Saturday, November 27, 2021

Thanksgiving Day Apple Cup 5k

Finding an in-person Turkey Trot was tricky this year, but not impossible. In the end, I had two choices: a brand new route or another 5k around Green Lake. While running in a new place was tempting, I liked the idea of being able to compare like-to-like to see if I'd progressed since the 5k I ran last month. (That route was a little short, so I was hoping for a faster pace but not necessarily a faster time.)

Matt decided to run it too, seeing as we're that annoying family that runs on Thanksgiving, after all.

We got to the park around 8:45am and picked up our bibs. The weather was cold and windy, but luckily the rain was holding off. We met up with Sarah and did a little warmup jog, but I was beginning to regret not wearing ear warmers and a heavier top.

When it was finally time to line up at the start, Matt went ahead of us in the corral. My goal was to keep a pace between 8:30 and 8:50 but I forgot to actually set the workout on my watch, so I had to just go by feel. And really, I was feeling pretty damn doubtful, despite having a good six weeks of work under my belt. 

The first half mile or so felt much harder than it should have. My quads felt cold and heavy even after our warmup. Then I noticed we were keeping an 8-minute pace. Oops.

My bad.

We reined it in a bit and I finally started to feel warm. I never felt good and the pace never felt easy, but that's 5ks for you.

What's there to say about a 5k? You dig in and commit to the pain, but luckily it's over in less than 30 minutes. I've run Green Lake so many times, I barely had to concentrate; I just focused on picking up my feet. The few little "hills" on the route, which usually don't even register, felt like mountains.

I started to really flag about halfway into mile two, and pulled the pace back again. The inner loop around Green Lake isn't quite three miles, so to add mileage they led us out and around the perimeter around mile 2.8, and when I say I wanted to take a walk in that last third of a mile, I really mean it. The only thing that kept me moving was wanting to keep up with Sarah, who was just ahead of me.

Considering how much I slowed down in mile 2, I was pretty pleased with how steady mile 3 turned out to be.

As we turned down the path back toward the finish line, I somehow found some energy to give myself an extra kick. (Seeing someone over my shoulder will do that for me! I refuse to be passed in the finishing chute!)

Not today, Blondie!

While my gun time puts my pace at 8:54, my chip time and Garmin very satisfyingly show 8:50, and that's what I'm going with! I barely met my goal, and given how uncertain I was the entire time, I feel pretty proud!

I came in 7th in my age group (the woman I held off in the finishing chute crossed the starting line 1 second ahead of me, so even though I edged her out at the end, she still technically beat me. Curses!), 30/100 women, and 70/197overall. Not too shabby!

Just as I'd hoped, I managed a faster pace than last month's 5k. Any improvement on a race of this distance is hard-earned.

After the race, we took some photos and waited for age group awards...until we realized the fasties at this race finished a good five or six minutes head of us. Sometimes I think "small race" means "less competition", and I've only ever placed in my AG at races with a couple hundred people or fewer, but I seem to forget that Seattle is a running town and people are fast.

Matt finished in 24:19. You'd never know the last time he ran was in August.

I don't have another race on my calendar this year, so this may be the last of 2021 for me. Considering COVID had me thinking I might never race again, I can't say I'm disappointed. It's a good way to end the year.


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Run Scared 10k

 This race marked a milestone for me: it's the first time I've ever raced in a costume. Maybe I'm using costume a bit liberally here, but I was recognizably a black cat at the Run Scared 10k, and that counts for something.

There's something pretty damn ironic about putting on a whimsical headband and drawing whiskers on your face in the name of levity...and then absolutely suffering through a run for an hour. Yeah, I suffered, but I looked cute doing it!

Going into race day, I pretty much knew my strategy would be to treat the race as a long run. 10ks are my least favorite distance and neither Sarah nor I felt incredibly optimistic about breaking any records. We agreed to run the race conservatively, plan to walk at mile 3, and pick up the pace in the last mile or so if we felt strong.

