a little pep in my step to get going… and everyone makes fun of me for it.

What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

Someday, after I’ve finally invested in a Garmin, learned how to use it and perfected my pace, I would love to be a pacer... and finish a 5k sub 20. A girl can dream...

What gets you excited about running?

What doesn’t get me excited about it? (Besides my arch nemesis, “The Injury”) Have you read my blog? LOL!

Favorite race?

Muddy Buddy – I highly suggest everyone participates in one of these if they ever  have the opportunity!

Greatest running accomplishment?

Check back for that answer on Oct. 11th.

Cruising Who are some of your virtual running friends you would like to meet up and run with?

Well obviously I’d love to meet them all! BUT to narrow it down to just my running/blogging hero’s:
Frayed Laces: She is awe inspiring and nothing short of amazing. She takes being a hardcore runner girl to the extreme! I have so much respect for her and aspire to be as hardcore as she is.

Chic Runner: So she can teach me to be stylish and witty while running!

Nitmos: To see if he’s really as devilishly handsome as he claims and because he’s wildly entertaining. (And he’s a fellow Michigander)

The Running Laminator: He is an endless fount of running knowledge and I’d love to just pick his brain…

What’s going on in your life outside of running?

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve become a bit of a recluse lately. The social life has definitely fallen by the wayside, but with working two jobs and training for a marathon it’s to be expected. I plan to make a full recovery and reclaim social butterfly status on October 15th.

If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

Running tour of the world with my runner friends! Duh! BUT, I would do it stylishly accessorized head to toe in the most adorably flattering and non-chafing running apparel.

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

I received this gem earlier in the week: “You really need to get in touch with your running self. Do more crazy things… Have more fun!! Live more!!! Take that wild self that you used to have and transfer it into your running self. Your running shouldn’t just be about the running. Make it an adventure, try to discover one new thing every run. Try to discover one new thing about yourself and who you are and where you’re going.” - I think it’s going to be my new mantra.


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Open Mic Friday: Meet Sneaker Sister

Open_mic_friday This week's guest is Jill  who shares her passion for running, with a particular preference for the half marathon.  We learn about her start into running, accomplishments, and what's ahead in her running.  At Runners' Lounge, we admire her blog, Sneaker Sister,  where she provides a great slice of her life, in and outside of running, with great pics that help tell her story and give us a more complete appreciation of her.

She's training fiercely this summer, adding intense speed work with her sights set on a rewarding fall of racing.  Reading about her makes us wonder if there's a little more we can put into our own running and living. 

Welcome Sneaker Sister!


You used to run, then took some time away from running.  Now that you’ve returned to running, you have this unleashed enthusiasm.  Explain.

Current Yes, I use to run but I never considered myself to be a runner like I do now. I ran extremely inconsistently as I was attempting to create a more fit lifestyle but it didn’t really stick back then. The enthusiasm that you refer to now in a lot of ways is a pretty good example of who I am. I tend to be very passionate about the things I love. I jump into things head first and whole-heartedly and give it my all. I happen to really love running and the whole sense of accomplishment I derive from it. Wanting to do my absolute best is what pushes me to be better.

What are some key things you’ve learned about yourself and about running since returning to it?

A great deal of patience, definitely. You can’t just jump into running and achieve the lofty goals we all set for ourselves. You have to work for it and it takes time, sometimes it takes years. The only way to get there is with a lot of patience.

FirstHM This is the year of the half marathon distance for you.  Tell us how you decided to focus so heavily on the HM distance?

I love the half marathon distance, it’s long enough to require endurance but short enough that it’s still fun without a wall knocking you down at the end. After making it half-way through marathon training a year ago before a stress fracture took me out of the game I decided I needed to work on my speed and chip away at my current half marathon PR. Speedwork is the key for me. If I can improve my overall paces and walk away from this Fall with a time that I am proud of I just may be able to achieve my marathon goals a year from now.

You’ve said maybe there’s a marathon in your future?  Any idea which one and when?

I am planning on running my first marathon in the Fall of 2010. As of now I have my sights set on either Harrisburg or Steamtown.

How are you going to prepare for each of your half marathons differently?

I have different goals for each of the half marathons. I am basically focused on two right now, the third HM is still up in the air for me. In September I plan to work on my race strategy and use that half marathon as a training run for my goal HM in October. Depending on how I do and/or how I feel after my goal race I may end up running a November HM.

In preparation for the first HM I will definitely taper but since it’s not a goal race I don’t want to put 100% effort into the race. The purpose of this race is to test out my strategy and get in a good long run. I definitely don’t want to be peaking at this point. Training will continue in the days after the race so I will need to be able to jump back into my schedule without taking any time off.

My goal race in October will be approached differently. If all goes well I will be peaking and able to run with 100% effort. This should be fun because I’m not certain I’ve ever given 100%. Knowing the race course is a huge bonus, therefore I will be doing a lot of research online and try to track down people who have run this race and ask them questions. If that fails I will probably drive the 2 hours to New Jersey and check out the course myself.

As I said, HM #3 is still up in the air. Depending on my results in October I may end up deciding to race hard or I may just run for fun with some friends. We shall see. If I decide to race it I will only have a couple of weeks to train, so that would probably include two or three speed sessions and a long run or two before tapering again.

The three races I am referring to are the Harrisburg HM in September, Seaside HM in October and Philadelphia HM in November.

MeAndGirls What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

Undoubtedly, they would all tell you that I’m crazy for 1) wanting to run a marathon, and 2) waking up at 5:00 am to go running.

You have a great blog with an interesting name.  Care to tell us more about your blogging running interest.  What makes it unique and interesting?

