Meet the Winner of the 2014 Salty Running Blog Tournament!

Meet Nichole – author of the Salty Running Best Women’s Running Blog of 2014! (img courtesy N. Porath)

We started with 32 awesome running blogs that you nominated via Twitter, Facebook and SR comments, and it was a tough competition among many amazing blogs.  The real winners are those of us who found new blogs to follow, but through each round, only a few continued on, and in the end Nichole’s Running Journey was voted top women’s running blog in all the Internet. It was quite a surprise to many of us – NRJ is awesome, but was nonetheless a “Cinderella story” – she beat out some of the biggest blogs in the business!

When asked why Nichole won the tournament, Salty blogger Pepper put it well:

“I think what’s inspiring about her is her work ethic; she obviously trains hard and respects her coaches. I always enjoyed reading her blog when I was questioning my own training and seeing how she had gotten to the OTQ.”

Salty blogger Sassafrass chimed in with:

“I have read Nichole’s blog since right around the time of the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. I stumbled across it when looking for regular women who had qualified. I have continued to read because, despite being much faster than me, Nichole is really relatable. Whether she’s posting about struggling with workouts, balancing running with work and life, Nichole’s journey has been a really fun one to follow. She’s so transparent and open about everything, and doesn’t come across as being arrogant despite her times. Plus I love that she posts about “real world” things like the grocery budget. It shows that making the leap to being a pro runner isn’t all photo shoots and nailing workouts!”

To celebrate NRJ’s win, we thought we’d get to know the woman behind the site, Minnesotan, Olympic Trials marathoner and mom-to-be, Nichole Porath.

Hi Nichole! Thanks for participating in the tournament!  When did you start blogging and why?

Nichole did a lot of this in the early days of blogging (img courtesy N. Porath)

I started while I was working part-time for a Nordic ski shop in 2008. I was just learning how to ski and the owner thought it would be interesting for readers to read about what it’s like to pick up Nordic skiing while also running competitively. For a very long time I only had 10-15 readers, so the blog was mostly a way for me to record my own thoughts and to document my training, an it has been helpful to look back at what I have done in the past.

Eventually I started writing on Blogger and more people started reading the blog. It then became a fun way for me to share the workouts I was doing, the ups and downs of training, etc. All of a sudden, I felt like I had people to hold myself accountable to when I was doing my VO2 repeats over my lunch hour, and that was a lot of fun. As I became more competitive of a runner, it shifted to an all-running blog. I still ski occasionally, but not often. Someday I hope to pick it up again! It would be interesting to go back and look through those very early blogs, but unfortunately when the ski shop updated the website a few years ago all of that material was lost.

Do you think blogging has helped you achieve success with running? If so, how? Any unexpected connections or opportunities arrive out of your blogging?

The biggest perk of blogging has been being part of an online community of runners. When the New York City Marathon was cancelled 2 years ago I was able to find a place to stay on short notice for the California International Marathon with Jaymee Marty. I had not met her in person, but we both read each others blogs, and so she was super willing to help. It was funny when I got out there because we both felt like we already knew each other from reading our blogs. You can learn a lot about someone that way!

Coach Nichole and friends, congratulating one of her athletes over the web (img courtesy N. Porath)

Having those connections has also helped with my coaching and has allowed me to step away from the corporate world. I have always gotten emails and messages from other runners asking questions about their own running, and so when I decided to start doing more official coaching work it was natural for some of the readers of my blog to become part of my team. I currently coach about a dozen runners from all across the country, and I know I would have never been able to connect with them without the blog.

Why do you think you won the blog tournament? You beat some extremely popular blogs! I think you’re blog is great – it’s real, it’s fun, it’s inspiring – but why do you think you beat some of those more conventionally successful blogs?

Honestly, I think it’s because I have the BEST blog followers and social media supporters. I don’t have nearly the number of followers as some of the blogs in the contest, but those that are connected to me have been willing to support me through anything. I could NOT be luckier!

What running blogs do you read? What do you think makes for a great running blog?

There are far too many to mention! I tend to read everything: from elites to professionals where I get some workout/diet tips and course recaps, to up-and-coming runners where I feel re-invigorated by their excitement over progress, to the everyday runners, masters runners, and now, a few ultra runners (there is a chance I might tackle my first ultra post-baby). I tend to gravitate towards blogs where I get to see a slice of real life as well. It is so fun to follow along with someone’s entire life journey!

Shifting to your running, how has your pregnancy affected your running goals or changed your perspective on running in general?

Nichole at 13 weeks – if you didn’t know she was an OT marathoner, you’d barely see the bump! (img courtesty N. Porath)

First, it was odd how all of a sudden my priorities changed from wanting to chase the next marathon and lower PR to wanting to start a family. There was one run where I circled back to my house and sat down, thinking to myself, “I cannot wait to be a mom.”

As a professional marathoner, this is a big decision. I knew that if I became pregnant this year that sponsorship going forward would be tough (I wouldn’t have a fast time from 2014 to submit). Plus, my big goal is to make it back to the 2016 Olympic Trials, making the timing of trying to qualify much trickier. I’m only ~14 weeks along, but already I’ve had to learn that I can’t push myself like I have in the past. I had become so good at (and had done a lot of mental training for!) pushing through anything. If the legs hurt, I felt sick, was mentally or physically drained, or in slight pain, I was able to block it out and continue on. If I push through things now, I pay for it, and I know it’s not good for baby.

I’ve had to re-teach myself to listen to my body and scale back when I’m not feeling well, it’s warm out, etc. I also have Nate check in with me on runs to make sure I’m going easy enough and that I feel okay. It doesn’t sound like a big lesson, but it has been! I’ve also learned the importance of flexible training plans. I go out every day with a couple of workouts Chris, my coach, has written for me. If I’m feeling good, I’ll go for the longer or harder workout. If not, then I can scale back to the shorter and easier workout.

What advice do you have for other competitive women runners going after their big dream goals?  

Nichole breaking the Indoor Marathon world record (since broken) in 2012. Talk about dreaming big! (img courtesy N. Porath)

Oh my gosh, where do I start? Encouraging other women to get after their dreams is truly my main passion now, and is a major cornerstone of my coaching!! I encourage others to think bigger than their current abilities as you never know what you might be capable of when you throw out old, out-dated, self-imposed limitations. Find something that inspires you to wake up each morning and truly get after it with a gleam in your eye! Love the process. Keep believing through the ups and downs. Surround yourself with your own team of trusted professionals (I call my team “Team Nichole”) to help get you there. Most of all, never stop believing in yourself!

One more time, a big Salty congratulations to Nichole on winning the tournament!  Feel free to wish her luck, tell her how she inspires you or just say hi in the comments!

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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