Race day breakfast: oats with protein powder and a cup of coffee
As with this month's 5k, I was more nervous about getting to the venue and finding parking than I was about the actual race. I slept poorly, woke up early, and got to the race ahead of schedule. Thank goodness Lola is compact  I found excellent parking right near the start.

Seeing this filled me with such an odd feeling of nostalgia and gratitude. It's been so long since I've seen any sort of race expo
I got my bib  I had to show proof of vaccination to do so  and used the bathroom, then went back to my car to shed some layers and get comfortable. I met up with Sarah about five minutes to the start. All told, the morning was uneventful.

45F, cloudless and sunny...the perfect race weather!

The race started promptly at 9:45am. We ran into another friend from our running group, Ankush, and chatted a bit while we all warmed up in the first half mile.

Sarah's and my plan was quickly thrown when, within the first mile, we encountered two long, steep hills. I knew the route would bring us through Seward Park, where I ran the Amelia Island Virtual 12k last year, and as such I expected a flat race. However, to add some distance to the first lap, the route veered off the main path at the perimeter of the park and onto a road within it.

That interior loop really threw us...for...a loop...

The hills were back-to-back and by the time we were halfway through the second one, Sarah requested a walk break, which I was happy to grant. Ankush ran ahead.

We let our calves cool off and then picked it up again. As we finally began to feel the road level off, a volunteer told us there were no more hills in the course...but the damage was done. We both felt gassed and a bit deflated by the rough start.

At least it really was smooth sailing after the hills!

Still, we trucked along. Despite weakening resolve around mile 2.5, we got ourselves to mile 3 before our next walk break. By now, I was warm. I was glad I hadn't worn a vest but I kind of regretted wearing long sleeves. 

I also began to suspect that the course would be short. My watch wasn't aligning with the mile-marker signs, and when we passed the 5k sign and bypassed the finish on our first loop, I could tell something was off. Honestly, knowing the course was short made things mentally a little easier in the moment.

I needed one more walk around mile 4. I have a tendency to walk frequently in 10ks, so all these breaks were par for the course. What did surprise me was that in the last two miles, I found some fortitude and powered through. Usually I walk around mile 5.5, but not this time. I told Sarah I wouldn't have anything left for a sprint at the end but I could manage without anymore walks if we just kept steady.

We turned the last bend toward the finish line and there, waiting along the route, were Sarah's husband and kids. That surprise gave us a little extra pep and we actually did manage a final sprint!

Looking at this, I feel like my pace was better than I realized and pretty solid for a 6 mile long-run.

I'm having a hard to deciding how I feel about this race. My biggest gripe is that the course was significantly short  5.93 on my watch, 6.09 on Sarah's. I think we could have kept up our pace for another quarter mile if the course were measured correctly, so I'm happy with our average pace (9:51) but I'm disappointed that I can't really use this to measure my 10k fitness right now.

On the other hand, the plan was always to treat this race as a long run, and we did that. We kept a great pace, comparable to our last 6 mile run (which didn't have any hills). And I can at least use the comparison data to see how we did in relation to others in our age group etc, and I'm not displeased with that! 

The pace here is skewed, but at least I can see how I did in my AG! I really always do fall smack in the middle.

After the finish we took pictures and got in line for snacks. This is the first race I've ever run with gluten free anything at the end (they had WOW cookies, which I really like!). They also had a candy corn tasting bar, a costume contest, and top-3 finishers awards in male, female, and nonbinary categories. Basically, this race felt inclusive and fun, and I'm happy I ran it.

If you look closely, you can see my whiskers.

Post-race loot

After the race Sarah and I went to brunch at Portage Bay Cafe. I had the gluten free French toast and will definitely be back again to take advantage of their self-serve berry and whipped cream bar.

Their gf bread is baked in-house and was absolutely fantastic.
I don't have anymore races on my calendar at the moment, but October was a good month for testing the waters again, and I'm excited to jump into my November plan and get back into shape. Who knows, maybe a winter race is in my future.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Where I've Been

There's a post in my drafts I'll never publish. I wrote it back in June, when a friend of mine unexpectedly passed away. 