Well, thank you. A while back I had this idea of starting a local running club for women called Sneaker Sisters but it never really took off. I decided to assume that name as my “internet” and blog name instead. My blogging has changed a lot over the course of the past two years. It started off as a personal blog and then started to take form as a fitness and running blog which I now use as a platform for sharing my training with the world. I mostly talk about how my training is going but also share other running related things such as my thoughts on certain products to my volunteer duties with my local running club and everything in between. I have gotten to know several fellow bloggers, met up with some at races and mostly I’ve found a huge, supportive running community that I love being a part of.

Best race experience?

I’d have to say the 4 mile race I ran two weeks prior to my first half marathon in 2008. I was peaking and ended up running much better than I ever expected to. It’s still my best race to date. It was a huge ego booster.

How did you develop your passion for running and fitness?

I think it’s always been a part of me. I began participating in organized sports around the age of 8 and have always been involved in athletics in some shape or form since then. When you start so young it really becomes ingrained in who you are. Over the years I’ve played softball, soccer, field hockey, hiked, biked, mountain climbed, skied, snowboarded, and now I run and strength train. As I get older fitness has become much more important to me for health reasons. At this point it’s just a part of who I am.

What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

Actually, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. One thing I’ve learned in the past month is that I have never really pushed myself with my running. I am just starting to do so this summer with my speedwork. I’ve always just put in the miles but never really challenged myself to dig inside and pull out what I know I am capable of doing. This is a very exciting summer for me as I have seen a lot of improvement and progress already. I’m hoping it pays off in the Fall season. So, to answer your question, I don’t feel that I have unleashed all of my capabilities yet. But the big question is will I know it when it happens? Don’t we all try to keep pushing to be better? It’s a tough one.

Dog What gets you excited about running?

This might sound twisted but I get most excited about really tough workouts. I mean REALLY tough. A year ago it was my 20 mile training runs. I would practically get butterflies from my excitement the night before, and then from the sense of accomplishment afterwards. This year I get extremely excited about my speedwork. I’ve done tempo runs in the past but the track workouts are an entirely new beast to me in 2009.

Something else I get really excited about during my runs are hills. In the beginning of my training cycles the hills are hard. In the Winter, when I cut back on my mileage and am in base training mode I may even walk some of the hills. In the midst of my training I can gauge how things are going by how well I can run those same hills. When I can attack the hills without a change in pace and not drop to the ground gasping for air, then I know my conditioning and fitness level has improved.

What’s your secret to running success?

Listening to myself, trusting to myself and pushing myself. Waking up before the sun to prepare for my morning runs. Having a very supportive husband.

Favorite race?

The Lehigh Valley Half Marathon, formerly known as Runners World HM. It’s a great course, a small field size, and I know the route like the back of my hand since I train on it each week of the year.

Favorite distance?

Favorite race distances are 10 milers and half marathons.

OnARun Greatest running accomplishment?

Hands down, my greatest running accomplishment has been sticking with it in the first couple of months and not giving up. I think that is the hardest part of becoming a runner, those early months.
Current running goals?

You mean you want me to put it all out there? Alright. I’ve kept this private until now but in appreciation to Tom and Amy for the Runners Lounge, I’ll share.
My goals are very specific and I’m not sure if I’ll meet them or not, but … I want to run a 1:45 half marathon and a 4 hour marathon. There, I said it.

Non- running and non-blogging interests?

Photography is my other passion. I have my camera in hand about 80% of the time. My primary subjects are my children and my wonderful dog (who happens to be my running partner as well.) I share my photos on flickr ( in case anyone is interested.

Running hero?

Steve Prefontaine. He put it all out there and gave everything he had all the time.

Greatest running moment?

Running with my daughters and instilling in them a sense of joy from sports and being active. They are 5 and 3½ years old and love to run with me. They especially love going to the track with me and my 5 year old will run the recovery laps with me during my workouts. I love that more than anything.

What is one unique thing about you that most people don't know?

I can speak Hungarian. I lived in Eastern Europe for a few months in 1990-1991 during a semester abroad. The university I attended was in southern Hungary, about an hour north of what was then considered Yugoslavia. This was a very exciting time in Eastern Europe: the Wall came down in Berlin, Soviet troops were being withdrawn from the former Soviet Block countries and there was a lot of civil unrest all over. I traveled throughout Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary often and almost always by myself which enabled me to meet a lot of locals. I drank a lot of local wines and whiskies and stumbled through many languages at the time. I was fortunate to be able to hike and ski in Slovakia. I value that experience very highly.

Who are some of your virtual running friends you would like to meet up and run with?

That’s not a very easy question. I’d love to meet up with anyone for a run, too bad I don’t travel much anymore. The names that come to mind are: joyRuN, Heatherdc, Nitmos (because he totally cracks me up), John Ellis from the 22nd Miler blog, Christie from

Most embarrassing running moment?

Luckily I’ve avoided these so far. None come to mind.

What’s going on in your life outside of running?

I’m a stay-at-home mom therefore I spend every day with my two beautiful little girls. That’s my life wrapped up in a nutshell: running and my girls.

If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

That one is easy. I would love to take a running vacation where you run from one country inn to another. Some place really beautiful and breathtaking. One of these days …

Favorite running shirt?

I don’t necessarily have a favorite running shirt, no lucky charms for me. In the summer I prefer racer back tops and sleeveless shirts. In the winter I prefer tops that have built-in mittens at the ends of the sleeves.

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

Stop looking at my watch and trust my fitness.

Best running advice you’d like to share?

Listen to your body and yourself. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else out there. Set your own goals and strive to be the best you can be.

