Happy Tuesday friends! And you know what that means, right? Yep, you guessed it! It’s time for another Featured Runner Tuesday! Today I have a runner’s story that will touch your heart. Sara Zwicker not only has her running journey to share, but it is also her life story. Plus she is from Boston and she also shares how the Boston tragedy affected her. She is a remarkable woman and I’m honored to share her with you all. Trust me, you will be amazed.
Name: Sara Zwicker
Location: Boston, MA
Profession: Medical Alliance Manager
How and why did you start running?
I have always been an athlete, playing soccer through college, but I never loved to run (unless it was as part of an organized sport.) I started to just run in March 2010 after my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I needed to feel that happy, endorphin rush I missed from playing competitive sports. It was the only thing I could do at the time that helped me deal with the stress and sadness of this very sudden and unexpected diagnosis. My parents had been divorced since I was 1 years old and I was all my Dad had, so the responsibility for his care was mine. I didn’t mind this at all, it was just a lot to handle as I lived 45 minutes away, worked full time, was commuting 3+ hours a day and was planning a wedding for that May. While knowing the hourglass was running out, I was trying to keep up my daily responsibilities while taking care of my Dad, getting him to all his appointments while trying to savor what little time we had left together. Running helped me stay grounded.
Why do you run?
After my Dad passed, I continued to run. Running became my solace and it was something I needed for me and my emotional health and well-being. I continue to run today for different reasons, mostly to stay healthy, but also to show my toddler that his Mama is strong and fit and healthy. I also think running and working out is the best stress reliever, I mean, who doesn’t love that incredible endorphin rush? Running has always provided me with comfort and grounding when things get tough or crazy.
How has running changed you?
Before I found running, I didn’t have a healthy outlet for myself. It’s not only given me an outlet for all the good and bad in life, but it has made me a more confident and happy person. I am a better wife, mom, daughter and friend because of running. I have also met so many wonderful friends through running, you know..the people you can talk for hours upon hours about a long run, fueling, or the best running shorts that don’t ride up or chafe and they totally get you and their eyes don’t glaze over?
You’ve had two major family illnesses to deal with in your past. Tell us how running has helped you through them both. (Feel free to elaborate on what they are if you wish to share the details.)
I talked a little about how I started running when my Dad got sick, but 6 months after I had my son, just when I started to feel like I was getting a handle back on my life, working full time and taking care of a baby, I was hit with this news that my Mom had an incurable cancer called Multiple Myeloma, it was a complete shock. I held it together well in front of my Mom and my sister, but I was a mess. I remember hanging up the phone and the first thing I did was get changed and laced up my running shoes and went out to run. I cried during that run, but when I got back I realized I had to be strong for my Mom. Running has provided me with a healthy outlet to deal with the stress, anger and frustration. When I lace up my shoes and hit the road (or treadmill) I know that I will feel better. It’s a healthy distraction and a way to work out my feelings/thoughts. I feel like a stronger person both physically and mentally afterwards. Dealing with family illness is incredibly stressful and I have a lot of wonderful people in my life I can talk to, but it’s hard to understand what someone is going through if you haven’t gone through the same thing, so in a way, running is my therapy. I tell myself a lot while I am logging my miles that when life gets hard, run harder.
Since you live in Boston, I know that last year’s Boston Marathon bombing really hit close to home. How did it affect you?
For me, like many people, it was incredibly tough. It was pure chaos in the city, you couldn’t reach your loved ones, and the news reports were all over the place. To say it was scary just isn’t the right word. At times, it almost felt surreal. It wasn’t only just the day of the bombing, but the days afterwards when the manhunt ensued, when I got the call not to come anywhere near my work (they closed down) because that is where they suspected the bombers were hiding and the police were all over the place searching. I ran through a lot of emotions during that week and afterwards, shock, anger, sadness, but in the face of such an incredible tragedy, I felt an immense amount of love and pride for Boston and its people. I was proud to see the depths of human kindness, from the spectators that tended to those who were injured, those who opened their homes to the displaced or donated blood, and especially the support that came from people, cities and countries around the world. It’s still a fresh wound, even as we embark on the one year anniversary, but as they say, we are BOSTON STRONG!