Between late May and mid-June, I had taken some time off running. My mind wasn't in the right place and I was struggling through a depressive episode. Then, just as I was coming out of it — this news. This terrible sucker-punch.

This friend was a runner — that's how we met — and I ran a couple miles in her honor. In that moment, I felt a distinct shift.

I had been feeling unfulfilled, putting too much emphasis on external validation and finding it lacking, and somehow this tragedy shifted things back into focus. Like the final hard slap that gets a stuttering machine back in sync.

What are Instagram likes in the face of this kind of devastation?

She became my first thought every morning. She seemed to sit on my shoulder all day long, constantly putting things in perspective. Her presence was both comforting and heavy.

It was here, in this emotional state, in this mental place, that I finally got some clarity.

I got back to running. I got back to therapy. I made a schedule. I stuck with it. I explored some new things to help me find joy again. I dedicated myself to running and Peloton — rides and strength workouts — and finally found the courage to join the running group I'd been watching from afar for nearly a year.

I met a few women I connected with. We started running together outside the running group. I think this may be my first friend group in Seattle.

My silence has extended beyond this blog. I took a huge step back from Instagram and rediscovered internal validation — that wonderful, lifegiving feeling of doing literally anything for its own benefit alone. I stopped posting my workouts and focused instead on doing what I'm doing for me.

It's been a weird six months, on top of the weird year that came before. But here's what I know: I feel strong. I feel grateful. I feel hopeful. And, most importantly, I feel like myself again.

One thing I've really been working on in therapy is rediscovering myself. Whether this is typical of adulthood or not, the truth is that I lost myself over the years. I spent so much time working — taking my work home with me literally and figuratively — that I fell into a routine that left no room for spontaneity or exploration.

I was forced to acknowledge that I link my self-worth to my work, that I defined myself by my job, and — simply put — that made me incredibly sad. I am not my job. None of us are.

Now, I love having a job I can leave behind me at the end of the day; when I close my laptop I am truly done until the next morning. That's invaluable. It allows me to feel productive and useful at work while leaving time and mental energy to do other things. 

So, where have I been? I guess I've been in hibernation, doing some work behind the scenes to prepare myself for whatever comes next. I feel the best I have in a long time, and I'm only going to continue getting better.


Friday, October 15, 2021

Where's Wenda 5k, 2021

It's been a long time since I've raced. My last in-person race was the Gasparilla 15k with Jessie in February 2020, and that's really the last race I'm counting because the virtual Amelia Island 12k I did last October just...didn't feel like a race. 

When Tall Sarah floated the idea of a Halloween 10k, I figured that would be a good chance to test the racing waters again. I'm vaccinated, 76% of Seattlelites are vaccinated, and it's outdoors. I feel like racing is safe again.

It's been so long, though, I figured I needed a 5k before that 10k to test out pretty much everything — clothes, breakfast, pace, etc. That's where the Where's Wenda 5k came in.

Breakfast was homemade overnight oats (not to be confused with my preferred breakfast during the week: Oats Overnight) consisting of a packet of instant oatmeal, half a scoop of protein powder, and almond milk. I managed to eat half of that and half a cup of coffee around 9am. I used the bathroom four times before taking half an Imodium.

I got to the park around 9:20. The race start was 10am — something weird to get used to, since Florida races always start around 6:30 or 7:00 — so I had plenty of time to grab my bib, use the porta-potty, and do an easy warm up jog with Standard-Sized Sarah, who registered that morning. We got lucky with the weather: it was supposed to be rainy and windy, but ended up being 50 and overcast, which is pretty perfect for a race.

Clearly I need to remember how to take better photos - it's been awhile.

We agreed to go at our own paces, to start together and meet each other at the finish, but we ended up running the entire race side-by-side.