Open Mic Friday: Meet Tall Mom on the Run

Open_mic_friday Today's guest was the winner of June's ExtraOrdinary Runner Award.  Her story reveals a fitness accomplishment and also a renewed enthusiasm for running. She's another runner who balances role of mom and demands of full-time work, and still makes time for her blog, Tall Mom on the Run.  After only running a year she took on the half marathon and then a short time later ran her first full marathon.  We know you'll enjoy meeting her. Welcome Melanie!

Running home stretch You started running to lose weight, and you’ve been very successful. How has your interest in running changed since you began?

I have always loved to run, strike that, I love to run when I am in shape.  Just after having my second child I felt heavy and did not want to keep the “baby weight” around for any length of time, if I could help it.  So I started to run to lose the weight.  At first I felt horrible; gasping for air, fat bouncing, nothing close to what I had once felt while running.  I wanted so badly to hang up my shoes but I didn’t.

I knew that if I stuck it out I would get back to the place where running was fun again.  Now that I am “in shape,” for a Mother of two standards anyway, running has become a passion.  My entire life I have had sports as an outlet for stress, an escape from life for the time I am active.  In my adult life I never had that outlet until I became a runner.  I can now call myself a runner, I spend my allowance on gear, I hunt for my next race and I ran a Marathon.  Running is fun, running is my passion, I am no longer running to lose the weight; I am running for a happier me.

DSC01714 What did you learn about yourself as you pursued the ½ marathon quickly after completing shorter races?

In June 2008 I ran the Race for the Cure 5k, at just under 10 minute miles pace, I struggled to run without stopping.  That was my first race as a Mom.  It taught me so much about myself; it was humbling because I was no longer the athlete I had once been.  I learned to accept being passed, to accept that I could not keep up. 

Fast Forward to May 2009 and I was at the starting line for my first ½ Marathon.  I had lost 40 pounds since my previous race and was following a training plan. Running was now a habit and this race was my chance to prove my “Runner” status. 

The Capital City ½ Marathon in Olympia, WA was amazing.  Going in I had no expectations, no idea what I would see, hear or do.  What I found was an amazing way to be a part of something bigger than myself, surrounded by people with the same mission.  Young, old, thin, heavy, running is the great equalizer and I was a part of that.  The ½ Marathon distance is a really great distance for my body type.  I am heavier than the pocket runners, at 185 it is tough keeping the machine moving. My strides felt strong the entire 13.1 miles and I was not sore at all after the race.  In 2008 my goal was just to finish the ½ Marathon, instead I achieved a great time 1:43:48.  Talk about a transformation.  

Care to share what you do for a career and how it works with your running?

I work in the event planning group for a large company.  My office is located near several great running trails.  My boss is amazing and lets me stretch my lunch hour for my long mid-week runs.  I have a training partner who I meet up with often during our lunch hour.  There is a locker room to shower up before returning to the office.  I work 40 hours week and have most weekends off.  On occasion I will travel on business, which gives me the grand opportunity to see and run in new places.  I discovered that Vancouver B.C. is an amazing place to run.  My career is a great match for my running goals.  I am amazed at all the planning that goes into the races.  Volunteers, registration, vendor booths, food, music, street closure, portable toilets, etc, those race organizers deserve a pat on the back.

TRace Photo ell us how you then stepped up to train for your full marathon

I originally signed up to run the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll ½ Marathon and started training just after the payment went through, months before any training plan needed to be started.  My body responded really well, I had no pain, I felt strong, my mind was working toward my goal and the distances were great.  The success with the training made me wonder if I could possibly do more.  So I found a 16 week “Rookie” Marathon training plan and told myself that if I still felt good at week 8 I would change my entry to the Full Marathon.  Week 8 came and I knew that this was the best time in my life to accomplish this goal.  Very few people run Marathons. I wanted to be part of that elite group, to accomplish something on my own for me.  I sent an email to the race director and paid the $20 to run 13.1 more miles. 

You’re one of many runners who describe running as an addiction. How so?

People think I am weird when I say I am addicted to running.  I truly am.  I get excited on my running days, I love shopping for new gear, signing up for races gives me something to look forward to, I have a running Blog and love to read the Blogs of other runners. I miss running on my days off.  My body feels great after a run and I am doing it for me.  It is an addiction because it is a part of me.  As a Mom there are few times where you can feel like anyone other than “Mom.”  With running I can just be me and that is a great feeling, an addicting feeling.

IMG_4855 Best advice or two you would give to a first-time marathoner?

Chose a training plan that fits your life, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day.  Use the training to learn about what to eat and drink before and during a long run.  Use your training to select the right clothing, music and shoes.  If you find something annoying during your training fix it, because it will be ultra-annoying at mile 20 and beyond.  Rest, ice and take care of your body. 

And the advice I should have taken: Run your first Marathon to Finish.  Do not worry about time for your first race.  That way you can enjoy the experience regardless of the clock.  As much as you tell yourself “I will never do this again,” during the race, you will probably run more than one.  So enjoy your first.  Cross the finish line with a smile.

Any quirky running traits?

Love Blue Gatorade.  Have to put my left shoe on first. Nothing too weird..

IMG_4789 What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

Sub 4 hour Marathon.  Marathon day was not a good running day for me. I want to be able to finish on a strong day and live up to my racing potential.  I know I have a Boston Qualifying time in me, and if it comes great, but I am not going to put that kind of pressure on myself for a few years.

I plan to run races in various distances, 5K, 10K, 15K, etc. so I can have recorded times for each.  This will also help me determine which race I like best.

Eventually I would like to run for a cause and join a group of runners.  Eventually I will do that, just have not found the exact match. 

Current running goals?

Sub 21 minute 5 K.  Sub 4 hour Marathon. Help others to meet their running goals and cross the Finish Line.

