More and more women take up running. Who are these women, and what makes them want to run? From now on: portraits of Running Moms! First running mom is Kristina Pinto!
Could you tell us something about yourself?
I'm 30 years old, married, and I have one son named Henry who is 3 going on 13. I work in Boston as a researcher in higher education, but I've also worked as a college instructor and editor. We live out in the country north of Boston.
How old were you when you started to run?
I got into running as an adult--I hated running in gym class as a kid because it was always about sprinting, not conserving energy and using it smartly. I started running after college because I had no money and it was a cheap way to get exercise and stay in shape. I started slowly--one mile at a time--and can remember vividly how excited I was to run a whole mile. I used the "one more mailbox" method to increase my mileage by going just a little bit further--one more mailbox--every time I went out.
Why did you take up running?
Mostly because it was really inexpensive, and I wanted to stay in shape, so at first, I wasn't really into running; I just did it as a good way to stay in shape. Running took on much more meaning for me when I went to watch a marathon for the first time. It was so inspiring that I signed up for a 5k (Race for the Cure) and trained for that.
At that point, running became more to me than a fitness choice but I still didn't try longer distances than 3-4 miles for several years. When I made some friends in grad school who were regular everyday women who had run marathons, I was blown away and decided to train for a marathon--after only ever running a 5k and never going further than 5 miles. Kind of a crazy decision, but once I made that commitment to train, I was forever hooked and running is now a central part of who I am.
How many hours do you spend on running during the week?
It depends on if I'm training for a race. When I'm training for a marathon or half-marathon, I'll spend anywhere from 3 1/2 to 5 hours per week running, another half hour total stretching, and maybe 2 hrs on cross-training in a good week. Of course, I spend a lot of additional time thinking and writing about running, too--I'd hate to quantify that time; it would be scary!
Do you walk alone or in a group?
When I do short runs, I tend to run alone, mostly because I do them during the week and need to get them in quickly without driving anywhere to meet someone. I prefer to do long runs with another person or two, since the chatting helps pass the miles.
The benefits of running alone (to me) are time to think about my day, to reflect, and to work on speed if I feel like it. I love having someone to talk to on long runs, though, and when I have to do those alone, they are pretty tough to get through. Being with someone motivates me, keeps my pace steady, and keeps me connected to friends who I don't see often enough. I wouldn't say there are disadvantages to running alone versus running with others, just that they serve different purposes.
What motivates you to go for a run?
Seeing other people running
Mostly seeing other people running, whether I'm watching a race or driving past runners on my way somewhere. It makes me want to get out there. I'm also one of those silly people who is motivated to run when I get new gear; even a new pair of socks will make me want to get out there! I subscribe to Runners World, too, which can make me want to run when I read about someone running in much worse conditions than I ever do, like across the Sahara or in Antarctica.
Races motivate me, too, like when I didn't finish Boston in 2007 due to an ITB injury; I was so driven to finish in 2008 that the race wasn't as hard as I'd expected. And I love Non-Runner Nancy's virtual races for running bloggers; it's all good fun, no pressure, and will get me out there on a seemingly random day to put in a 10k, a 10-miler, or what have you. Having my running blog also means I actually have to run!
I guess a lot motivates me to run, doesn't it? I think you have look for many sources of inspiration or something as methodical as running will get stale.
Do you find there's a difference between physical en psychological reasons to go running?
Absolutely, but I also think that they feed into each other. When I feel stronger physically, my psychological strength improves, and vice versa. I totally believe in a mind-body connection, so that my physical and psychological experiences of running tend to play off each other.
I admit that one of the reasons I run is to stay in good physical shape, but being fit and being attuned to my running also helps my mental clarity and focus and prevents me from obsessing about how I look. The physical and psychological might start out separate but they always flow into each other eventually.
What does running mean to you?
Running lets me fly. Simple as that.
Do you see parallels between running and motherhood?
I think there are definitely parallels between running and motherhood. Both of them require infinite patience to be good at them. And they both wear me out!
