runners amy schoppa 062119






Day job

Kindergarten teacher, Northern Elementary School

Why I run

"In high school (Salem, Va.), I was always an athlete. Basketball was my game, and I grew up playing that sport and loved it. But I burned out toward the end of high school and gave it up. And then I got away from exercising and being fit, went to college, got married (husband, Brett), moved across the country, had a family. Three kids later, one of my neighbors had an idea to get a group of moms together before the kids woke up in the morning, very early in the dark, and go running. I got up the first morning and I literally, in this tiny neighborhood, ran the distance of three driveways, and I had to stop. I was so winded. And it was very embarrassing. So it was this epiphany, though: 'This can't be me; I've got to do something to get into shape again.'

"And so it was very small steps. I would go out in the neighborhood at night and just try to get in a couple of miles on a good day. But I ran here and there in spurts. And then I would always give it up. And then moving (from) Kansas to North Carolina in 2008, I just fell in love with the greenways and the trails and all the natural sights to see around here. So I rekindled my desire to try to become a runner. So I always say I've been trying to become a runner for like 10 years now.

"But working at McNair (Elementary), I just really forged a friendship with several people who had an interest in running, and this birth of this Sweaty Friends Athletic Club came about. And it was just a group of about five or six of us that have grown since. The motivation I found from this particular group of people really kept me at running and for the first time since the Sweaty Friends formed, I stuck with running for the last three years on a very regular basis. And I started entering more and more races, and that's kept the desire to not not give up a current spurt."

A typical week

"My goal is always to try to hit 20 miles a week. Very rarely do I actually make that. I've spent most of my latest years being a carpool driver for my girls; they're very avid swimmers. So now that they're all driving, I have a little more time. I'll try to hit the greenway at least four days a week. And then go out Saturday or Sunday for a longer run. I'll try to hit the trails on the weekend."

Favorite place to run

"Trails, just because of the proximity to my house. They're convenient. The Piedmont Trail is one that I do frequently. I feel like I have it memorized: every hill and roots. For the greenway or road, I love to run through the arboretum and just see the plants blooming and what's changing at different times of the year. And I like to go into the neighborhood around Lindley Park."

Faster, higher, stronger

"I do light weight training. I'm a big fan of the 21 Day Fix programs. I've been doing that pretty faithfully for a couple of years now. My children have inspired me to learn to swim. I've been going to swim on the weekends, and now that school is out and I don't have to go to work, I'll swim every morning. Jeff Galloway is kind of like my hero because I do the run-walk. It's made running more accessible to me. I've been listening to podcasts and apps where he talked me through some of his drills. I love to do his cadence drills and the acceleration gliders. That's been helping me up my game as I try to improve my speed."

Life passions

"I'm passionate about music. I love playing the piano. It's a time to find my quiet space. I ski on the side in the winter when I can. But most of my time is spent with my family and supporting my girls and their swim adventures. My son is in school in Charlotte and is an avid computer guy, so supporting what he's doing."

My running inspirations

"My mom (Sharon Peterson), when I was a little girl, she would always go out. I remember her lacing up her shoes in the evening every night, and she would just go out the door and would go for her run. You could tell it was something she loved and thrived upon. She set that model for me to to live a healthy, active lifestyle. My sister (Sarah) is an incredible runner who's run multiple marathons and she's very close to her Boston times. I run a lot with her even though she's way faster than me. Also my group of friends, lady friends, I have neighbor friends I run with, and a group of swim moms."

What I think about while I'm running

"I like quiet. I don't run with music a lot. I run because I can, then I just kind of think in the future. I know that one day I won't be able to run, way down the road, hopefully. So I'm just very thankful for my health and the fact that I can get out there and continue to lead a healthy lifestyle. I struggle with keeping my heart rate in a respectable range, and that has been difficult to work through. So a lot of times I'm really focused on my breathing and just thinking about my pace, making sure it doesn't get so high. So I'm thinking about a lot of technical things, instead of really enjoying the moment. So I'm trying to work toward enjoying it more."

What sticking with running has meant

"My friends would always say that I have a competitive personality by nature. That basketball player in me from my childhood coming out. But I've learned to not take myself so seriously. And so when I'm running with my friends, we always are looking for races that might be a little different, something a little crazy, a different kind of element to it than the run-of-the-mill race. We train together, run together. We'd see a lime bike and just hop on the lime bike and take it for a spin in the middle of the run, you know? And the camaraderie after the run, hanging out with each other, doing life together beyond running has been really a good thing."

Look what I did

"Back in those three-driveway days, there was absolutely no hope for me in my head of ever doing a half marathon. So that was a bucket-list goal that I had set many, many years ago. And now I've done 11 of them. I set a goal to do three a year. And I've really come to appreciate the opportunity that it gives me to travel, to go to these races. I use them as an excuse to go see a different part of the country that I haven't seen before.

"And then my friends talked me into doing the Ultimate Runner (in Winston-Salem) last year, which is the first time I've ever run on a track. So just being willing to step outside your comfort zone. I think I finished second-to-last maybe. We made an impression: We submitted our own bios, because we were running with Olympic trials qualifiers and NCAA, like, champions, and they were calling out the names and we were like, 'We need to write our own bios.' So we wrote some stuff and the guy announced it for us. And when that was all said and done, he asked me to write an article for the Twin City Track Club, so that got published. Part of that article was I had set a goal that Eddie Wooten would one day asked me to be profiled. And I was like, 'Eddie didn't call me, but you guys asked me to write, so I'll count that.'"

Something I'd still like to do

"I'm always adding to my bucket list. I want to do a triathlon. I set a goal two years ago that I was going to give myself two years to do one. And my goal is my deadline expires on Aug. 31. So I'm working on that.

"My friend and I are very obsessed with the Barkley Marathons. We follow the athletes. I'm on Twitter every year during the race. I would like to get into some small-scale race planning and host an event, direct an event. Like a tribute to the Barkley runners next March. So my son is actually designing my website. And when I say small-scale, I mean small-scale. But I have some ideas that I'm tossing around to do a Barkleyesque -- I'm going to call it the Farkley, the fake Barkley -- at Hanging Rock. So I have some really kind of interesting plans next spring to put this event on for the Sweaty Friends.

"It's going to be much shorter. And I want to keep the fun element. I don't want anyone to get hurt. So it will be it much shorter distances. But just an excuse to get together and celebrate these people who take on the possibility of running all those miles in extreme conditions. I just respect them so much. I've been rooting for Gary Robbins to finish. I hope he'll be back. And then, of course, I do want to do one marathon in my lifetime. I'm not sure when that'll be. But it's gonna happen."

Up next

"I'm signed up for the Urban Bourbon in Louisville, Ky., in October, the half. And then I'm going to do the Rock 'n' Roll Vegas half in November."

Words to the wise

"Persevere when things are hard. In teaching kindergarten, that's the one overriding lesson I try to instill in kids when they're 5 and 6, that the world's going to throw hard things at you even when you're 5 and 6. So don't give up on yourself. There are so many times that I've struggled because there's really no natural ability in my body to run. I find it very hard. And there's been so many times that I've said, 'This isn't for me, I'm never going to be good, I don't think I can do this anymore.' But something about it, and it's really the people that I've surrounded myself with, they keep me coming back and celebrating every small victory. So persevering is a huge thing in all aspects of life, but running has taught me to never give up."

Contact Eddie Wooten at (336) 373-7093, and follow @EddieWootenNR on Twitter.

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