Wednesday, August 13, 2014

laurel is her own lady

Full disclosure: Laurel is my sister and my best friend. We’re alike in a lot of ways, but one thing we do NOT have in common is a solid running career.  Knowing that running was not a part of our family life growing up, I asked Laurel to tell us more about how she got started running and reached her goal of training for a marathon so quickly.  I know you’ll find her as inspirational as I do.

Tell us a little about yourself!
 My name is Laurel, I’m 26 years old and I’m lucky to have a very supportive network of family and friends in my life. I consider myself a young professional living the city. I survive on public transportation and using my feet to get me where ever I need to go. My boyfriend, Ari, and I enjoy finding new ways to celebrate summer from beach hopping to kayaking on the Charles (still to come!). Lately, I enjoy runs around the Charles River, Barre Classes in Copley Square and marathoning through TV series like Shameless and Game of Thrones. I’ve also been dabbling in refurbishing old furniture with fresh paint and fancy knobs.

Were you always into running?  When and why did you start?
I have not always been a runner. I’m still getting comfortable calling myself a runner. I remember really starting to run for stress release during my transition from college into the “real world”.  My aunt and uncle let me help out with their kids for a summer in Delaware while I was figuring out next steps in my life and my uncle shared his past in running with me. It was that summer that I ran my first 8 miles with him at my side pushing me on. I remember him turning to me at the end and saying “If you can do this, you can run a half-marathon.” To which I laughed and almost puked. That summer I ran my first 5K with my uncle and cousin, Reece, dressed like cave people and a gorilla. 

When I moved to Boston to start my new job in the hotel industry I started taking part in company sponsored races in the city with fellow colleagues and friends. The scary idea of being trapped in a race for 3.1 miles turned into Annual “Fun-Runs” in holiday costumes and funny T-shirts. 5Ks became 10Ks and 10Ks became Half-Marathons. Crossing the finish line, the adrenaline from the runner’s high and the sight of my sister and her babies at every finish line of my big races  was and is like crack. It’s never really been about the time or speed for me but I think I decided a while ago that I’m not playing by anyone else’s rules here.

How many different races have you run?  What running plans do you have for the future?
I have run seven 5Ks, five 5-mile races, two 10Ks, four half marathons, and I plan to complete my first marathon in Chicago in the fall. I’ve taken a lot out of my body for these races and I think that choosing my next fitness goal will be exciting. I want to give my poor feet a break for a couple years and give back to my body a little bit. I don’t think I’ll be done running forever, though. The idea of completing the Paris marathon, even if it’s in 10 years, is always on my mind.

What is your running schedule like at the moment?  Does it vary at different times in the year?
When training for a half marathon or  marathon, I follow a weeks-out training schedule that consists of short runs of 3 to 5 miles on weekdays, cross-training activities and long runs on the weekend. There are always two rest days in there and occasionally I’ll jump around running long on a weekday if there’s a weekend conflict. I try to run outside as much as possible but will opt to run at the gym if it’s a 95 degree day with humidity or thunder storming. I am actually just getting into the toughest training right now with a 14 mile run approaching this weekend. At this point with long runs I try to run with a buddy for a few different reasons. One, you can only listen to music for so long before you go nuts so there is someone to chat with. Two, my buddy keeps me accountable for the miles and I’ll do the same for them. Three, you want someone with you in case you get hurt. Luckily, I have a few friends training for Chicago too!

Do you do a lot of cross training?  What other kinds of exercise are you interested in?
 Cross training has proven to be really important to me when training for a race. Personally, without it I think my body would have turned on me by now. I try to work yoga in at least once a week to help with stretching and rest. I have been taking part in hour long barre classes twice a week as well to work all parts of me. The barre classes have helped me to strengthen my core (the part of me that I feel needs the most work) which has helped with my running. Every other Friday I do spin classes with my friend and a “body pump” weight lifting class to do some intense muscle strengthening. One constant is stretching. I have only recently really been giving that the attention it deserves after a hip injury. I’m still learning the difference between listening to my body and pushing myself but I’m getting there.
What challenges have you encountered since becoming a runner?
 Challenges I have encountered include committing to a race and then having on and off days. There are days when I just don’t want to do it or by body just says “no”. There are days when I breeze through my mile goal. It’s never smooth sailing every day and it can be very difficult to continue. It’s been challenging to keep myself accountable for completing my full mile goal for that day on my own. I have a lot of support in friends, my boyfriend and family but ultimately it’s up to me – only I know if I did it or if I didn’t.

I’ve also encountered  a couple injuries. Over time my feet have become damaged from continuously slamming down on the pavement. My knees are a little worn out and recently my hips have been feeling these long runs in the worst way. These are all good signs that I’ve put my body through quite a bit and it might be time to take a break from distance running for a few years. But in the moment I’m trying to, again, give back to my body in the same way that I’m taking. Stretch, drink water, rest, use the right gear and get myself checked out by a professional if need be.

What benefits do you feel running brings to your life?
There are so many benefits to running. I can use running to clear my mind, keep myself motivated, stay healthy and let my mind wander freely for a couple hours. All of those things benefit my life and keep me sane. I would argue that there are few comparable feelings to the high after a long run.

 Some of the best places I have been for a run could also be viewed as the worst. My first half marathon was in rural New Hampshire with most of the course uphill! At the time I could of killed someone, but the view was stunning and I completed the race. Now I am proud to have run that incredibly difficult course and wouldn’t change it. The best run I have ever had was probably my first 5K – The Firecracker 5K in Delaware. I got to run that race with family and we got to dress up in costumes. I’ll never forget the joy of that day!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get started with a running routine?
 The advice I have for someone who wants to get started with a running routine is just do it. Make your plan and dive in head first. Be practical, hold yourself accountable – build up your distance and give yourself time. This is debatable among runners I’m sure but my advice is not to think about your time for a really long time, it’s not important. Make your goal to hit your mark without stopping even if you are “jogging” slower than the guy walking next to you. Don’t for one second compare yourself to even one other person, get comfortable (not necessarily cute) running clothes and then forget about what you look like – remember that you look better out there than any person who is taking the time to judge (and they’re probably not anyway). Listen to your body, you both have to get along in order to get this done. Your body can say “no” just as sharply as you say “no” but figure out the balance with pushing yourself. Get comfortable with calling yourself a runner. 

Please keep in mind that I just went over in my mind every single thing that I struggle with daily so if you’re reading this and thinking it’s all impossible, please know that I’m right there with you and I can tell you it’s not. 

Thank you for sharing with us, Laurel!  I’m not a natural runner by any means, but I’ve been so inspired by Laurel’s hard work that I recently trained for and ran a 5K. Thank you for the push, sweet sister! Exercise hobbies do you have?  Any lifetime or recent runners?

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At August 13, 2014 at 9:02 AM , Anonymous stephanie, sandpaper and glue said...

I have been trying to get into running lately, but I'm still working on getting my allergies under control so breathing through it is actually a little hard. I've been getting allergy shots for 6 months now though, so hopefully it'll be better soon. I run quick, short distances and power walk in between- good enough for now! I also started Focus T25 this week ( a 25 min/5day a week workout) to hopefully build up my strength! Thanks for all the tips :)


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