Would you recommend running to your child?
Definitely. He runs in little Tot Trots we have around here, and he loves it. I try to instill in him that running is fun--not competitive--and I hope that if he doesn't turn out to be great at sports, he'll have running to turn to. It's so personal that you don't need to feel like you're up against other people all the time. There's no losing in running, and I think it's a great thing for kids to do for that reason. I can't wait til he and I can go for a run together someday.
What makes you participate in a marathon? What motivates you?
So many reasons--but mostly because if I can do this really hard--seemingly impossible--thing, I can withstand a lot of hardship. Marathons have made me tougher, more humble, more centered, and more disciplined. There's nothing like getting to know yourself at mile 22; it's the most raw and exposed I get, and I learn so much about myself in those last miles.
What does racing mean to you in general?
I always say that I'd rather run smart and run well than run fast. That said, I have personal goals I'd like to meet, like most people. So when I race, I'm racing against myself and my past performance, not against other runners. I was never very athletic or good at sports, so I try to avoid competition at races. It just detracts from my joy in the experience. I have so much more fun and fulfillment at a race when I'm not racing other people.
Are you running for an official prize?
No, I'm not in that league of runners, though I'd like to get faster so I can get more miles in with my other commitments to work and family.
How do you view your future as a runner?
I try to stay in the present, or else I risk disappointment because of injury when I can't meet the kind of goals people set for themselves. I'll just keep running until I don't want to do it anymore--which I don't see happening anytime soon--and I'm open to changing my interests from marathons to 5k if that's where I end up. I just try not to pressure myself by setting lofty goals or else the fulfillment I get from running will disappear.
Do you run with music?
I prefer to run with music because I find the rhythm really helps me keep a steady pace. I used to be a dancer in high school and college and I think that has something to do with why I really connect with the rhythm (more than the lyrics or the tune).
When I run with friends, I don't listen to music, and if there's a chance I'll get disqualified from a race for using an iPod, I won't bring it. I ran the Boston Marathon without my iPod and was okay without the music because the crowds are go huge and vocal. But I definitely like to race with it when there aren't many spectators.
What do you think about Paula Radcliffe?
She's one of my biggest inspirations. She's triumphed, and she's failed. I took so much comfort in her DNF when I didn't finish Boston in 2007. She also models what modern women often have to do--seek professional growth while making and raising a family. And I think she did a brilliant job at it; I know her prenatal running was controversial, but I prefer to trust that she was under the watch of a good ob-gyn than judge her decisions.
Do you have a favourite book about running?
Strides by Ben Cheever. The best running memoir I've read (I haven't read too many).
Do you have a favourite brand of running shoes?
Mizuno Wave Nirvana are my favorite--too bad I left my pair at the marathon!
You keep a blog about running. Why do you keep a blog? What does this blog mean to you?
It started as a way to enhance my fundraising for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (running the Boston Marathon to raise funds for cancer research), to allow my donors to follow my training and fundraising and to spread the word about what a great organization Dana-Farber is. It's evolved into so much more.
It's kept me a writer when I'd dropped that part of my life after finishing grad school, and it's kept me a runner when I don't feel like getting out there. The two forces work together to keep me doing what I love to do: run and write. Just like my running forms a chunk of who I am, I feel my blog does, too. They give me a sense of myself when I feel like my life is limited to making peanut butter sandwiches and doing laundry.
And I hope my readers have gotten something valuable from it, too--like maybe the idea that being a regular person doesn't mean you can't be a runner or you can't run marathons. I was the least athletic child, and now I run marathons. Running is for everyone, and I hope my blog shows that.
Do you have a message for al the moms out there who are thinking about taking up running?
Give it a month, take it slowly, and be patient, and it might just change your life. Never in my teenage mind would I have pictured myself a runner as an adult. It has changed me to my core and in such inexplicable ways. If you give it a month of regular effort, it will be an experiment that will make a difference in who you are.
Learn more about Kristina at her blog: The Marathon Mama