Four stories. It was supposed to be five, but life is busy, and four is better than zero. So, I’m sharing. And, someday, the stories will probably amount to five, ten and, even twenty plus — because there is a lot of inspiration and connection out there.
You always get my story or my really long chapters in the ultra running storybook, but today I’m bringing you four other running stories. Because these runners are pretty rad – the [running] community is full of greatness and adventure – and, you never have to look too far to find it. That’s the amazing thing about running, you put one foot in front of the other, and suddenly you find connection everywhere. It’s unspoken, but when you choose to lace up, you gain a whole lot more.
Disclaimer – I know all of these runners. We were connected at one point in time because of our choice to move and desire to find out just what we are made of. They are all doing incredible things – the stories are inspiring. So, I asked all the questions and now I’m bringing it all to life here. [And, I had a whole lot of fun reading these short and sweet running interviews..]
So here are the stories you should know —
Meet Maggie Seymour
Side Story: I met Maggie during the final hours of Death Race a few years ago. She had been on the adventure for two plus days. It was raining, freezing and well, let’s just say less than enjoyable [and, I only just arrived to help]. Under one tent, that later broke from the hurricane -like wind, I helped Maggie remove soaking wet layers and get into a trash bag for warmth. I think my exact words were, “do you have a sports bra on?” and her response, “I don’t even care..” I knew she was badass.
Story [in her words]: “I started running cross country in 8th grade because our softball team had a terrible habit of losing every game. So I decided to start a sport where I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to win. How little did I understand about running then. I ran my first mile and absolutely hated it, but kept at cross country and track throughout high school. I took a break from running and just about all healthy habits during college and soon paid for my absence when I joined the Marine Corps.
Running and I rekindled our love affair in Iraq in 2009 and we’ve held steady ever since. I ran my first marathon on a dare and swore I’d never run another. That was a lie. Like anyone I started setting my sights on longer and harder distances, ultras, adventure races, and ironman.”
Next Running Adventure: I’ll start a transcontinental run from San Diego to Virginia Beach on July 22.
“It’s going to be by far the most difficult challenge I’ve ever taken on and I can’t wait to see who I become at the end of it. It also fills my need for both solitude and community. I’m running both for my own journey but also to spread the message of community and raise money for some pretty amazing communities – veterans, gold star families, and special needs athletes. I hope to connect with people along the route, motivate them to get involved in their communities, and provide equipment and sponsorships to individuals.”
Glimpse into a Training Week: My training weeks are always sporadic! If I’m feeling it and have time I can get a run, a crossfit WOD, and some yoga into a day, 3-4 times a week. If my body is saying take it easy, I’ll do one workout a day, or even skip a day or two. I try not to tie my self to any certain mileage, but for this training I’m working up to 100 mile weeks and backing off when necessary.
Glimpse into Everyday Life: I’m currently transitioning off active duty in the Marines Corps so my days look a little atypical. I’m an early riser, waking up to check emails and get a quick workout in before the day starts. Then it’s either traveling, working on my transition plan – finding a job, researching positions, fine-tuning my resume, or working on the run – contacting potential sponsors, tax receipts, etc.
Happiest Running Moment: Just one!? I think last year when I along with 3 of my girlfriends finished a four day, 161 mile run down the coast of California honoring the 161 servicewomen who have died supporting combat operations since 9/11. I was happy that we finished, I was grateful to have such a wonderful group of people to support and inspire me, and overwhelmed at the success of the run.
Failing Foward Moment: I failed at Officer Candidates School – the entry point for officers in the Marine Corps. I was sort of injured, but if we’re being completely honest, I failed because I was physically unfit and couldn’t run very far or fast. So I guess that was a pretty big motivator. I never wanted to feel like I was weak or failing, but also I never wanted to feel like I couldn’t contribute to my team or my community.