Non-running interests?

In my (limited) spare time I love writing, photography, playing volleyball, camping, hiking, girl’s nights and time with my family, and friends.  Spending the weekends relaxed with my kids and husband.

Greatest running moments?

I always love coming home after a long run and seeing the smiles on my boys and husband’s faces.  They are my best and favorite Finish Line.

What is one unique thing about you that most people don't know?

My Grandpa Ernie was a professional baseball and semi-pro basketball player.  He passed away when I was 13, but he is always in my heart.  I feel closer to him through athletics.  I believe I have a running Guardian Angel.

Most embarrassing running moment?

Try humiliating running moment!!  I have a weak Mommy bladder and no patience for race day potty lines.  So on mile 12 of my marathon, when my bladder gave out and there were no toilets in sight, I wet myself.  Everything I drank for 3 days came out and I was mortified.  Thankfully I wore black spandex and we were in a dark tunnel, but still embarrassing is not even close to the right word.

Finish Line2 If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

My dream would be to travel the world, running along beautiful landscapes, getting paid to take photos, write and live through my running.  Ireland, Australia, Greece and various water (beach, lake, and river) destinations come to mind as the first stops on my dream running tour.  

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

A Marathon is not two ½ Marathons. Respect the Distance.  Boy did I learn that on my First Marathon.

Best running advice you’d like to share?

For Running Moms: Don’t feel guilty about the time and money that you spend on running.  Embrace your running and know that it is helping you to be the best wife (partner) and mom you can be.

For Runners:  Your physical ability is nothing without mental toughness.  Train your brain and your body will do the rest. 

Open Mic Friday: Meet the Beth, runner and professor

Today's guest has some of our favorite qualities--enthusiastic about running and family—although it is a bit unusual she loves her career she has built around crime!

A marathoner and triathlete, and a prolific blogger, but you still might be surprised what she considers her greatest running accomplishment.  She also discusses her non-running interests, and the running challenges and adventures she has her sights set on later this year.

We're sure you'll enjoy getting to know Beth, the Crim Prof.

20miles Congratulations on completing your first triathlon.  Tell us how it went for you.

I had a blast!  The triathlon included a 500 meter swim in an indoor pool, a 21 mile bike ride, and a 5 mile run.  The day began with me oversleeping – this never happens – but I made it to the course on time.  The key to a successful race day is to pack the night before. 

The swim was slow but uneventful.  I felt like Chrisse Wellington on the bike – smiling away like a crazy person.  The run was the toughest part.  It was 80+ during the race, and the temperature topped out at 96 for the day.  It was hard to calm down and to find my running legs.  I just kept moving forward, and I did OK given it was my first triathlon. 

I am very excited for my next tri in July.  It will be my first open water race!  I have swam, biked, and run the race course already, so I am hoping I will be ready. 

And how do you think it went considering it was only 8 weeks after running a marathon.

I was pleasantly surprised at my performance at the triathlon.  As you mentioned, I had run the Go! St. Louis marathon 8 weeks before the triathlon, so I was worried in the beginning that I wouldn’t be ready.  I had run the Go! St. Louis half marathon the year before and the course is quite tough, and I was beat up after the race.  Luckily, I had a great marathon this year and recovered quickly.  In fact, I think that doing a lot of cross-training following the marathon actually helped me recover quickly.  It is hard for me mentally to go from 40-50+ miles before a marathon to the recovery workouts following a race; tri training filled that void and kept me from getting hurt or burned out. 

My best advice for tri training is to hire someone to help with swim technique.  My goal for the year was to learn how to swim.  I have always liked water and could swim a few laps, but I knew my technique was poor.  I now have a weekly lesson with Coach Carrie  and my swimming has improved markedly.  I also need more time on the bike, but I know that all of my running helped my endurance and leg strength on the bike.  With marathon training behind me, I had a strong base to build off on the bike.

First_marathontry You have a very interesting profession.  Can you tell us how you got into it and what you enjoy about it.

I have a great job!  I am an Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice.  I have the pleasure of teaching undergraduate, MA, and PhD students.  In addition, I do a lot of research on prisons.  Yep, in the office, I call myself the prison lady.  Most of my research involves inmates who have been recently released from prison.  I do a lot of statistical analysis to predict success on parole, and I work with agencies to develop effective programming so that men and women are less likely to fail when they return to the community. 

I have loved criminology for a long time.  Like a lot of people my age, I was really intrigued by Clarice Starling in the movie The Silence of the Lambs.  I went to the University of Wisconsin and studied Sociology and Behavioral Science and then moved on to Michigan State for grad school.  After being involved with research in Michigan, I was hooked.  I really love the creativity and flexibility of my job.  I also enjoy teaching and mentoring students. 

Royals or Cardinals?

BIRDS!!  I actually hated baseball until I moved to St. Louis, but baseball games are now one of my favorite summer activities.  I should say that I am also a huge football fan, and I do chat about the Packers quite often on my blog.  Watching college basketball is also a favorite spring pastime. 

With a blog name that refers to your boys, you’d better tell us about those young men.

Swim_family I began my blog as a way to post pictures and document the growth of my two little guys.  They are just the best, and they keep me on my toes.  I also have another big boy in the house – my husband.  Luckily, all of our pets are girls, or I might go crazy. 

The boys like that I run.  It allows them so ‘nag free’ time on Saturdays and Sundays to watch TV and loaf around the house.  They have started to run a bit, and they like participating in fun runs.  Most recently, they came to cheer me on at mile 16 of the St. Louis Marathon.  I will never forget the moment when I saw them.  I came around the corner, gave them a huge hug, and went off yelling “I feel awesome”.  Nothing like the kids for a great mid-race boost. 

