One of my goals in writing this blog is to inspire others. That inspiration could kickstart a weight loss journey, nudge your efforts towards a fitness goal or to simply help you learn how to become a healthier eater. Whatever the case, I hope to inspire as many as I can reach, to put themselves and their health a little higher up on the priority list.
So, in that spirit, I decided to highlight a few people in my life that truly inspire me. You may remember Andria from a few weeks ago and her incredible weight loss journey. Today, I’m introducing you to another friend: Heidi. Our mutual love of running is what made us connect as friends in the first place, so it’s totally fitting that I interviewed her about running.
When I first met Heidi, she had just finished her first marathon. Several months later, I got to know her on the running trail as she trained for her second marathon. All those months of hard work, watching as she got up on Sunday mornings to run a “long run”, pushing herself through the tough days; the sacrifice she made to accomplish her goal… She is a great example of what determination, goal setting and dedication can do.
It’s not like she was “born to run” and she didn’t come from a long line of runners. She has a busy schedule as a 32-year-old mother of three (two of which are still very young) AND she’s a grad student. As you read this, think of the many reasons people use to excuse why they can’t do something.
Are you letting something stand in your way of accomplishing your goal?
If she can do it, you can too!
Heidi with her daughter at the finish line of her first Austin Marathon
Have you always been a runner? If not when did you start?
I haven’t always considered myself to be a “runner” even though I have been running for most of my adult life. I have always been an active person. I had never ran more than three miles until after I had my daughter five years ago. Six months after she was born I ran my first half marathon.
What made you take the first step? What was your motivation?
I was a stay-at-home-mom with an 8-year-old stepson, a 2-year-old son, and was pregnant with my daughter. Oh yeah, my husband worked/works an insane amount of hours and my stepson’s mom has never really been in the picture. I was not allowed to exercise during my pregnancy because I was at risk of miscarriage in the second trimester. All of these things combined drove me crazy!!! If you know me at all, you know that I am not your “typical” mom. I cuss…I drink…I’m less than crafty…I wear shorts shorter than I’m probably supposed to. Basically, raising small children did not come easy for me. I needed a goal for MYSELF. I needed something outside of just being a mom. So, six weeks after my daughter was born…I dropped her and my sons off at the gym childcare and hopped on a treadmill. After a couple of weeks I was running three miles. Then I thought…if I can run three miles I can totally run a half marathon. Everything progressed from there. The goal of the first half marathon was to cross the finish line. I did it. Then my goal for my second half marathon was to break two hours. I did it. Then I thought, why not just run the whole thing? I always kind of felt like a loser at the starting line next to the runners with their marathon bibs. Like I was just half-assing the race. So that was it…after two years of serious running I decided to attempt my first marathon.
Have you had any injuries along the way? What did you learn from them?
When training for my second marathon, my hips started really bothering me. This was incredibly frustrating. I felt like my body wasn’t letting me do what my mind wanted it to do. Somehow, I ended up finishing the marathon without having any issues on race day. I decided to give my body a rest from exclusive distance running and try to incorporate a variety of exercises. I realized that I needed to build up my strength (legs, core, arms, etc.) in order to be a strong distance runner and to avoid injuries. I still love to run…but I also have grown to love cycling, lifting weights, circuit training…I could go on and on. And to my surprise, I’ve shaved 1:20 off of my previous pace per mile by running less and focusing on getting stronger.
What keeps you going? Describe your mindset during a very long run. How do you get through it?
This is a great question. I basically think of anything and everything that gets me through the run. I try to set little goals in my mind to help me reach the larger goal. Like at mile 22…I just start telling myself “You only have four miles left. You’ve ran four miles a million times. You can do this. It’s just like going on a short run.” Sometimes a great song pumps me up. Sometimes I focus on how beautiful my surroundings are. Or remembering the feeling of crossing the finish line at a race can literally bring tears to my eyes.
What is your biggest challenge as a runner?
I think the hardest part is deciding to get out there and do the long runs when I’m training for a race. I always know they are going to be hard. It’s difficult for me to just suck it up and get the run done. I mean, waking up on a Sunday morning knowing that you need to get 18 miles in that day can be a bit overwhelming. About a month before race day I always end up having a breakdown and telling my husband I don’t think I can do it.
What have you learned about yourself, through your running journey?
I’ve learned that I am mentally stronger than I ever thought I was. I’ve learned that childbirth really wasn’t THAT bad in comparison.
If you could say anything to a beginner who is trying to find motivation to run a marathon what would it be?
I would tell them that anyone can run a marathon as long as they are 100% committed to doing it. It’s going to be hard, but it is the BEST feeling when you cross that finish line. I have yet to meet someone who said “I really wish I hadn’t finished a marathon”. It’s an amazing experience.
Did you ever have the mindset that you couldn’t do it? How did you get beyond that?
Absolutely! I remember running my first half and getting to mile 10 where the course splits up (marathon runners go one direction and the half marathoners go another) and thinking those people were CRAZY. I thought they were absolutely out of their minds. Why would anyone want to run that far? Then I became one of those crazy people and realized that it really was that hard to run the full. It’s like a whole different ballgame. The training is intense. And at about mile 22 I felt like I couldn’t go any further. Like I wanted to just lay down on the asphalt and give up. But then you start telling yourself everything you can think of to get yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The crowds are incredibly encouraging towards the end. They definitely gave me words of encouragement that pushed me to keep running.
Are your parents runners? Or is anyone else in your family?
My dad was not an active person. I am pretty sure I never saw him run. He passed away when he was fairly young because he had a very unhealthy lifestyle. I think about him a lot during races. Especially if the run is for cancer. His memory keeps me going.
My mom was not a distance runner but she was always exercising. She still is. As a kid I remember my brother and myself going with her to the high school and playing on the football field while she ran the track.
I have three siblings and I am the only runner.
Did anyone inspire you?
I wish I had a better answer for this question, but not really. I think that I found the motivation within myself.
Do you have plans to run more marathons? Where are you with it now?
I am considering running another one in either December 2014 or January 2015. I’m on the fence because I know how much work goes into it. But, now that my speed has increased I want to see how fast I can finish it.
If you could say one thing to someone contemplating a long distance run, what would it be?
Probably not to think too much about it and just do it. Find yourself a running schedule to help with your training and take it one run at a time. Try to just focus on what you need to get done for the day or week. Don’t get overwhelmed by the end goal because you will get there in time. Also, running buddies are great to have! Running a long run with a friend goes by a LOT faster than running alone.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment that’s worth it / can’t live without?
Aside from the obvious (good shoes, great bra, good clothes) I never go on a run without my SPI belt. It holds my phone, keys, chapstick, tissues and I can’t even feel it. It’s amazing.
Heidi with her husband (after her second marathon) and his hilarious shirt!