I didn't want to get too strategic considering how long it's been since I've raced a 5k. I wasn't even sure what I was capable of, seeing as most of my runs these days are 4-6 miles at an easy pace. Still, I have such a hang-up about racing 5ks, I always want to come in under 30 minutes, and this race was no exception. I programmed my watch for a sub-30 5k so I could at least keep track of my paces and scrape in at 29:59 if necessary.

Anyway, the race was small. They had a virtual option and I'm sure people opted to do that. It was fun to see so many runners dressed up as Waldo. Sarah and I lined up right at the start because there were quite a few little kids we wanted to get around early on.

My usual 5k looks like this: go out way too fast, slow down to a sustainable pace, hit the wall at 2.6 miles and walk a bit, sprint the last .1. This time, I somehow managed to settle in to a challenging but doable pace from the beginning, maybe because Sarah told me she tends to start slow and then speed up, and I wanted to stick with her as long as possible.

So steady!

There's something to be said for pacing yourself. The first mile felt a touch too fast, but not as out of control as I'm used to. The second mile had two small hills that we slowed down on, and I could tell Sarah was struggling a bit so we reined it in. 

The race was around the park we usually run in anyway, and it was open to the public, so we had to do some dodging and weaving. Around 2.5 miles we came up on a group taking up the entire path and I had to shout at them (politely) so we could get through. However, we never walked and we didn't have to slow down much. 

Sarah and me coming into the finish.

Looking at my watch while it ticked down the distance was super motivating. When we had .3 to go, we both started kicking it up into a higher gear, and I somehow found it in me to sprint the finish.

Official results said 27:14, 11/64 OA

My watch read 3.04 miles with a pace of 8:58 — the final time was 27:17, well under 30 minutes and probably one of my faster 5ks. If nothing else, it was definitely one of my best executed! I think maybe we could have pushed a touch harder in the last mile, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it!

I wish the results broke down age and gender results because I think I probably placed in my age group, but it was such a small race that the results aren't that detailed. All I know if that I finished 11th over all out of 64, and I can't hate that!

I think if we had split up, I may have given in and walked, so I'm glad Sarah stuck with me the entire time. At the end, I think we both felt really proud and impressed with how well it all went.

Strangely, now I'm even more nervous for the Halloween 10k. It's that I remember how uncomfortable a race can be, the idea of pushing that hard for twice the distance is intimidating. But I have a couple weeks to continue putting the work in, so I'm trying not to think about it too much yet!

My goals for this 5k were to break 30 minutes and remember how races work, and I'd say I met both beautifully. Racing!Ali is back!


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Failure Feeds Success

The impetus for this post came courtesy of Beammco, whose March newsletter called for funny or inspiring story submissions from runners. It's been awhile since I've written a long, thoughtful blog post. It's been awhile since I've had cause to think about training and where it's taken me. My running is so different these days than it used to be, and this felt like a wonderful opportunity to reflect.

It's hard to choose just one story to share. Do I go with the funny story (maybe the time a baby squirrel fell on my head mid-run), or do I tug at the heartstrings? In the end, I have to go with inspiration, because more than anything, I think inspiring others to overcome obstacles is what runners truly have to offer the world.
In 2014, I ran my first full marathon. I diligently followed a training plan and avoided setting a goal because everything I had read advised against setting a time goal for your first marathon. I ran it; when I crossed the finish line, I was a different person than when I crossed the start. But this story isn't about my first marathon.

In 2015, I felt I knew what I was made of. I decided to run another marathon and I decided that this time, I could set a time goal. My training was perfect; I shocked myself by checking off every workout and owning the long runs. I felt I was truly capable of PR'ing. However, as race day loomed, something became clear: the unpredictable weather that is December-in-Florida threw off my plan. I tried to take it in stride, but that was basically impossible. I came dangerously close to quitting at the halfway point; I fought through it and finished my second marathon with a significantly slower time than my first. I was disheartened. I was embarrassed. I doubted myself in a way I hadn't in years.
But that's not really what this story is about, either.