Go To Running Things & Favorites: Silkies! They’re like $11, thin soffe shorts, some people call them ranger panties. I also love the Stinger chocolate bars and nuun electrolytes. Weirdly I wear a different mix of shoes – Newtons, hokas, Altras. Vaseline is always crucial. For recovery I swear by a protein shake with BCAAS, compression, and ice baths/epsom salt baths – and maybe a little red wine or whiskey
Running [Life] Advice: Understanding that nothing lasts forever – not the good nor the bad. Ride the highs, push through the lows and keeping listening and learning.
The Little Things [the world should know]: Check out the website www.runfreerun.com, sign up for updates, follow the progress, and send me a message if you want to get involved!
Meet Nick Wishart
Location: Providence, Rhode Island [my former stomping grounds]
Story [in his words]: “Been running since high school. Never really had a love/hate relationship. Always loved it, even when I took breaks from it from time to time. Ran on the same high school track as Alberto Salazar (he of the 8:53 high school indoor two mile). Was always inspired by that kind of speed and toughness.”
Next Running Adventure: The World Marathon Challenge, January 2018. That’s seven marathons, seven continents, in seven days — Antarctica, Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Barranquilla (Colombia), and, Miami.
“I’ve always wanted to try something hard, but not impossible. These runs will certainly test everything. No problem running one marathon, of course. But no way to know how I’m going to feel after day 2, 3, 4…What will the legs feel like? What will the body feel like after long haul flights every day? That’s the adventure. That’s what makes it great. Also really excited about the travel adventure and the cities we’ll see.”
Glimpse into a Training Week: A few days of 8-10 mile runs, a few days of CrossFit. One day off every four days. I am trying to keep the legs fresh as long as possible. Miles will start to increase this Fall, building up to several 20 mile runs each week in combination with CrossFit.
Glimpse into Everyday Life: Amanda [my wife] and I have an 18-month old, who is an awesome handful. I am up early, the little one goes to daycare. Amanda goes to work. She’s a graphic designer. I work as a real estate appraiser from home. I either run or go to CrossFit in the morning. I pick up the awesome handful at 6:00 PM. We work and take care of her throughout the night. Bedtime comes after 11:00 most nights.
Happiest Running Moment: A 2:46 in Boston around year 2000, good for 318th overall. Very unexpected.
Failing Foward Moment: My first Boston run in 1997. I thought it was a good idea to eat super light for a noon race and by about mile 15 I was hungry, tired, and out of gas. Bad finish. Good learning experience. Pigged out prior to all races after that.
Go To Running Things & Favorites: Nike shoes, GU packs and Fuel for Fire, water bottles with spout tops during the summer weather.
Running [Life] Advice: You have another gear. You think you’re going as fast as you can without breaking down, but if you’ve prepared hard then you have another gear.
The Little Things [the world should know]: I met my wife while both of us were living on St. Thomas in the USVI. I left the newspaper business in St. Louis to work as a server at a Caribbean marina restaurant. Amanda went to LSU and got a job in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina forced her to relocate to her company’s office on St. Thomas. One night Amanda and her parents came in for dinner. I was the server.
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Meet Andrea Kooiman
Location: Orange County, California
Side Story: Andrea and I met during her Grand Slam adventure. Through Square World friendship, I offered to pace her at Vermont 100. She accepted [eek!] So, over 30 miles, we ran, we laughed and shared life in those Green Mountains. I had no idea how the adventure would go – but, it was the best 30 miles and the magic of putting one foot in front of the other proved it’s power, again and again.
Story [in my words]: Andrea runs a lot of miles and I definitely want to be like her when I grow up – and, not just for her running adventures and feats. For her genuine heart – she gives it all — her support, her passion, and her belief in everyone’s potential [“exceed your fears and doubts.”]. And, right alongside the 100+ marathons and ultras, she leads a so-called normal life – she has a beautiful family, a job fueled by passion, coaches at WeRock and definitely loves a doughnut now and then.
“After over a year and a half of constant 100 mile racing, I am taking some time to focus on changing up my training and setting my sites on races I would like to complete in 2018. Many are lotteries and so I won’t know until lottery day hits.”
Next Running Adventure: July 10th – Badwater (135 mile footrace through Death Valley in the summer).