What are you most looking forward to about running for the rest of 2009?

I am very excited to run the Chicago Marathon this fall.  I start training on Monday, and I have a training plan that is tailored just for me.  My first marathon took place on an Air Force base, so there were very few spectators.  It rained cats and dogs at the St. Louis marathon, so little crowd support there.  I am really looking forward to the craziness of Chicago.  I am working to run a PR, but most of all, I want this to be a fun marathon.  I want to take in the sights of running in such a large event.  I have watched the Spirit of the Marathon more times than I would like to admit, so I am eager to be there in person.  I am also psyched that Deena Kastor will be running the race this year.  After the marathon, I am looking forward to some rest.  I have been marathon training for the entire year! 

What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

My family would tell you I am crazy.  My friends who know me well understand that I am type A; running takes the edge off for me.  In all seriousness, my friends and family have been really supportive, but no one can understand the desire to run 20 miles in freezing rain in March.  The good news is that I have made a ton of new friends along the way who are just as crazy. 

Go! What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

I think my biggest goal for my running in longevity.  I always chat with people who used to run but gave it up later in life.  I am always inspired by the men and women who are 60 and 70+ who are still kicking it (and usually running right past me).  I would really love to run a marathon with the boys someday. 

I think that anyone who has run a marathon dreams of qualifying for Boston.  I still have some work to do, but I think that this may be a goal in a few years—after I move up a few age brackets.  I also want to run a marathon after I swim 2.4 miles and bike 112.  I am actually volunteering at Ironman Louisville this summer! 

Greatest running accomplishment?

This sounds simple, but I am still proud that I went for it and signed up for my first half marathon.  I had no idea what I was doing, ran in cotton socks (the horror!), and I did it all by myself.  Running my first half really gave me confidence to try new things.   

Non-running and non-blogging interests?

Sleep.  After hanging with the kids, working, and getting my training done, I really don’t have time for anything else.  I do like to travel, and I hope that signing up for races will give me an excuse to go to new and fun places. 

Most embarrassing running moment?

So many ☺ I do play air guitar, the air drums, and sing on the days when I run with my ipod.  I am a klutz, so I trip and fall on a regular basis.  I have fallen off my bike more times than I would like to admit. 

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

Respect the distance.  You can run a 5k after staying up all night and eating poorly.  Not so much with the marathon.  This is why I love the marathon.  It is different every time, and you can’t fake it.  It is investment and hard work really can pay off in the long run.  

Best running advice you’d like to share?

Make the best out of training.  The marathon, or any race, is just one day and so many things can happen.  I had more fun in my training group then I did on the race course.  Join a group, grab a friend, and take pictures along the way.  At the same time, train in all conditions.  Don’t bow out of a training run because of a little rain or heat.  You never know what race day will bring. 

For example, I was scheduled to run my first marathon at the Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Charles, MO.  I put in all my miles, and I was excited and ready.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to alert Mother Nature.  I woke that morning to find strong winds and pouring rain, and the race was canceled after 10 miles due to flooding and fallen trees.  The eye of Hurricane Ike had crossed over the race course as I was trying to complete my first marathon.  Luckily, I had made a lot of friends during training, and we made the road trip to Dayton, Ohio the following week and completed the Air Force Marathon.    

Open Mic Friday: Looking back at 2009 guests


With June winding down, this Friday we're taking a look back at some of the guests that have grace the Open Mic Friday space this year.

The list below doesn't include all our running friends, nor is it a list of our favorites.  But readers told us how many of these interviews made them laugh, appreciate running, and appreciate the deep human side of ordinary runners.

We hope you enjoy revisiting some of these interviews as we have, and we're looking forward to many more enjoyable interviews with friends of Runners' Lounge.

A runner dedicated to half marathons

Teri, the Relay Enthusiast

Coach Al, who coaches from the head and heart

The Jogging Stroller Mom

A doctoral student and ultra runner who knows no limits

A mom who discovered running and marathoning makes her a better person

Coach Christine: Who integrates running into others' lives

Xenia, a popular, mysterious, and hilarious runner and archeologist

Marathon Mama, a runner and blogger we love to follow

Julianne: a friend to all runners and bloggers

A marathoner who ran 52 marathons on 52 consecutive weekends

Lil Runner, who ran Boston right after having a baby

Open Mic Friday: Meet Half Marathon Maniac Mark


We love runners with passion, especially those who share their enthusiasm with others. 

Today's guest, Mark Berry is creating a platform for half marathons--training, racing, and promoting the distance.  In this interview, he shares his views and experiences with the distance. A prolific blogger, he's determined to make his blog a repository for great information and conversation about the half marathon.

And since it is our goal to connect runners with other runners and running information, he is a natural choice for this week's Open Mic Friday. 

Welcome Mark!

Tell us how you began your passionate pursuit and support of the half marathon distance.

Involvement in running half-marathons was an evolution.  I ran cross-country in high school and when I began running regularly approximately 5 years ago, found that I didn’t enjoy the shorter distances, such as 5 & 10K.  When I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006, I run only a 10K race in preparation – and found that this didn’t adequately prepare me for running a longer distance race.

Each of the past two years, I’ve broaden my racing experience, running everything from 8K to 10K to 15K to 10 mile to 20K to half-marathons.  In the course of that, I learned two things: 1) I enjoyed the longer distances and 2) half-marathons were more readily available to run.  I ran four halfs last year and found that – with effective training, motivation, and continuous learning – I was able to improve my performance race by race. 

This year – as I anticipated my 50th birthday – I decided that I again wanted to attempt a full marathon.  To train for this, I’ve also committed to run 14 half-marathons as well as several other races (15K, 10 mile, 20K and 15 mile).  To run 14 half-marathons in approximately 7 months, I found that I was running races – on an average – every other week (in fact, during one 28 day period, I ran four half-marathons!). 