What this story is about is my comeback marathon.
Every year, I run a specific race that falls on my birthday weekend. That year, 2016, that race was a mere two months after my disastrous second marathon. I planned to run the half, and I half-heartedly trained for it. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I should run the full, since I was basically trained up for it. If anything, the two months between Marathon 2 and Race Day were like an extended taper. I had every reason not to upgrade my race distance: I was burned out. I was still mentally raw from the last marathon. My foot kind of hurt.

I talked the ears off all my running friends, who gave me sound advice, but I was still undecided. Then, the night before the race, I went to pick up my bib. I took it from the check-in table and, without giving myself time to think, immediately walked over to the line where I could upgrade my half marathon to a full.
I didn't really tell anyone except my parents, husband, and one or two of those advice-y running friends.

I want to tell you race day was perfect. It wasn't. It was hot and incredibly windy; at one point, I really thought I was going to get blown off-course. The high winds made breathing difficult, and the sun cooked the asphalt from mile nine to 26.2. But there were so many highlights, and as I passed by the turn-around for the half and went on to the full marathon course, my heart felt light. My mind felt clear. I felt totally at ease.

At mile 20, my sister met me with a Coke. (If you look through the full recaps for these races, you may start to wonder if Coke sponsors my finisher pics.) At mile 22, I glanced at the pacing tattoo on my arm and knew I was going to get my PR. At mile 24, a seagull caught in the gale nearly hit me on the head. At mile 26, I heard my husband cheering for me. And as I crossed the finish line, I began to cry.
This marathon proved something to me: progress is not perfect, and failure feeds success. We can grow, we can get stronger, we can take risks and face fears and tackle hurdles and still fall short. But we have to keep going. Nothing worth fighting for comes easily.

The day after that third marathon, I turned 30. I said goodbye to my 20s with a lesson I think all young people should learn: we may have setbacks, but if we fight for glory  whatever that looks like for each of us, personally we can prove to ourselves how strong we are, and we can inspire others in the process.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Next Year In Person

Passover is a holiday centered around a few key themes: sacrifice, preparedness, and liberation.

It is a story that features a hero with a disability who finds his courage with the help of his family and his faith, perseveres, and ultimately prevails against tyranny.

It is a story that teaches us to fight oppression with every means we have; it calls upon us to identify personally with the subjugation of others and fight theirs as we would our own.

Last year, we skipped Passover. It was out of an abundance of caution (remember those days?), when Covid hadn't really come to our corner of the US yet but was enough of a threat that we wanted to adhere to that very Jewish-feeling aphorism: better safe than sorry.

We told each other that in 2021, we'd have Passover together.

While that didn't come to pass, the spring of 2021 is starting to look hopeful. As I prepped and planned to host Passover at Scott and Robby's (it would be the first year they'd joined us for this particular holiday), I received a notification that I was eligible to sign up for available appointments for my Covid vaccine.

The vaccination date was Saturday, March 27, the same day I was planning to host our Seder.

I couldn't say no, of course. I booked a morning appointment, and that was how it came to pass that my first step toward liberation from Covid-induced fear, anxiety, isolation, and uncertainty coincided with a holiday that pretty much beats you over the head with the significance of liberation in all forms.

Our Seder went over well. There were only four of us, but I didn't skimp on the cooking. We had all the usual: matzo ball soup, charoset, brisket, and — of course — my flourless chocolate cake.

Scott and Robby were good sports about reading from the Haggadah. They even picked up Manishewitz! Alas, I was unable to find gluten free gefilte fish, so they were spared that particular aspect of Ashkenazi cuisine.

Note to self: whip this batter less intensely next year!

Over all, it was a perfect day, and now I can start to believe that next year things will be back to normal enough that I'll be able to make a trip to Florida to celebrate with my parents and siblings, my nephew, my aunt and uncle, and maybe even my cousins. 

I've got my fingers crossed and a sore arm to give me hope.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Featured Follow: Nora Burns, @nerdy_nora

TW: For brief mention of critical illness and sexual assault.

