Mother runner Amy Blake, 38, wasn't always a fan of group running--until she found a few fun runners who like heading out in just about any kind of weather and on varied terrain as much as she does. And where Amy and her friends live, well, there's lots of variety and adventure. Consider that so far this winter their town of Houghton in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has recorded nearly 200" of the white stuff. "I recently mapped a route for us that I, um, didn’t quite follow to the letter, which landed our group at a dead-end," says the mom of two. "Fortunately, we’re not completely averse to climbing over giant snowbanks, getting stuck hip-deep in snow, and inadvertently trespassing in backyards (oh, you mean that’s not a road? Sorry!). Fortunately, most locals are pretty nice up here."
Best recent run: My favorite runs lately have been group runs with my nerdy running buds, aka Team /var/run. (I work in Information Technology, if that helps explain the name. If not, never mind, ha.) We have been trying to get out at least every other weekend for a group run. Coach Zoe, a high-spirited never-ending ball of energy canine, has been pacing us (or dragging us?), which equals a really good workout (and her coaching rates are rock bottom cheap). I was never a fan of group runs until I found fun people to run with. It’s a great way to make miles fly by and have someone help hold you accountable with your fitness goals.
Tea or coffee? Lately, a lot of chai tea.
Sit-ups or plank? Push-ups!
Funniest (or most embarrassing) running experience: I’ve been pretty fortunate to not have any embarrassing moments so far in my running life, which is probably because I’ve had so many in my non-running life, the running gods have taken pity on me. Excuse me while I go find some wood to knock on.
Piece of running gear you can’t bear to part with: I’m a little bit of a data addict, so I love my Garmin Forerunner 410. Yes, I’m one of those Garmin-Instagrammers.
Half-marathon or marathon? I have more experience with full marathons but after running my first “official” half last summer, I’m looking forward to doing more of them. I love that they’re enough of a challenge that you need to log serious training to avoid suffering, yet they don’t take over your entire life. Having said that, I still choose the full marathon if I have a choice. I’ve done 10 so far and with every race I’ve learned something new about myself. It’s a challenge like no other, and in addition to the whole “perfect metaphor for life” thing, I’ve never done something like it that completely wrecks you physically yet leaves you so happy when you’ve finished it. I love it.
A run, yes, but what else calms you after a long day? Like most runners, I love to eat! My husband Scott and I both love cooking and baking, so if our kids aren’t being too needy and we have the time/energy to prepare something other than throwing a box of spaghetti in boiling water, we’re all about whipping up something semi-elaborate. We’re definitely not afraid to try new recipes on unsuspecting guests (take note, new dinner guests).
Best Mile Ever (and Why): Back in 2004 I ran a 30K race as one of my long training runs for my first marathon (Chicago 2004). My personal life was in the crapper. It was a grueling backroads out and back and man, it was so hot that day. Thirty kilometers was the farthest I’d ever run IN MY LIFE. When I got to that last mile and realized I was really going to finish it, I was completely overcome with emotion at not only my soon-to-be accomplishment, but that somehow I was going to get through all the other stuff, too. And I did.
Best tip for running in all that snow you get in the U.P.: Wait until the plow goes by! No, seriously, it’s not as bad as you’d think. Our road commission is pretty good at handling the snowfall we get. After the roads are freshly plowed, running is fun. The sound of your shoes (or spike-covered shoes) crunching on freshly plowed roads is pretty satisfying. For the days when the snow’s falling faster than they can clear it, I stick with either Yaktrax or spikes and pile on layers. You can run in almost any weather and have it be an enjoyable experience if you’re properly prepared.
Favorite way to cross-train: I’ve become reacquainted with my bike this year and am working out on a trainer/road bike combo this year. I’ve got this “I haven’t really made a firm commitment but I’m leaning toward doing it” goal of a triathlon this summer if I can, well, learn how to swim without looking like a crazy person flopping around in a vat of jell-o (or at least that is what I imagine I look like when I’m swimming). The other fun thing I like to do in winter is play ice hockey. There is no workout quite like it. It’s incredibly humbling (because I’m not very good) and a killer workout at the same time.
Your running, described in three words: Instant mood lifter!