As I anticipated this level of demands on my not-so-youthful body, I began doing a lot of reading on a variety of subjects specific to half-marathons.  Several friends suggested that I should find a means to share what I was learning; this became the birth of “Half-Marathon Mania” – our blog.  Moderating this became a life in itself – in the first month (February), we have 68 hits and 146 page views – but grew to where in June, we are projecting more than 3000 hits and 5000 page views!  As more runners have logged in, I’ve spent more time – researching, writing articles, and responding to emails from readers.  It’s been a lot of fun and a very gratifying experience.

What do you think is the strongest appeal of the half marathon?

Very simply – it’s a great balance of challenge and attainability.  Unlike it’s bigger brother – the full marathon – it’s something that most runners can train for over a 12 week period – if they’re up for the challenge.  If they enjoy the experience, it’s a distance that they can run again – in most cases – within 1-2 weeks of their last half.

What’s missing in the world of half marathon racing?

The biggest missing piece – to me – is that, with few exceptions, half-marathons are not considered “feature events” at the level of a full marathon.

What’s been your greatest half marathon experience?

Two experiences – for very different reasons.  The first was at this year’s Lincoln (Nebraska) Half-Marathon.  What made it “great” was that the consistency with which I ran – my pacing was solid; there was only 10 seconds difference between my splits the first half of the race vs. the second half and my pacing for each mile was within 10 seconds of my average mile pace.  It was a solid performance.

The second was two weeks later at Papillion (Nebraska) Half-Marathon.  It was not a good race for me – I didn’t feel good and my finish time was more than five minutes slower than my personal best.  However, I had the privilege of pacing a co-worker through miles 2-12, who set a new personal record for themselves.  It was – paradoxically – a great experience; “bad” race in terms of my performance, but “great” race in terms of the outcome for my friend.

If you were talking to a runner considering running a first half marathon, how would you describe the training?  The race experience?

Honestly, I don’t do this.  Everyone’s experience – whether with respect to training or the race experience – is their experience.  I couldn’t adequately – or accurately – represent what someone else’s experience would be. 

Do runners take the taper and recovery of a half marathon as seriously as they should?

I don’t take taper and recovery very seriously.  For most recreational runners, tapering for a half should be nothing more than cutting back mileage 2-3 days before a race and getting more rest during that time.  Folks who spend 2-3 weeks tapering for a half risk compromising their overall training program, ultimately affecting their race performance more than if they hadn’t tapered at all.  After all, it’s not a marathon; in the case of a marathon, my counsel would be very different.

With respect to recovery, my own experience – as well as that of most folks I know – is that recovery from a half marathon can be realized within 2-3 days of completing a half.  For me, after running a half, I usually don’t run later the same day or the following day.  Two days after the race, I can resume my training program full tilt.  However, if I feel I need a little more time, I take it. 

With both tapering and recovery, I’d encourage fellow runners to avoid following a “formula” – do what works for you.  Each of us is different.  For some people, they may need 3-5 days to recover after a race.  For others, they may require no recovery time at all.  “Listen to everything, but do what makes sense for you.”  That’s my counsel.

Do you have a preference for running a standalone half marathon versus a HM that is run in conjunction with a full marathon? Why?

I don’t have a preference.  Approximately 50% of the half-marathons I’ve run have been in conjunction with a full marathon.  What I’d like to see avoided at races is staging halfs, 10Ks and/or 5Ks to start at the same time.  In fact, there should be criminal penalties for race directors who stage half-marathons along with shorter, generally faster paced races and start them at the same time.  A half-marathon and a 10K are fundamentally different races.  If you’re doing two races the same day, stagger the starts.  It will make for a better experience for all runners.  Directors, are you listening???

What is the key to successful training for the half marathon?

There are several keys:
•    Set a realistic goal.  For most – if it’s their first half – finishing (vs. a set time) is a great goal.  Make it challenging without being overwhelming.  Running – and racing – is supposed to be fulfilling, not demoralizing.
•    Commit the time to train – or don’t race.  People who cut corners in training and then expect to have a good race experience rarely do – and their performance tends to discourage them from continuing their pursuit.  If you can’t commit the time to train, do something else – half-marathons are challenging.  I wouldn’t want to do one without having a solid base.
•    Balance running and rest.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen to my body.  Although I follow a running plan, I don’t allow the plan to override what my body is telling me.  If I’m sore or fatigued, I adjust.  If I feel good, I may run faster or longer.  Learn to listen to your body; it will tell you what you can do.

What is one key message you wish you could get through the heads of half marathoners?

If I have a “message”, it’s “Thank God every time you run that you have the capability to do so and use your running to celebrate the glory of the world He has created.”  There are so many people who are unable to do what even a mediocre runner can.  Every time I run, I thank God for allowing me to have the capabilities to enjoy life and find fulfillment through doing something most seek to avoid. 

I have pet peeves I’d challenge other runners to avoid, such as 1) don’t run 3-4 abreast during races, totally oblivious to the fact that you’re “blocking” other runners and 2) leave the iPod at home (I know that I’ve now alienated 50% of readers!) and enjoy the experience of racing – the sights, sounds, and conversations with other runners.  Otherwise, I don’t have a singular message.

Any quirky running traits?

