How many years you’ve been running: I went for my first “real” run — a whopping six blocks — in 2008. It didn’t take long before I was hooked, and I toed the line at my first race, a 4-miler in Central Park, in September of that same year.
How you got into running: When I moved to NYC, after years as a dancer throughout high school and college, I found myself poor and living with a runner. Dance classes were too expensive, so I put on some clunky old Nikes, set out for the East River Promenade (Spanish Harlem all the way) and ran for a few blocks. My roommate taught me all about fancy things like “half marathons” and “running shoes.”
What is your most favorite race you’ve run? Everything aligned for me amazingly during last year’s National Half Marathon in Washington, DC. I didn’t go out with any fanfare. I didn’t have a pace plan — I just wanted to break 2 hours — and I didn’t over-think the race. I showed up at the start line on a gorgeous March day, took off on my own, felt incredible, took in the sights and just plowed my way through those 13.1 miles. No one was more surprised than I was when I crossed the finish line in 1:44:48. I was so proud of my time, but looking back I remember that race fondly because I ran happy and stress-free the entire time. I didn’t obsess over my splits, I didn’t stare at my Garmin and I didn’t care that I didn’t have spectators waiting for me at the finish. It was my race, and no one else’s. It was a perfect day.
What is your proudest running moment? You kind of have to say your first marathon here, right? I ran the Hamptons Marathon on September 24, 2011, and I did it for something so much bigger than myself. I trained with JackRabbit Sports through this huge campaign that I applied for and miraculously got selected to participate in. The whole experience was incredible. I got to work with Jonathan Cane, a professional running coach, and he taught me so much. He got me to the start and finish lines healthy, which he kept saying was his goal! Plus, I raised $20,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation in the process. So when things started to really hurt and really suck at mile 22 of the race, I thought about all the people who donated and believed in me, and I got through those final miles.
Who/what inspires you to run? Just the fact that I can run makes me want to run. It’s truly something I enjoy doing because it makes me feel good. I love the fresh air of Central Park and the wicked runner’s high I ride for hours after a long run or successful speed work session. Over the past few years, my health has really been a little bitch, and there have been days — many days — when I physically couldn’t get out of bed (or, uh, out of the bathroom), let alone slip into my beloved Brooks for a run. So now, every day that I can run inspires me to get out there. Simple.
What training plan have you followed and had success with? Run when it feels good, rest when the body wants it and respect the recovery runs. Run hard a few times a week and run long on Saturday mornings. Clearly I should be a coach. But really it’s about pushing it and not expecting to magically improve. Run faster to get faster.
What is the one thing you’ve done that has made the most difference in your running (add/delete music, cross-train, run with a buddy, etc.)?
What is your favorite non-running way to sweat? Spinning! I get a total high from being in a dark, packed room spinning my guts out next to fellow riders. By the end of a 45-minute class, we’re all on the exact same spots on our stationary bikes, but we’ve been on one heck of a ride. The music, the sweat, the adrenaline — it’s so different from running, but it makes me giddy.
If you could run any race in the future, which one would it be? I had my sights set on the Eugene Marathon this April, but my body wasn’t on board. So I’d love to make my way out to Oregon next year to conquer a marathon that finishes on Hayward Field. I think a track finish is the coolest thing ever.
Do you run in the morning or at night? I’m a morning runner. I always say I do my best work between 5 and 11 AM. After that I’m pretty much worthless. I can think of no better way than starting my day with a sunrise sweat. It sets the tone for the entire day, and it’s nice knowing that when 5 PM rolls around, your workout is done and your couch is waiting!
What keeps you going when you’re having a crappy run? Uh, having Crohn’s disease brings a whole new meaning to the term “crappy run.” You just have to get through them. It’s a mental battle. I think about how great I’ll feel when it’s over, and I remind myself that you have to get through the bad runs to appreciate the great ones. Every run won’t be perfect — and every run won’t suck!
Do you have a pre-race/pre-run ritual? Bathroom, bathroom, BodyGlide, bathroom. And a six-minute ab workout to help get things moving. Before longer races, I take a shower to warm up my muscles and wake up. And then I go to the bathroom again.
What song, if you heard it, would get you to run faster no matter how tired you are? “Brand New Day” from The Wiz. It was playing on my iPod when I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon and it still brings tears to my eyes when I hear it. I actually refuse to listen to it unless I’m running.
Jazz hands are always appropriate.
Why should someone (anyone) start running? Start running to get healthy. Keep running because it’s fun. Stop running when it stops being fun. Start running because Dry-Fit clothing is more flattering than cotton. Run to clear your head, or run for clarity. Run because seeing the sunrise is cooler when you’re sweating than when you’re commuting. Run because a runner’s high is better for your body and mind than a hangover. Run to get rid of your hangover. Run because a box of Tagalongs tastes better after a bunch of miles. Run because it’s awesome.
What is the best piece of advice you ever got about running and who gave it to you? “If you don’t appreciate the rest days, it’s because you’re not working hard enough on the run days.” My coach’s wife, Nicole, is my ever-present voice of reason. When I started training for my first marathon, I was gung-ho about exercising every single day. She told me that if I didn’t get to a point where I felt I needed a rest or recovery day, it was because I wasn’t pushing hard enough on the other days. Soon I found myself begging for a Friday in bed.
Hot as hell long run, oy. But awesome picture!
-Run alone or with others: Both! Ideally during a long run I’ll knock out a few miles on my own and then join up with friends midway through to cruise through the later miles together. It’s the best of both sweaty worlds! But if I had to pick one, I’d say I’m usually more of a solo runner.
-Favorite piece of running gear: Moving Comfort Juno sports bras. These bad boys saved my life, my boobs and my chafing.
-Run with or without music: With. I love bringing my friends on my runs with me. Britney, Rihanna, David Guetta — we work up our best sweats in tandem.
-Treadmill, love it or hate it: Hate it. Respect it, but man it’s tough.
-Race fuel: Happy thoughts. They digest better than Gu.
-Gatorade or water (or something else): Water.
-Dream PR (time & distance): I’m currently vying to break 4 hours in the marathon.
-Runner’s World or Running Times: Runner’s World. There’s usually at least one article per issue that unexpectedly brings me to tears.
-Favorite speed workout: I psych myself out a bit when it comes to mile repeats, but m an do I feel great afterward. I like a 2-mile warm-up, 4 miles of repeats with quarter-mile breaks in between, and a 2-mile cool-down to wrap it up. And then ice cream.
-Favorite running gear store: Lululemon.
-Favorite place to run: Central Park Reservoir. It’s flat, it’s beautiful and for one glorious week each spring it’s laid out under a never-ending canopy of cherry blossom trees.-NYC Marathon or Boston Marathon: I’ve never run either, but as a current New Yorker, I’ve got a spot in my heart for NYCM. I had a blast spectating it last year and screaming for my friends (and strangers, and friends-to-be) — and I spent 2011 doing the New York Road Runners 9+1 guaranteed entry for the 2012 race, so on November 4 I’ll become a New York City Marathoner myself. I can’t wait!
Keep running, Ali!
We’ll be ready to cheer you on in the Fall as you take a bite outta the Big Apple, Ali! Thanks for sharing.
Now go out and run!