Finance manager, Aon Corporation
Why I run
"Everybody has different motivations for why they run, and I certainly have over the years. But the reason we all run is the same – to get out there and do something. Whether that's me to go win a race, lose weight, meet friends – the reasons are all the same, but the motivation is different.
"I started out little as a little girl, to get energy out. On road trips, as a very little girl, I would get my parents to stop the car to let me get my energy out and I would run circles around the car. In childhood, I would run because I liked to set up obstacle courses in my neighborhood. And my motivation there was to beat all these neighborhood kids on obstacle courses.
"And then it evolved. I was a soccer player and tore my ACL. I wanted to be Mia Hamm, go to Carolina, and that just kind of blew apart. And I started running out of frustration that the soccer dream was over, and I just kept running. And then I went to Wake Forest, and the 'why' there is I wanted to prove to myself that I could run at a bigger level, because I went to a really small high school. I walked on to the team and the coach looked at me cross-eyed when I first told her I wanted to run for Wake Forest. So there was to prove to myself that I could even though I was one of the slower runners. Also in college, we had this shirt where I wrote 'why do you run?' and I put 'so I can eat some more ice cream.'
"But now it's very different. The 'why I run' is more about the experiences that I've had along the way and the learning that you gain through running and just really the joy. When you go through a knee injury, when you get away from it, it's when you really start to appreciate how wonderful it is. And now it's about – I always say – 'happy running.' And that truly is through all of the experiences, I get happiness out of running."
A typical week
"A typical week now is very low mileage; I would say 15 to 20 miles a week. I run two or three times a week, just really managing the knee. That low mileage is very different from when I would run 70 to 80 miles a week. I will do workouts. One day is a track workout, because I was training for Ultimate Runner, and the other day is usually a long run, a race or a tempo run. And on the other days, there's a lot of, lot of, hours of watching 'Friday Night Lights' on the elliptical or sweating on the Peloton bike with whatever music on and just a whole lot of cross-training and weightlifting on the other three or four days that I'm not running. And I run mostly solo, but if I can find folks to align schedules with, it's always better to run with friends and with people and push each other."
Favorite place to run
"I love running in North Carolina, but I have been fortunate in my job to be able to travel. And so my favorite place to run is pretty much any new city I get to go visit because it's an adventure. This year my favorite place was in Paris. I woke up really early one morning to run and there was no one outside; it was about 6 a.m. or so. You're running around this whole city that's a beautiful place, and there's no one around, so it's you and all of these old buildings. ...
"You pick a direction and go, and you see things when you're running that you won't necessarily see when you're in a car or a train. I'll have to add I love London. I've got a 10K loop I created in London that goes from the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, all the way down to Big Ben and back. Every time I'm there, I run that loop and I just love it."
Faster, higher, stronger
"For strength, walking lunges kill me but they do amazing work. For speed, 200- and 400-meter repeats also kill me because I love the longer stuff. But those coupled with intervals on the Peloton bike get your heart racing without all of the pounding of running. Those three things I have done a lot of in the last year and they really make a big difference."
"I picked up golf in the last year. I love it. But when I go to the driving range, there's usually ... older golfers out there. And they'll be standing there and try to give me tips. And I'll tell them how much I love golf. And they'll say, 'Oh, it's the devil's game. You can't love golf.' I spend a lot of time trying to learn and I just really enjoy that. And I like to fish. My other half and I will fish for things like bream and crappie. That's just a relaxing way to cap off a day or spend on the weekend."
On winning the Ultimate Runner
"I do not think I was prepared for the heat and sunshine. I had knee surgery (left; jumper's knee) exactly one year ago. And so I started being able to run in about February. I wanted to try to break the mile record. It was so hot, so that didn't happen. But I also wanted to win (her eighth time) because I think then I would have had the most wins for male and female in that race. So that was my second goal. And then fortunately, I was able to win. So it was good. It was confirmation that with getting over a knee injury and surgery that you can still perform relatively well with very little mileage per week and a lot of cross training."
My running inspiration
"It would be a 'what'; it would be an experience. When I went to Wake, I walked on to the team. I was a nobody; we were the walk-ons. We got cross country spikes to wear all year long, vs. track spikes and whatnot. I was at my first indoor track meet ever at Virginia Tech, and I was intimidated as all get out. I was going to run the mile race, and I had never run a mile race. One of my coaches just said, 'Molly, go left.' That stood out to me: 'OK, just go left.'
"There was a woman who coached on our team, Jill Kerr. I thought originally she was one of the athletes, and she was racing that day and she ran for adidas at that time. I was sitting by the track totally scared out of my mind. I had my Walkman, and I was listening to Boston, 'More Than a Feeling.' The mile race went off, and I'd never seen women run that fast in my life. And I saw the coach going by and going by and going by and she's in the front part of the race, but not doing too much. And I was like, 'Wow, maybe I can do this.' With Boston playing and two laps to go, this coach, Jill, just took off and left the pack. And it's that line in the Boston song, 'I closed my eyes and she slipped away,' and she took off. I'd never seen anything like this. And she runs like 4:40 or something in the mile.
"That whole experience impacted me so much. This was 12 years ago, or 13 years ago, and I still get goosebumps when I think about sitting there so scared and intimidated and watching this confident runner go out there and race. I ended up running 5:33 in the mile that day, and it was the most painful experience of my life. But that experience stays with me even now when I think about races and watching that person go and be so calm, cool and competent and then just blow the rest of the field away. That was truly inspiring to me."
What I think about while I'm running
"Oh my God! Sometimes it's blank. Most of the time, it's just about whatever's going on in the day. Now because everything's a workout, it's usually more that blank trying to grab oxygen from any part of my body to get through the interval."
Look what I did
"I don't write very often, but I started that blog called runnersapien. And the whole point of it was that runner sapien means 'wise runner.' I'm most proud of what I've picked up along the way. The lessons I've learned, the patience I've gained, the strength and resolve to know that there's the next day or there's the next race. I'm most proud of those lessons that stick with me and help me grow and learn as a person – and the friends and family. When I go to a race, I am thankful just for the experiences and the people. So it's not necessarily a race, but it's the lessons I've learned along the way that I'm personally proud that I've been able to gain."
Something I've not done yet
"I signed up for the California International Marathon in December. I'm about to flip back over into some longer training. And I don't necessarily know that I would be able to get an Olympic Trials qualifier time, but I'm certainly hoping my knee will handle it OK, the increased mileage, to try to run a good race in December. I will train to run close to that 2:45 time, but I'm not going to put the immense pressure on myself to say that if I don't hit it, I'm going to be upset. It's about being able to run."
"They've got the High Point mile (Summer Miles Series) in about a month. After that I haven't got anything planned for the fall. I'll look for local races with either Twin City (Track Club) or the Junction 311 races or whatever is out there."
Words to the wise
"Through all of the injury stuff, we spend a lot of time thinking and getting really grateful when you can run. And so there's a thing I created about happy running: 'It's not how fast or how far, but it's that we are and that we do.' That's become my mantra. People ask me all the time about running and fast running or whatever. It doesn't matter. Just the fact that we're out there. It's about getting out there and just doing it."