A big part of why I love running is because of the other amazing runners out there! So I have started this series of interviewing some of my favorite runners to find out what running means to them, what inspired them to start running, and what their favorite things about running are. In case you missed it, check out last month’s Running Inspiration post about my friend Kristi.
Today, my Friday Feature Interview is one of my favorite people and a good friend of mine from grad school – Maria.
Maria and I met in 2012 when we were in the Coordinated Masters Program in Nutrition & Dietetics at the University of Utah. I had moved to Utah from Indiana and I remember at orientation everyone had to say where they were from and something interesting about themselves. Our class only had 13 people so I was starting to get nervous when several people said they were from Utah. Then I remember Maria standing up and saying she was from Montana and she was a runner. I immediately thought “I have to befriend this girl!” The rest is history. She is an awesome person and an amazing runner (and she should be a running model because her running pictures are badass). She is the one who inspired me to run the Big Sur Marathon in April 2016 and convinced me it is “a bucket list marathon, for sure”.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m 25 years old, and I work as a registered dietitian with the University of Utah Metabolic Clinic. I also do consulting work with a local chiropractor and volunteer with the University of Utah sports nutrition staff. I did my schooling at the University of Arizona and the University of Utah, but I am a Montana girl through and through. My great joys in life include family, friends, coffee, and cats. This is my favorite Twitter handle: @Runnersandcats
How long have you been running?
I started running in middle school about 12 years ago. Although I participated in track and cross country in high school, it wasn’t until I started college that I began training more seriously and tackling longer distances.
What made you decide to start running?
Weirdly, I thought the mile run in the Presidential Fitness Test at school was really fun. Even though I ran fast enough on my first try to pass the test, I decided to run it again to see if I could improve my time (which I did, by about 30 seconds). I was excited to finally find a sport that I wasn’t terrible at, and when I realized that I could keep improving, I was hooked. Seeing my progress and making lots of great friends along the way are a couple of things that helped me keep at it.
What is your favorite thing about running?
So many things – it’s truly a sport unlike any other. I love the sense of community that is found among runners. Where else can you feel like you’re among friends when riding in a school bus full of strangers at 3am?
How many races have you done?
Too many to count! Athlinks.com has 37 race results for me, but I’ve definitely run upwards of 50 (more if I count high school races). I’ve run 7 full marathons and more than twice as many half marathons.
What was your favorite race? Why?
I just ran the St. George Marathon for the second time, and I have to say that it is one of the most enjoyable and well-organized races I’ve ever run. The support from the local community is tremendous; there is a wait list to volunteer, and it seems like the whole city shuts down to come out and support the event. It is incredibly scenic, and I love watching the sun rise over the red rock canyons. The course is fast, but it’s also challenging and requires strategy. I can’t wait to run it again!
What is your most memorable race/running experience?
I ran the Salt Lake City Marathon one week after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon in 2013. I have never been part of something as emotionally charged, and there was a lot of love and positive energy on the course that day. It poured rain the whole time and I was really undertrained, but I was lucky enough to have a good race because I rode the emotional high.
Second place for the most memorable race goes to the Big Sur Marathon. It was something that was a “bucket list” item for me, and everything about the race lived up to the hype… other than me having mono. I would love to go back and run it again at 100% health.
What is your favorite race distance? Why?
I am tempted to say 13.1 because it’s the perfect combination of speed and distance for me, but I really do have an obsession with the marathon. I like the structure of marathon training and the level of fitness that it helps me to reach. Training is never really easy, but I like the grind and the discipline that goes into it. The sense of accomplishment at the end of a race is always huge, even if it isn’t a personal best. I think the marathon is also addicting because I know that little things can translate into a big payoff over that distance. I feel like I have a lot of room for growth and improvement in the marathon.
Do you have any running goals?
My short-term goal is to stay healthy and have a great race at the Boston Marathon in 2016. My ultimate goal long-term would be to get close to a 3-hour marathon. Physiologically, I’m not sure if I have it in me, but there is no way to know if I don’t try!
Are you currently training for any races?
Boston 2016! I am also hoping to do some shorter races (half marathon, 10K, 5K) to keep me in shape over the winter months.
How has running made an impact on your life?
Running has taught me a lot about discipline, perseverance, and keeping things in perspective. It has certainly helped me get outside of my comfort zone, but it has also given me a way to find peace when life gets crazy. It gives me concrete proof that I can do hard things, even when it feels like obstacles keep getting in my way. I am who I am because I’m a runner.
What kind of nutrition strategies do you use to facilitate performance and/or recovery?
During longer races, I aim to fuel early and often. For me, this is sips of water at most aid stations and a gel every ~40 minutes. In the first few half marathons I raced, I didn’t take any fuel on the course, and I was amazed at how much better I performed when I finally started doing so. I like Honey Stinger gels, fresh fruit, and water on the run. I have also discovered that gummy candies and popsicles are AMAZING in the later miles of a marathon.
I try to eat a balanced diet regardless of whether I have a race coming up, but I really try to put things on lockdown 2 weeks out from an event. This means getting in plenty of fruits and vegetables, lots of carbs in the form of whole grains and starchy veggies, and lean, high-quality protein sources like meat, eggs, and yogurt. During this time, I make it a priority to not skip meals and to stay hydrated. On the day of a race, I like a bagel with peanut butter 2-3 hours before the start and a banana 1 hour before.
After a race, you will find me grabbing salty snacks (like pretzels) and chocolate milk in the finish line area. I really believe in the one-hour post-workout refueling window, and I’ve noticed that I generally feel like garbage if I don’t get enough food and fluids soon after a run. Oatmeal, Greek or Icelandic yogurt, nut butter, eggs, and quinoa are things I like for getting my recovery on. And after a marathon, I always make it a point to take advantage of the calories I just burned… after St. George, I hit up Bear Paw Cafe for brunch and then celebrated with dinner at Ruth’s Chris immediately after I got back to Salt Lake City!
What do you want other people to know about you/your running/running in general?
One of the saddest things I’ve ever heard was when someone I know said, “I am trying to FORCE myself to love running.” I think it is important for every person to have a physical activity that they enjoy and can do regularly, but I do not believe in doing something that feels like torture! Everyone is different, and just because I love running doesn’t mean everyone else needs to. With that being said, it gets on my nerves when someone who doesn’t enjoy running insults or tears down me or my sport. Don’t be a jerk to someone who enjoys different things than you do!
What is your favorite race medal/memorabilia?
I earned myself a couple of Overall Female awards this year that I am quite proud of! I also have several age group awards that I keep on display. I like looking at these things when I’m feeling down or unmotivated for a reminder of how far I have come as a runner.
Who is your running inspiration?