I found Nora's Instagram, @nerdy_nora, years ago when I was first looking at running Gasparilla. I immediately felt an affinity with her, as if we were kindred spirits. She was full of life; joy just exuded from her. It sounds corny, but when her posts come up on my feed, I immediately feel happier. It's like catching up with an old friend.
Nora's story isn't all smiles and sunshine, though. While she stays positive, she's had to overcome some incredibly difficult life circumstances. Running and fitness have been a source of strength for her well beyond the physical aspect.

I've always felt like I knew Nora and liked her. I felt I knew with her story. I didn't expect her answers to my survey to spark affection for her like they did! My goal for these Featured Follows was to get to know some of my favorite IG runners better, and with Nora, I feel I truly succeeded.
Section 1: Getting to Know You

Can you share a little about yourself for readers who aren’t familiar with you? 
I currently live in Tampa, Florida where I worked for a brewery for a number of years before becoming  a personal trainer/franchise owner with Camp Gladiator full-time. 

I taught English in Korea for almost four years, and became semi-fluent in Korean while there. Living in Asia afforded me a lot of opportunities to travel to places that were previously so far outside of my scope: Japan, Guam, and the Philippines were some of my faves! I have degrees in History and French, but oddly enough, I’ve never been to France. 
I love to read, which may sound cliche, but it’s almost an addiction. I’m also obsessed with my dog, Bronx. He’s the best!

Pre-covid, were you a racer? What’s your favorite distance, and what is the first race you’d like to do when races open up again? 
I’ve been running since ‘06. My first ‘official’ race was the Gasparilla 5k, which will forever be my favorite race series. As far as favorite distance--I’d say 10k or even a 15k. I honestly look forward to running Gasparilla and all Best Damn Races once the world reopens!

What does your running look like these days? 
I ran the Yeti 24-Hour Ultra back in May of ‘20. At that point, I was putting in 150+ miles/month, and the 32+ miles I did that day made me hang my shoes up for a little while. 
Now, I’m casually hitting the road, but not in ‘training mode,’ as I was at the beginning of last year. Covid has definitely put a wrench in my running game.

What role does fitness play in your life? 
Being active is a part of my life--there’s no question about it. I love running and lifting weights so much that I’ve turned it into my career. It’s more than just a hobby; it’s a passion. It keeps me sane, gives me a creative outlet, and has opened my world to so many like-minded people.

Section 2: The Deeper Stuff

What is your running origin story?
I was asthmatic growing up and required an inhaler. Even though I was active in sports, I had a bye when it came to any sort of extraneous running, and I was completely complacent with that. As I got older, I got my hands on a book about training yourself how to breathe better during activity. I just wanted to see if I could actually do it, so completing a 5k was my test of such theory. 15 years later, I don’t use an inhaler. (Disclaimer: I was under the care of a doctor the entire time.)

At what point did you feel you could call yourself a runner? 
This is a hard question. I don’t know if it’s an ‘imposter syndrome’ thing, but it’s still difficult to call myself ‘a runner.’ Even though I have tons of races and miles under my belt, it just hasn’t clicked in my head.
Is there something you struggle with in particular when it comes to running/fitness? 
I love my body and what it’s capable of achieving, but I struggle to feel that I ‘fit the mold’ of a runner or personal trainer. I don’t necessarily look the part, so it feels weird claiming those titles.

What do you love most about running? 
I absolutely love the community of runners! We all watch out for each other! There’s truly something really moving about watching complete strangers cheer each other on, pick someone up from falling, or carry/pace someone you don’t know over the finish line! There’s a sense of belonging amongst other runners that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

How has running helped you through difficult times in your life? 
Running has definitely become a positive outlet during some very trying times in my life. Without digging in too much, my dad has been battling melanoma for over six years and my mother was facing some severe illnesses on and off for the same time. There were lots of hospitalizations, surgeries, and close calls. I’d bring my gym bag and running shoes every time they were in the hospital and I’d either hit the road, or sometimes the hospitals would have gyms that I could use! Luckily, there were always showers for which I had access. 