Now you’re getting personal!  Because I know you won’t share this with anyone (except thousands of potential readers!), I can share with you a few “rituals” that I embrace.  They include:
•    I never run “naked” – I always wear my Polar RS800SD and its heart rate monitor.  If I go out for a run and the battery is low, I go home and change the battery.  I don’t run without it.
•    I always chew gum when I run (but never chew gum otherwise).  Chewing gum helps me to feel less thirsty.  There’s probably no “science” to this, but it works for me.
•    Before every half-marathon, I eat 13 dark chocolate-covered espresso beans.  Why?  I remember reading in Dean Karnazes’ book, “50/50 – Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days” that he loved these and found that the caffeine served as a stimulant.  I ate 13 before a race this past Spring when I realized a new personal record and – from that point forward – have continued the “ritual”.

What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

There are a couple of things I want to do.  One is running another full marathon.  I’m registered to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October of this year.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to qualify for Boston; currently, my extrapolated full marathon time (based on my best half-marathon) is 3:49:00 and I need a 3:35:00 to qualify for Boston.  Whether I qualify or not, I’m looking forward to another shot at MCM.  It was the motivation for running 14 half-marathons this summer – refining my racing in the shorter distance to optimize my performance at MCM.  A second is running a trail half or full marathon.  I’m running a 15 mile trail race in July (“Psyco Psummer” 15 mile in Kansas City, KS), which will be my first trail race since high school.

Non-running interests?

Really, I don’t have many other hobbies – running takes a fair amount of my free time.  Being married with two very engaged children, I have things I’d like to have time to do more – golfing and playing my drums being at the top of the list. 

Greatest running moment?

Running the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006.  What was exceptional about the experience wasn’t my race; it was the race of so many runners I met during the course of the race.  Whether the runner who had lost a leg in Iraq and was running his first full marathon, the runner – who I met at the expo – who was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in Afghanistan and completing his third full marathon in a wheelchair, or the two soldiers who ran the marathon, carrying 30+ pound field packs of fellow soldiers who had been killed in Iraq, it was a privilege to run MCM with people of such character and to use the race to raise more than $5000 for the Armed Forces Foundation, an organization that provides support to families of wounded and disabled service people.

Most embarrassing running moment?

I always wear black running shorts when I race.  No particular reason; I just always have.  Until last week’s half-marathon in Kearney, Nebraska.  For some reason, as I prepped, I decided to wear a pair of light blue running shorts.  It was a hot, humid day and as I ran, I noticed that the sweat line forming – quite visibly – on my shorts gave the appearance that I had missed one too many porta-potties.  I learned my lesson – back to black shorts!

If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

Wow, I’ve never thought about that.  I’d love to run a race with my daughters, Hannah & Gracie.  They’ve both participated in “Girls on the Run”.  I’ve had the opportunity to run one “fun run” with Gracie, but would love to see them become really more committed to running.  I’d love to see my wife, Carolyn, complete a sanctioned race.  Although she works out religiously, she doesn’t see herself as a “runner”.  If I could “buy” anything, it would be for her to see herself not through the lens of how she grew up seeing herself, but how she is today – a very disciplined, determined athlete.

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

“Don’t allow the objective to eclipse the adventure.”  I’ve learned that running is not an “event” or a “destination” – it’s a journey or an adventure.

Finally, what are your goals for your half marathon blog?

I hope that “Half-Marathon Mania” gives fellow runners a resource for meaningful running information and encourages them to become “students” of running.  I really enjoy running, but I also enjoy learning about running.  That’s the focus of the site.  I’m gratified that even one other person finds it valuable.

Open Mic Friday: Blaine Hawkes

Open_mic_fridayThis week's Open Mic star comes to us from Utah.  In concert with our Salute to Running Dads week, we choose to get to know Blaine ( Blaine's profile & Blaine's blog) a bit better since he is such an interesting mix of blogger, dad and runner.  You already know a little about him from his weekly column in the Lounge, Tripping Over Myself.  Read on and come meet the guy who decidesd to  start running over cheesecake, can live to tell about falling off an treadmill and has already created his dream running event.   

Welcome Blaine!

Why did you start running?

Cheesecake and peer pressure. A group of co-workers and I went to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory with a vendor. During the conversation, he told us about his training for the Salt Lake City Marathon and how much he enjoyed running. One person in the group had run a ½ marathon the past fall and said he enjoyed the training. We were all very impressed. Someone in the group said “hey, maybe we should form our own running group and train for something.” Later that afternoon we had a plan in place to start training.

What has been the most rewarding thing about running?

There are a couple of things. The first benefit is the ability to leave everything at home Blaine1 and run away from it.

The other benefit is the attention I get from non-runners. After a small race, I like to get out of my car with my bib and race bag and casually check my sprinklers or pick up my kids from somewhere. If it’s an even bigger race, then I may have a medal, walk a little stiffly, etc. I figure if I’m not fast, I might as well milk it for all it’s worth. If I am in a group of people, I can easily work running into a conversation…like when I’m offered a drink, I can say “no thank you, I’m in training.” Or “Man, I’m sore” as I get up stiffly. Definitely it’s about the attention.

What has been your favorite distance or race?

There was that time where I finished first in the marathon and Kara Goucher came up and asked for my autograph and Runner’s World asked me if I’d be the next cover story. Then I woke up…

My favorite distance has been the half marathon. I’m open to any distance as long as it has a good post race food selection. I figure that if I’ve just worked off a zillion calories and paid money to run all over the place there should be some good eats afterward.

Tell us about some of the highlights of running in Utah.

Hill training in Utah is really easy, especially in my neighborhood. I step outside and tada…hill training. You can have your pick of the climate here. You can have really hot, dry summers where temperatures are hitting close to 100. You can have cold winters where it is close to zero with snow. Sometimes if you play your cards right, you can get all the seasons in the same week. In April, 3 days before the Salt Lake City Marathon, it snowed 7 inches. On the day of the race, it was 60 degrees.

