Hello Salty Nation! I’m Zest, and I’m thrilled to be here! I’m a distance runner in Washington, D.C., by way of Louisville, Kentucky. I run because I enjoy competition and I like pushing myself to be the best, fastest version of myself that I can be. So, naturally, when I stumbled on Salty Running a couple years ago, I immediately knew I had found my people.
I haven’t always been a runner; growing up, I was a field hockey player. I played throughout middle school and high school and then for a Division I program in college. For the majority of my career, I actively tried to avoid running. Running long distances was for either conditioning or punishment, and, either way, I was not a fan. Plus, I was a goalkeeper, and most of my training focused on short sprints and plyometrics, not running miles at a time. I vividly recall one conversation with my dad, who had started running marathons after I left for college, in which I told him that he was crazy and that I would never, ever have the desire to run that far.
Twelve years later, I was working an extremely stressful job in Washington and generally feeling like something was missing from my life. Then, out of the blue, my dad had a major health crisis. I started running. It began mainly as a form of stress relief and a way to deal with all of my emotions at the time, but that fall, my younger sister came to town to run the Marine Corps Marathon, and I went out to cheer for her. I was not used to being on the sidelines; I vowed that next year I’d be out there racing.
I began my training for the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon in earnest, and from the very beginning, I knew I didn’t just want to finish … I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I had no reason to think this was a realistic goal, other than the fact I had once run a half marathon at the same pace I would need to sustain for a full marathon in order to BQ, and some majorly inspiring stories from a number of Saltines who had done it on their first try.
I worked so hard that summer, and I ended up qualifying for Boston with five minutes to spare! It was an exhilarating feeling, and that something that I felt had been missing from my life? Well, I had found it. Running filled whatever void that was left after I graduated from college and stopped playing field hockey. And I wanted more.
I had time to kill before Boston 2016, so in 2015, I trained for the Chicago Marathon. Everything was going as planned until I started having pain in my hamstring, which I attributed to an old field hockey injury. I pushed through it and finished in 3:18:11, cutting 17 minutes off my previous time but tearing my hamstring in the process. Incidentally, I knew I had picked the right doctor when, after the race, he looked at my MRI and said, “You ran a 3:18 on that?? Awesome!”
Training for Boston consisted of intensive rehab while running 40-50 miles per week, oh yeah, and a day job. It was brutal, but once again I pushed through, even though I was still hurting and feeling pretty burned out. But about a month before Boston, I PR’d big time at the NYC Half Marathon, finishing in 1:30:19. This was a huge surprise, as I went in thinking I’d be lucky to run a 1:32. I felt cautiously optimistic about Boston, but once race day rolled around, it was unexpectedly hot, my legs were toast at about mile six, which is pretty demoralizing when you know you have 20 more miles to go, and I finished in 3:35, the same time as my first marathon. I was disappointed, and, worse than that, totally burned out.
I’ve spent this summer trying to recover fully from the past two and a half years, hoping to be ready to jump in again with reckless abandon when it’s time to start training for Boston 2017. In the meantime, I’m trying to appreciate running at a more relaxed pace and to enjoy running in our Nation’s beautiful capital, which never gets old. I’m telling you, there’s nothing like an early morning run past the monuments on the National Mall.
Now that I’m a Saltine, I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you and hopefully helping to add some zest to your running journey too!
Would your younger self be surprised at the runner you’ve become?