“Badwater is knows as “the world’s toughest ultramarathon”. I have been lucky enough to have been invited there two times already and am going back again this summer for my third round. When I first ran it in 2014, I didn’t know what to expect. You hear the stories, you can go to crew/pace, but until you place yourself in that position of running it…..you simply have no idea. This year I am excited to go back because I am a completely different woman and runner than I was in 2014. I can’t wait to apply the lessons I have learned along the way out on the course. I know it will be hard, but I have a feeling there is a new and exciting lesson about “self” that is going to appear at some point during my journey. .”
Glimpse into a Training Week: I am about to peak in my training. This can mean up to 100 miles in one week. Often I will run in the morning and again at night. Additionally I fit in time for a weekly stairs workout and upper body weight training. Additionally I spend an hour a day training in the sauna to help acclimate to the heat. During the final weeks leading into the event, I cut caffeine and alcohol completely out of my diet and also watch carefully that the foods I am eating promote proper nourishment and body repair.
Glimpse into Everyday Life: I am a wife and mother of two. Our son is 22 years old and in the Marines and our daughter is a 10 year old ballerina. My day starts before the sun comes up as I head out the door around 4:30am or 4:45am to hit my first workout. When I get home, I focus on getting my daughter ready for her day and then I head to work. I work for Road Runner Sports in the Grass Roots Marketing Department. I also co-founded a non-profit that trains kids to run a full marathon distance race.
Happiest Running Moment: I have run some pretty incredible races and seen some of the most magnificent finish lines, but my happiest running moment is on OC Marathon race day each year. After 7 months of training the kids, they embark on their 26.2 mile journey. I am the official course sweeper in the back and only ever catch up to a few. I love knowing that they are going to discover how truly strong, capable and amazing they are after crossing that finish line. There is great joy in that day for me.
Failing Foward Moment: I read a quote once that said, “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn”. I love that quote. You only fail when you stop trying. I would have to say that HURT 100 in 2016 was one of my biggest defeats. I had trained hard for the race and felt prepared going in. I ran well the first 40 miles but lost a lot of speed during the next twenty. I made some bad decisions on the course that caused me to face time cut offs. By the time I was on my final 2o mile loop, I was fighting hard to stay in the game. Mentally and physically I was giving everything I had. I missed a cutoff by about 2 minutes at mile 93. Only 7 miles were in between me and the finish line, but my time was up. The race was over. No chance to continue on that day.
After the race, I looked at myself in the mirror and I didn’t like the reflection. There were things about myself that I wanted to change, but didn’t really know what to do. I felt there there was a warrior in there just fighting to get out. So, I chopped off all my long locks and donated them to Wigs for Kids. Then I began an entirely new process of rebuilding myself. I became stronger in that year. I learned to love myself more and did my best to show others how much I loved them. I began to run with more gratitude in my heart and caring for the people that helped to bring me to this place. It was incredible. One year later, I went back to HURT 100 and faced the course again. A new woman with a better attitude and a passion that was not going to accept anything other than a finish. With that…..I finished the race!
Go To Running Things & Favorites:
Socks: Road Runner Sports Dry Max
Shorts and Shirts: I mostly wear Road Runner Sports brand, but if I like it and it fits, then I buy it.
Packs: Depending on what I am running, I use two different brands. I LOVE my Nathan Sports hand held bottles, soft flasks and hydropack. I also LOVE my Orange Mud double barrel back. It is so easy to refill when coming in and out of aid stations.
Compression: Favorite brands 2XU and Zensah
Electrolyte: Been playing around with this a lot lately, but currently using Nuun.
Fuel: Mas Korima Korimalitas are my FAVORITE right now! I also will use GU Gels. I mostly fuel with real food.
Lights: Petzel and Nathan Sports
Extras: Totally addicted to chapstick. Has to be in every water bottle pocket, in drop bags, etc.
