“Cape Island Spotlight” will be an occasional series about runners I know and love and think you will too! Runners are an interesting breed – a little quirky mixed with a little masochist mixed with hard work and hard play makes for some of the most fun people I know!
Here, I’ll show you…
Melissa and I met a few years ago when she started working for us at the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. We chummied up pretty fast, given our mutual love of all things Piping Plover and running. We’ve spent many a run working through the various challenges we’ve each faced, finding comfort in logging those miles together. Melissa is an accomplished runner and has racked up quite a few impressive PR’s in everything from 5ks to marathons. Last summer, she and her husband Will did something that many people dream of, but never quite pluck up the courage up to do – they packed themselves, their dog Scout, their cat Ruby and moved out west! They are both natives of the South Jersey area so this represented a huge change for them – they left everything and everyone they knew and made a leap of faith all the way over the Continental Divide to Oregon. I am so proud of them for following their own path, it is really inspiring. You can read more about their adventures on Melissa’s blog, Beyond The Yellow Brick Road. I miss running with Melissa so much, she was (and is!) one of my favorite running buds and I can’t wait for her visit east in April and the eventual trip I will make west to see those ever adorable Tuckers! Until then, let’s hear (read??) what she had to say about the following:
Who saw the runner in you, ie how did you get into running?
Well, no actual person saw the runner in me. I started running to get into shape because I drank too much in college. I didn’t start running 5ks until… I guess it was 2008 that I started running 5ks. My first one was a super, giant one in Philly – the Susan G Komen. Everyone we did it with walked but me and Will, we were racing each other. I did not have a fast time (it was so many people), but it is what made me train to do another one and try to go fast. The next one was Zack’s Run in Ocean City and I won my age group!
How long have you been pounding the pavement/trails?
I was 22 when I started running on and off. It was always short runs and it was not frequent– I’d just run 1.5-2 miles two times a week. That was 2006 and I ran pretty casually for the next two years.
I never really thought I could run long distance…actually, I never even thought of myself as an athlete – running a marathon was seemed very far away from who I was. But then I did a 10 miler and was successful with that. It was the Ocean Drive race (ed note: this race is famous for it’s less than stellar weather – March at the shore – need I say more??) and that year the wind was at our backs and there really wasn’t any rain. For OD, it was pretty good. After that race, I thought “ok now I have to do a half, it’s only 3 more miles!” It was after my first half-marathon that I thought I might be able to do marathon. I put my name into the NYC lottery and decided that if I got in I would run a marathon and if I didn’t I would not. I got in!
A moment where you said to yourself “oh my god, I love running!”
The first time I ran the entire Ocean City boardwalk, a total of 5 miles. It was an amazing feeling of “wow, I ran the whole thing!”. Plus, it was a beautiful day, just gorgeous out. Little did I know then how much I would run that boardwalk later for marathon training. I ran it for many, many training runs. The most I ever did on it was 18 miles. There was just something very appealing to me about breaking down my long runs into these smaller, manageable pieces. It was easier mentally than to think “ok, I’m just going to run the whole island today!”.
A moment when you said to yourself “Whose idea was this again? Why in the world am I doing this!?”
Probably the NYC marathon. It was my first marathon… and maybe this is not true for everyone, but for me that first one hurt so bad. I got to about mile 18 and everything just…my back hurt, my legs hurt, my shoulders hurt. The one good thing was that the crowds were insane and were cheering for me to keep going – so I did.
I asked her if it had been a smaller race with fewer crowds whether she would have stopped or quit Umm, no , I don’t think so, but I would have walked a lot I bet. I was already going pretty slow but the crowds kept me from walking, for sure.
Running adage that is not true for you (i.e. they say to avoid running on a full stomach, but lil sis can house a hoagie and be fine to run immediately)?