The Spring and Fall are fantastic. The temperature drops right after Labor Day and generally the snow doesn’t fall until Thanksgiving, which makes for some fabulous runs.

Tell us about your challenges with your IT Band.

One day I can run an easy 4 or 5 miles and the next I can’t walk. I recently picked up The Stick and am looking forward to being able to pick up the pace again and if that doesn’t work, I’m open to something more bionic. When it comes, watch out!

How hard was it to skip the half marathon this weekend?

Wait! It’s this weekend? And I’m missing it? I thought it had been cancelled because the star runner (me, of course) couldn’t make it. It’s scheduled to be rainy and cold so in a way I’m kind of glad I’m not running.

Tell us about your decision to take on the marathon this year.

I’m still wondering the same thing. When I began my half marathon training, I had a conversation with a fellow runner who was prepping for his first Ultra Marathon. I was still working my way up to a half and here he was talking about 30+ mile races. He said that he started with a 5K then a 10K then a half and just kept going. I figure my legs didn’t fall off after the half so I’ll continue on.

Why did you start blogging?

Free Swag. At first, it was because my family got tired of me talking non-stop about running. It was an outlet to get my voice heard and join the running community. I realized very soon that I could also use it for product reviews and get free stuff. I’ve been able to get some laundry detergent, juice, shorts and more. Who can pass up free stuff. I’ve been working on getting some of the Greek yogurt that is going around, but I haven’t seen it in the local stores so getting free coupons for that may not pay off.

What keeps you blogging?

What else would I do? I’d have to do work or be active in my community or something like that.

If you could go for a run with any running bloggers, who would you join or invite?

It would be fabulous race. Amy from Lawsons Did Dallas would be there with her snarky comments along the way and cuss us all for not letting her give up. Her husband would be there afterward-giving free chiropractic adjustments. Vanilla from Half-Fast would be there and then we’d discuss the finer points of grilling and then there would be the tailgating party after. We’d invite Frayed Laces to come along, but I’m not sure she’d come because I’m no match for her nutritional standards. I’m more the Girl Scout Cookie, big piece of steak type of runner. We’d see her before the race and then she’d be finished with the race and on her way to catch a flight home before we ever finished. Jess from Run Girl Run would be there too because she was the first to link to my blog and she’d give us all some Yoga tips afterward. Amy of course would be there and she’d have brownies for us at the end.

If you could create your own racing event, what would it be like?

Too late…already did. My kids school has hosted a 5K for the past three years. The idea was to create a unifying fun event. For two years they struggled to get people to come to the race.

I took over the event this past year, opened it to community and made it a school library fundraiser. The race committee consisted of me, another lady from the school who also runs and lots of other volunteers who never showed up for any of the meetings. We wound up with about 75 people on one of the wettest days ever in May (so much for the Farmers Almanac saying it would be dry.)

Most embarrassing moment while running?

I had a fight with a treadmill once and lost. I have a love/hate relationship with a treadmill at my wife’s office gym. One night I was running (luckily there was no one there except my wife and I) and one of my iPod ear buds fell out. I looked down and that is the precise moment the treadmill decided to change up speeds and trip me up. I ended up crashing and scraping off several layers of skin in various areas. My wife was changing at the time of the incident and when she came out I was sitting on the ground looking rather dazed. I have since conquered that treadmill so now it quivers in fear when I come to visit.

What do you do when you aren’t running or blogging?

Huh? What more is there? I could say I run my own Graphic Design Company, have a family, community and church related activities, but those all seem to take second seat to running. If I start the day off running then it is on my mind all day. If I run at night then I dream of it and wonder when I am going to go running again when I get up.

Tell us about your family.

4 kids who range in age from 17 to 9. I’m totally uncool to my 17 year old, Ok but moving Blaine2 to uncool with my 13 year old, love and hated at various times of the day by my 11 year old and with poor fashion sense to my 9 year old. My wife puts up with my running obsession and wonders if it is just a part of a midlife crisis.

How do you juggle work, family and running?

Juggling is the key phrase. In the winter I can take the kids to the pool and run the track or on the treadmill while they swim then join them for the last 15-20 minutes. During the school year, I can usually get a run in while they are in school. We have a big calendar on our refrigerator and the policy is that if it isn’t on the calendar at least 48 hours in advance then there is no whining if the event gets missed. My racing schedule or long runs have to follow the same rule. Generally Saturday morning is blocked off for a long run. In exchange, the kids get me for 1 field trip per year and various in school events if there is enough notice given.

What advice would you give to other running dads?

Good luck. You either get to take it on completely or get off the road because there are enough other things that can occupy your time. Either hire out someone to mow your lawn or live with the fact that your lawn may look like it has a bad haircut at times. The flip side to this is that the excuse of “I’ve got to get my long run in so I can be ready for the upcoming marathon” can get you out of a lot of honey-dos if used sparingly.

What has been the hardest part of running (with kids)?

I can’t really think of one. I think it is harder getting my kids to pick up their room than it is fitting in a run. They are all old enough that I can leave for an hour or two and be reasonably sure that if I tell them to have their room clean by the time I get back they will have managed to pick up only three items of clothing off their floor. It does take some working around schedules and I have offered many bribes to get them to participate also, but so far I am the lone runner in the family.

What advice would you give to runners?

Pre-arrange a place to meet up with your friends/family after a big race. I spent 2 hours wandering around a race area because I left my cell phone in the car thinking I had no use for it.

What is the best advice about running you have ever received?

I generally glean information from various sources, throw it against the wall and see what sticks. Even some of the “professionals” don’t always have it down. I’ll probably have it all figured out when my legs fall off or my new bionic legs come in.

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