Running [Life] Advice: As a runner, we are told many things about why we should or shouldn’t take a certain journey. As you begin racing, you might hear it a lot more. Remember that this is YOUR journey and YOUR story and you get to be the author. If you feel compelled to run a certain distance or a certain race, then do it. Find a way and get there. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong there or discourage you for going after your hearts desire. You belong there the moment YOU decide that it is where you want to go. Also, be careful not compare your journey to that of someone else. We ALL started somewhere and you will get to your goal if you simply never quit trying.
The Little Things [the world should know]: Be forgiving of yourself. Treat yourself with the love and kindness that you share with others. You work hard, you deserve the love of yourself the most.
If anyone would like to sponsor a mile of Andrea’s Badwater journey and donate money to WeROCK, here is the link:
Meet Sarah Emerson
Side Story: I met Sarah during a Wednesday morning workout. She took the chance to #justshowup, and has been showing up ever since. And, because of that, I’ve spent mornings doing the hockey pockey, taken a picture with coffee baristas [sans smiles] and been reminded to put all of life in perspective and be overwhelmingly grateful.
Location: Westbrook, Maine
Story [in her words]: “Growing up I hated running, I played soccer and was a goalkeeper as a way to be part of a team but do as little running as possible. Once I got to college the soccer practices came to be too much and the running involved was intense and so I quit. I spent several years coaching and going to the gym but mostly lifting weights and doing minimal cardio. In 2009 I went to a local 10 miler to watch a friend race and was inspired to start running. Being at the finish line of that cold, February in Maine race was exciting and I was missing the competitive aspect that soccer offered me growing up. I left the race and went right to the gym and ran 6 miles. From there I signed up for my first 10K which then turned into signing up and running a half marathon. I took time off to have my son in the summer of 2010 and then got back to it as soon as I was cleared. I got more into the marathon and ultra-marathon distances and completed a 50 miler in 2015. I laugh when I look back at my hatred for running and thinking of me completing a 50 miler after quitting the college soccer team because it involved too much running.
In more recent years my running has been thwarted by 2 herniated discs, 1 back surgery and a diagnosis of breast cancer. So things haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked for them to be but I make an effort to stay in the game and keep moving forward, whatever that looks like. It may be as crew for a friends ultra marathon, bike pacer on your long run or leaving you snacks on my front porch when i know you’ll be running by my house. Running is just as much about the community as it is about the act of putting one foot in front of the other. So if I can’t always run, I’m still gonna be there in another capacity.”
Next Running Adventure: That’s hard to say right now. I am 3 months into a 5 month stint of chemotherapy for breast cancer that was discovered on March 8, 2017 just as I was gearing up to train for a spring half marathon. Since then my running has been put on hold mostly because it became too hard. At the end of May I started on a lower dose chemo which has been wonderful to my body and has allowed me to pick up some slow, short running again. I tell ya, running on chemo is hard. Its mostly the fatigue that gets me, difficulty breathing at times and heavy legs. However, I am signed up for the Beach 2 Beacon 10K which is a local race that was founded by Joan Benoit Samuelson and one that I run every year. I am hoping to be on the start line for it this year. It is held the day after my second to last chemotherapy treatment. So this wont be about time but all about not letting cancer take away from me more then it already has.
“This allows me to be part of and stay connected to the running community. The running community has been instrumental in supporting me through my recovery and I owe a huge piece of my success thus far to them. Without them there are a lot of days I wouldn’t get out of bed to work out, but I know they are there waiting for me to show up. Without them I’m not sure I would have the courage to go out for a run, even if it is just one slow mile. Afraid of failure or how hard it might be. But I know when I get back from a run I have a top notch cheer squad ready to give high fives and hugs. But mostly, this fills my cup because I want to let other people struggling with cancer or other adversity that we don’t have to let that define us or stop us from doing what we love. I may not be running the times or distances that I would like, but ya know what? That’s ok. I am alive today to share my story and I can’t share it from the comfort of my couch. I want to inspire other women to get up and do what they love because that will help the healing process.”