You’re currently training for the 2014 Boston Marathon. Tell us why and who you are running for.
I had been looking for ways to make my running matter, not only to myself but to others. When my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, I started researching everything I could about the disease and came across a website for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) Endurance Team. They had a dedicated team the raises funds via endurance races like marathons to help fund research that will hopefully someday lead to a cure. So, I put in my application for the 2014 Boston Marathon with the hopes of getting a slot on the MMRF’s PowerTeam. It was a long application, writing essays and explaining your connection to the disease. They received over 100 applications for 10 spots, and I am so incredibly fortunate and honored to be a part of the team this year. If anyone wants to get involved and help make a difference, you can make a tax deductible donation here: www.active.com/donate/2014mmrfBoston/sarazwicker
Which race distances have you ran and which one is your favorite? Why?
I am probably not the typical runner. I started running in March 2010 and my first race was a half marathon that June. I totally skipped over 5ks, 10ks and went straight for the half. I did one other half in October 2010 while I was training for my full marathon, which I ran on Halloween in October 2010. I didn’t run my first 5k until a few months after I had my son in 2012. So, I guess I did my distances kind of backwards. My current favorite distance is the half marathon. It’s not as time consuming to train for but you can really challenge yourself. Plus, there has been an explosion of half marathon races recently, so you can find a lot of options throughout the year. Plus, if I am going to pay for a race, I want to be out there for more than 20ish minutes!
How do you fuel for your runs and/or races?
For long runs I will usually have a banana or a piece of whole wheat bread with pb about an hour before I head out. About 20 mins before I leave, I will have some ENERGYbits and ½ a Gatorade. While I’m running, I will have a Roctane every 4.5-5 miles and alternate drinking water and Gatorade (about 24 ounces total.)
Which race was your favorite and why?
My favorite race was my first full marathon because it was a distance that seemed impossible for me to accomplish when I first started running, yet, 7 months after lacing up my running shoes for the first time, I ran across that finish line and felt like I could do anything!
What advice would you give your former self or someone just starting out?
There were so many things I did wrong when I first got started, and let’s be honest; I’m still a work in progress. I’d tell myself not to underestimate the power of proper nutrition, a good training plan, stretching and proper sneakers/clothing; these things can make all the difference in your experience.
Do you have any favorite running mantras or quotes?
I have a ton, but my current favorite since I am training for a marathon is, “I don’t stop when I’m tired, I stop when I’m done.” This one speaks to me right now, mainly because during this training, I feel tired most of the time but I have to get my mileage in to ensure success on race day. Repeating this over and over during tough parts of a run usually helps me refocus and get me through tough spots.
Do you listen to music while running? Share a couple of your must haves for your race playlist!
Yes! A few of my current must haves are Paramore’s Still Into You, Gavin DeGraw’s Best I Ever Had, Jason Derulo’s The Other Side and Armin van Buuren’s This is What it feels like.
What is your greatest running achievement to date?
My greatest running achievement to date was crossing the finish line for my first full marathon on Halloween Day in 2010. I have never been so tired or so happy in all my life. I ran that marathon with my running team, there were about 30 of us who trained together and were all running our first marathons. It was an incredible day full of so much accomplishment, pride and camaraderie. It’s an experience I will carry with me forever.
What is your dream race? No limits, anywhere in the world! And why?
My dream race has always been the Boston Marathon. I mean, running the world’s oldest annual marathon, a race that has been around since the late 1800’s is pretty amazing. I have been on the sidelines cheering the runners on for years, so I hope that in April, I can say I successfully ran it!
Have you ever won or placed in a race? Tell us about it!
Nope, I’m your typical middle of the pack runner. My super-fast pace is anything in the 7’s, which is not something I could hold for more than a few miles, but I’m okay with that!! I don’t ever expect to place in any race I enter, especially since I live in an area with ridiculously fast runners.
Have you dealt with any injuries or health issues in your running journey? What were they and what did you do to overcome them?
