Welcome to the first Orca Ambassador Q&A. Each month, we will chat with one of the inspiring women on our panel. This week, we are sharing Mary’s story. Mary, 39, recently moved to the Seattle area from Minnesota. Find out how she makes time for running even though her commute can be up to 4 hours long!
Q: When did you start running? And why?
I started running when I was a teenager; back then, people called it "jogging." I've always enjoyed the running portion of the physical fitness testing that we had to participate in back in grade school. Do they even do that anymore?! One day, I ended up getting in an argument with my mom, and I just put on my jogging pants and some old tennis shoes and ran a mile as fast as I could. I just remember how empowering it felt that I ran a whole mile! I never stopped running, but didn't seriously start running (running races, increasing my distance) until I moved to Minnesota in 2006. I started by running a 5k and just kept increasing my distance and speed from there.
Q: Do you have any great tips for winter running since you recently moved to Seattle from Minnesota?
Layers, layer, layers, and also Yaktrax are your friend when it is icy out! Don't let the cold weather deter you from getting outside. As long as you are dressed for the conditions, winter running can be lots of fun! I prefer running in the cold to running in the heat, so I may be biased. I ran the Twin Cities Polar Dash 14-miler during one of Minnesota's coldest winters and the temperature during the race never made it above -6 degrees Fahrenheit. That may have been a little too cold!
Q: What’s your favorite distance? Why?
Hands down, the half marathon is my favorite running distance. It is a long enough distance that you have to train for it and short enough to allow you to still have a life outside of running! A half marathon also means that even if the race starts out bad, I have plenty of time to improve before crossing the finish line. I also enjoy a good 5k every now and then, too. It's fun to just go all out for a short distance and work on speed.
Q: What are your running and fitness goals for 2017?
My running goals for 2017 are to get back into marathon-running shape, which besides running, includes lots of weight lifting, as well. I always run faster and stay injury-free when I am also lifting weights. Last year, I had a bit of a setback in running after I broke my arm backpacking. I'm looking forward to increasing my mileage this year, running a 30K (Birch Bay Road Race) and running a marathon. I'll also be running my first Ragnar relay this year, which I am really excited about!
My fitness goals are to get a handle on nutrition and build core strength. Oh, and the usual, controlling “runger” after long-distance running!
Q: When friends ask you how to get started running, what do you say?
Put your running shoes on and get out the door. Just getting out the door can be the most difficult part. Focus on running the mile you are in. Try to run a little bit further every day and try not to get frustrated if every day isn't great. I remember when running a mile was so difficult, how 5 miles seemed impossible and then 10 miles. Signing up for a race is also helpful—it gives you a goal to focus on and if you have money invested in it, you'll likely be more devoted to getting out there.
Friends. The running community is awesome! I've met so many great people through running. Grab a friend and head out for a run together!
Q: What is the most challenging thing about running/fitness for you?
Time and nutrition. Working in Seattle, I have a pretty tough commute—about 3.5 to 4 hours a day. The winter months are the most difficult time for running, as well, because of the short days. I've just started bus/run commuting now that the days are starting to get longer. I basically just hop off the bus early and run the rest of the way back home. It's nice because if traffic is really bad, I can just get off the bus earlier and get a longer run in. The toughest part of it is the changing weather!
Nutrition is always something I struggle with. I've made a bad habit out of skipping lunch and now have to deal with a slow metabolism. I have several food sensitivities that I am still sorting out, as well. Food sensitivities can cause all kinds of issues and also mean some days I just can't run.
Q: How has running helped you in your life?
I love this question because running is such a big part of my life. I run because running keeps me sane. I regularly struggle with anxiety and stress, and running is my medication of choice. Running has also gotten me through some really tough times. Moving, in general, is a non-negotiable for me. Our health is our greatest asset and running keeps my mind and body healthy.
Running has also taught me nothing is impossible if you are willing to work for it. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I could run a marathon, I would have laughed. Now, running an ultra doesn't seem that scary or out of reach. I know I can continue to push my body further.
Q: What Orca Running races do you plan to run this year?
This year, I'll be running the Kirkland Shamrock Run, the Birch Bay Road Race (30K), the Snoqualmie Valley Run (10K), the Iron Horse Half, and Captain Jack's Treasure Run.
Good luck in 2017, Mary! Follow Mary’s running and fitness journey on her blog, Eat Lift Move Explore, and join her as she takes over Orca Running’s Instagram feed this week @orcarunning.
Kerrie Turcic is a runner from Maple Valley, Wash. Kerrie is currently a copywriter by day, and also a