Glimpse into a Training Week: Well lets take the word training loosely here 🙂 Right now I try to run 2-3 times a week. I don’t have any set days I run or set distances everything right now is about listening to my body and how I feel. I can’ force anything. I also am part of a free community workout group called Portland Sweat Project and we meet weekly on Wednesday mornings. That’s the one thing that unless I’m really struggling I try and get myself to. Then I can modify the workout if I need to based on how I’m feeling. But again, its about staying connected with my community that’s really important to me. I also own an ElliptiGO which I try and ride 2-3 times a week as well. This is much less taxing on my body then running and I’m able to get longer workouts in. I can also ride along side friends who are out for their weekend long run which I find a lot of joy in. When I am healthy and in active training for something, I am a morning runner, I love watching the sun rise and the neighborhoods wake up . Usually out the door by 4-4:30 in the morning to get my run in and depending on the training plan I will run 5-6 days a week. I’m not someone who can run everyday…I need my rest days and I’m ok with that!
Glimpse into Everyday Life: I am the mom to an amazing 7 year old boy and a wife to my high school sweetheart (collective awwww, I know). I also work as a Recreation Therapist and have spent the last 10 years working with adults suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders. A typical day looks…well, fairly typical! I work 7:30-4 and then am on after school duty since my husband typically works late. My son is at the age now where he can ride his bike while I run so sometimes we will go for short run/rides after school or play basketball and baseball in the yard. We love going to the beach and searching for treasures and living on the coast of Maine that gives us a lot of freedom to hit up many beaches within 10 minutes of our house. We are campers and hikers in the summer and I love to travel! These days my life has been consumed with weekly doctors appointments and such but I work hard to keep our home life as normal for my family as I can.
Happiest Running Moment: I think running and finishing my 50 mile race has been my best moment. This was something that was on my bucket list for a few years and I finally got up the courage to tackle the training and once race day came I felt so well prepared. Its also the first race I think I’ve cried at coming into the finish. I was so happy all day, the smile hardly wiped off my face and being able to do something I never thought I could do made me feel so happy.
Failing Foward Moment: In 2013 I was in the best shape of my life and was running really well. I had run a spring marathon with some very poor pacing and really crashed, and crashed hard but still came out with a 20+ minute PR. I continued to have some good training runs and races over the summer (I took 1 hour off my 50K time) and thought I could chip another 13 minutes off my marathon in the fall. I felt like this was a time I was capable of running in the spring if I had paced the race better so I saw no reason I couldn’t do it in the fall since my running was still continuing to go so well. Unfortunately I crashed again. By mile 10 my body and my brain just said I had had enough. The last 16 miles were a complete death march and I didn’t want to finish the race but I knew I would regret it if I quit. So I carried on and finished 30 minutes slower then I had wished for. After this race I was embarrassed, burnt out and frustrated and it took me while to find that fire again. However, because I didn’t quit I knew that I had the strength to keep on going the next time it gets hard, because it will. But once you quit once, it makes it so much easier to quit the next time.
Go To Running Things & Favorites: Tailwind is my go to fuel for marathons and ultras. Its tasty and since I started using it I have felt like I am able to finish races with gas in the tank. For shorter races I will use salted caramel GU and regular water. I run exclusively in the Brooks Launch for shoes…I’ve tried other brands and models but these work the best for me…plus they come in lobster designs 🙂 For shorts I often wear Oiselle Rogas or Stride shorts and for tops I’m partial to the sports bra in the summer or some kind of singlet when I’m racing. I don’t like carrying much on me when I run but if I am using Tailwind Ill need a handheld and have found the Nathan handhelds to work best. I also wear a flip belt which holds my phone nicely. I like to have my phone on me when I run, especially longer distances incase there is an emergency or I need to connect with someone at the finish. The flip belt works great and I don’t even know its there.
Running [Life] Advice: I’m a firm believer that your body follows your mind and your attitude plays a big role in your success in life. A grateful heart and mind can lead you a long way, even through the tough paths that life (and running) can bring us down. Stay present, be in the moment and never take anything for granted.
The Little Things [the world should know]: This is what you should know about Sarah – watch this!
This will be an ongoing series [it’s just too good not to share], check back in a couple of weeks for some more running story inspiration.5