Hmm, I have also found that I can pretty much eat whatever I want before I go running even though that was not always true. Anyway, the one that is true for me is that I don’t need high mileage to race a marathon. I can do a couple of long runs and go do a marathon no problem. *laughs* I mean, it’s hard to run a marathon no matter what but I can do it “comfortably” averaging just 35 miles/week. I would like to adapt to higher mileage weeks in the future because I like running, but I definitely don’t need high mileage to complete a race.
Prefer to run alone or with partner/group?
I guess I like having “me” time and running by myself but I do like to mix it up and that is what I am missing in Oregon. I like having a running buddy, other than my dog Scout. *laughs* But I also like running in a group. My problem is that there aren’t even any running stores nearby, not even in Coos Bay. Hal Koerner’s running group in Ashland is probably the closest and that is three hours away! I did meet a few women runners on the trails and am hoping to hook up with them when they start their spring training. My town is small, so there aren’t a lot of people here to begin with (~2000) and then 70% of them are 65+, so it is hard to find people to run with!
Favorite running gear?
Ohhh, I have a couple. Probably my most favorite is a handheld water bottle by Nathan that can hold my phone so I can run without needing a belt (I really don’t like running with belts). I also got new trail running shoes that I love from a company called Altra. They are a zero drop shoe and the toe box is a lot rounder than other shoes which is great because it stops me from getting blisters. Those are my two faves right now.
Bucket list race?
This is very,very far away and I don’t know if I will ever ever get to run it, but Western States (ed note: I am similarly mesmerized by this race, and posted about it here) . It is killing me I am in within driving distance of the course and I have not been there yet. I would love to go and watch the race, maybe even volunteer. The movie Unbreakable had a real impact – more people are so into it and I think that has made more sign up. The movie is so good – even though I know what happens I still get worked up for the end every time I watch it! By the way, both times I have been to Hal Koerner’s store it’s been on repeat.
Would you (or have you) ever do a bare it all (ie naked) run?
*laughs* um, absolutely not. I don’t even like to be in a bikini, so I don’t ’t think so! But I loved Bart Yasso’s story about his naked run! (ed note: it was at this point that Melis and I took a break from the interview to talk about how much we love Bart Yasso – I’m not including the dialogue here, but picture a lot of gushing).
What is your favorite race distance?
Umm, I guess out of the distances I have done so far, I am most captivated by the marathon because I want to master it. As far as a comfortable distance, the half-marathon. I think they are super fun – you don’t have to do a ton of training to and I can kind of do one on a whim. I hope to one day feel that way with the marathon (ed note: and if she does an ultra, that will happen!)
Do you run on vacation or take a break?
Since I started racing, I really plan vacations around races. They are usually the center of the trip. I haven’t been on vacation that I haven’t run on since my honeymoon! My favorite running trip was probably my first half marathon, the Silver Strand Half Marathon in San Diego. We were in SD for 5 days and I got to run a half and see the Eagles play football in a stadium there on the same day. It was pretty great.
What is a running ritual you have that makes other raise their eyebrows?
The only thing I can think of is that the night before races I like to drink beer, which some people might think is weird but I think a lot of runners do it! I like a good beer, so usually an IPA from a micro brewery. One that I like right now is Jubeale from Deschute’s.
Advice to fellow runners?
Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Don’t doubt you can do something. Growing up, I never thought I could run a marathon– but I found out I can and you can too.
What is your favorite post-race indulgence?
I would love to say martinis because that is what I always tell myself I can have after a race but I usually don’t feel like drinking after. The last few races I have had a cheeseburgers and fries – it’s very Shalane Flanagan of me! *laughs*
Weird, random fact about yourself?
I am pretty much obsessed with popcorn. I eat popcorn almost every night and now that I live in Oregon we don’t have a microwave so I have been air popping and figuring out different ways to perfect it. I need to get away from butter and salt and find something healthier, but it is soo good! (ed. note: suggestions anyone?)
Thanks Melis!! Miss you bunches!
Anyone have questions for Melissa?