As a lifelong athlete, I am no stranger to injuries. I am currently dealing with some injuries, mostly as a result of a reconstructive ankle surgery I had in 1999, but some other pains because of the other imbalances in my body which causes a ton of stress on my feet, calves and IT bands, so I spend a lot of time in PT and doing my prescribed exercises at home. My trigger point system and foam roller are my BFF during a training cycle. Thankfully, my injuries (past and present) haven’t taken me completely out of running, just set me back at times, so I always tell myself that it could be worse and I need to be thankful that I can still run. Right now I am working closely with my PT and he recently just changed my marathon training plan to help me recover better from my long runs and hopefully help with the nagging calf problems I am dealing with. So far, I am really enjoying this change in plan. It has me focusing more on cross training, which I wasn’t doing with my last plan. Focusing on the positives of my new plan has kept me upbeat and energized. It’s really all about perspective. I would rather look at the positives rather than dwell on the negatives.
What running goals do you have for 2014?
My current running goal is to get to the start/finish line of the Boston Marathon healthy, and then, do my best to PR it. I know this is an incredibly difficult course, so I am training to the best of my ability and doing my PT exercises every day. That’s the best that I can do. After Boston, I will figure out my plan for the rest of the year, but right now, that is the only race I have on the books. I wanted to be completely focused on just this for right now.
What advice would you give someone who had a hard time finding the motivation to run longer distances or lacks the motivation to run at all?
That’s a really tough question because motivation is so individualized. I tell my friends and those I teach that they need to have a goal (something attainable but just out of reach) that they can get excited about it. They need to have a clear plan of attack so they know HOW to accomplish what they want to achieve. I think it’s great to commit to the goal publically (FB, Twitter, blog, whatever) because that support is critical. If they can get a running partner or team, that is ever better for accountability and support. Finally, tracking progress (understanding it ebbs and flows) and then celebrate milestones, that helps keep you focused and motivated.
Are you brand loyal or do you use different brands? Tell us what your favorites are and why!
I am brand loyal when I find something I absolutely love, but I am also very open-minded and am always willing to try new brands. Some brands I love are Brooks, CEP, Swirl Gear and Nike.
What is your favorite running gear item and why?
Wow, it’s almost impossible to pick just one, as the gear I always run in is all my favorite for different reasons, but my one, cannot run without item is my Garmin.
Have you volunteered for a race before? Tell us about your experience!
Yes I have. I volunteered at a local half marathon a few years back and I had a blast. I got to give runners their bibs/welcome packets and race shirts the day before the race. It was so awesome to talk to all the runners, feel their excitement and nervousness and hear their running stories. I felt really honored to be a small part of their journey and give back to the running community!
What time of day do you prefer to run and why?
I am an early morning runner; I am usually done with my runs before most people are up and out the door.
Are you a part of a running club/group? How has that helped you with your running?
I ran with a running club from March 2010 through late 2011 and it was by far the best experience ever. I met an amazing group of people who I am fortunate enough to call friends. If it weren’t for them, I would never have made the leap to run a full marathon and they kept me accountable and entertained during our training runs and were the greatest support group ever. Unfortunately, after having my son, I could no longer make the team runs so I haven’t run with them in a long time, although I keep up with all of them and cheer them on from afar. My life and schedule now just isn’t conducive to a running club, but I’m hoping one day I can join them again.
I love your blog name “Life Between the Miles.” Tell us the story behind that name.
When I was thinking about a blog title, I wanted a title that didn’t just scream I’m a runner. I mean, running is a huge part of my life and most of what you read about occurs while I’m in my Brooks, but I try and keep a healthy balance in my life, you know, like binge watching ridiculous tv show, reading YA books, and trying to keep up with my little Monster. So, it’s the life between the miles that makes me who I am today, so I looked it up on one of those websites that tells you if a site name is taken and it wasn’t, so I snagged it…and that is where I live today!
Besides running, what other passions do you have?
I have a lot of passions, but I am most passionate about my role as a mom and wife, my family means everything to me. Coming after that, my career and being a group fitness instructor. Generally, I am passionate about living a healthy and fit life and being as good a person as I can be!
We all have our own quirks. What is one of yours?
I think my husband would tell you I have a lot of them. One is that I CAN NOT stand to be late for anything. I was raised to be at least 10 minutes early for everything so when people are late or I am forced to be late, I get really anxious.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Sara!
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See you on the road!