Running allowed me to feel all the emotions, stress, and anxiety that I was burying while taking care of my parents. It freed me. I was then able to come back to tasks with a clear mind.
In December of ‘19, I was brutally assaulted while on a walk and surviving that experience ignited a fire within me. After that assault, I completed 10 races--all within the first months of 2020, before the world shut down. Being able to run reinforced that I was truly a survivor and unwilling to allow that incident to define me or hold me back.

For me, running is a means of perseverance. It reminds me of what I’m capable of doing. It reminds me that I’m strong, determined, and resilient.

What is something running has taught you? 
I’ve learned that I can truly do hard things. May seem trite, but completing marathons, ultramarathons, or that dang 24 hour race--well, that’s pretty freaking hard!

Share your hardest running moment. 
I did a 12 hour ultra a few years ago. We ran a 3+ mile loop and the objective was to complete as many loops as you could within that time frame, so long as you finished 50k. Well, it was a rainy day and 20+ miles in the rain, no matter how many times you change your socks and shoes, creates some really bad foot issues. I’ll save the gory details, but let’s just say that my feet didn’t look ‘normal’ for about two months.

What is your proudest running moment? 
The accomplishments are cool and all, but I’d say the time that stands out the most for me is the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot in ‘19. My best friend and I run that race every year, but this year she brought her family and I had my mom and dad in tow.
Mom wasn’t able to walk, but Dad and I took turns pushing her wheelchair (which we totally decorated with over-the-top Thanksgiving flair,) and finished the course! She had an absolute blast and I am forever grateful that I have this memory of crossing one more finish line with her (and Pops)!

How has running/fitness changed your life? 
I like to think that whatever sanity remains, comes from running and fitness. But honestly, I’ve developed so many amazing friendships through these communities that I’d probably be a different person had I not met these awesome humans. The love and support from the community is unheard of at times, even from people whom I’ve only befriended online.

What is a non-running accomplishment you’re proud of? 
In the back of my mind I had always dreamt about going into a fitness-based business, but was nervous about making that leap due to some insecurities and the aforementioned Imposter Syndrome. At the beginning of Covid quarantine, an opportunity presented itself to become a personal trainer and launch my own business with the bootcamp program that I was attending at the time. Ten months later, I am the proud owner of my own Camp Gladiator franchise with a healthy number of clients (campers,) and continuing to grow my business daily!
I am proud that I had the nerve to voice my dreams, take the leap, and continue down a path that was absolutely terrifying at the time! I absolutely love what I do and could not be more proud of the progress I’ve made already, and the goals I have for the future.

Section 3: Favs and Feedback

What is some advice you’d give someone who is interested in starting to run? 
Lace up and go! Don’t worry about your pace or having to walk! Take the initial step to get out there. Being uncomfortable is only temporary--you’ll find your groove! I promise!

Do you have a favorite running item or article of gear to recommend? 
I always, always wear headbands. They help keep my earbuds in place and sweat out of my eyes!
What is your preferred running shoe? 
I run in Brooks Adrenaline. I’ve been fitted many times throughout the years just in case there’s another shoe that may work better for me, but I always come back to these!

Recommend an essential accessory you think every runner needs
I definitely recommend a running belt. I’ve had a few throughout the years and they all serve me well. I mean, you gotta keep your ID, card, and maybe some cash on you in case there’s a bar along the way, right?

Can you share a fellow runner or athlete you love to follow on Instagram? I have fan-girled over @runemz for years! She’s pure athlete and I just wish I could put up the mileage that she does. @brignut44 reminds me to get out there and do the dang thing daily! She is a very real person, with real paces, and real goals! She’s the epitome of everybody’s runner.

Nora's story is one of strength, resilience, joy, and love. I've enjoyed getting to know her better! You can follow her Instagram here and learn more about Camp Gladiator here!