Resides in: Kutztown
Years running: Intermittently for 20+ years
Bio: I am 34 years old, married with two daughters and working as an academic librarian. I ran cross-country and track through middle and high school, then ran casually on and off in the years following. In 2003, as part of a team at work, I ran a brutal 2.5-mile race up and down a mountain (the Lehigh Turkey Trot) and realized just how out of shape I was (I came to this realization as I lay on the ground emptying the contents of my stomach after the race). I began running regularly again after that and ran my first marathon (Harrisburg) in 2004, missing a Boston qualifying time by just 20 seconds. It then took me a year and a half and five more attempts to finally improve on that first race and earn a trip to Boston. By then, the damage was done and I was completely hooked on marathons.
What is the strangest/funniest thing that has happened to you on a run?
I have had a lot of crazy animal encounters. I came within a 100 yards of a mother bear and her two cubs on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia (and somehow avoided a mauling). While running through a field, I had a hawk dive bomb just inches in front of me to pounce on a bunny a few feet away. I also had a literally face-to-face encounter with a hissing opossum, hanging from a tree early in the morning on some local trails. Then, there was the time I ran past a severed cow head mounted to a tree by the side of a deserted, unfamiliar back road.
What is your biggest running accomplishment and why?
Strangely enough, I would say it was winning the afore mentioned Lehigh Turkey Trot in 2007, just four years after I had puked my guts out to earn a mid-pack finish. OK, so it was just an informal, fun race and much of the field consisted of drunk, untrained college kids, but it still felt great to win my first race since high school and with the closest finish I have ever had.
In all seriousness though, it was not the win itself that I see as the accomplishment, but rather that it was indicative of how far I had come in just four years of dedicated training after many years of intermittent, casual running. At the same time, I would have never stuck with it as long as I have if I did not continue to see the fun in running, which is exactly what that kind of event embodies.
Favorite race distance?
Marathon, hands down.
I actually think my best distance seems to be the 10 mile — I don’t have the speed for anything much shorter and I don’t quite put in enough mileage to run equally as well in the marathon. I keep toying with the idea of trying some longer ultras, but have yet to attempt anything over 50K. For some reason, I just am still in love with the marathon distance and can’t pull myself away from it.
What is your favorite running mantra?
Focus, vigilance! Focus, vigilance!
Sung out loud when descending steep, technical trails — luckily I am usually alone. However, it seems I always wipe out when daydreaming on the not-so-technical sections of the trails, so maybe I need to start singing it all the time…
What is your most embarrassing race moment?
In the first mile or so of the 2008 Lehigh Valley Hospital Marathon, just as we were crossing the Hamilton Street Bridge, my GPS watch fell off my wrist, bounced off the sidewalk, and plummeted into the river. The whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion. Then, I have to admit, I totally lost it. I started screaming a certain four-letter obscenity over and over again, while everyone in earshot wondered if I had injured myself or just simply lost my mind. I then desperately pleaded with some volunteers to go retrieve my watch for me (all while trying to maintain my marathon pace). They too looked at me in utter confusion and speculated on my sanity (which was certainly in question at that moment). I then proceeded to whine to the poor guy next to me about the whole Garmin fiasco for the next several miles, much to his chagrin I am sure.
I have an older cousin who was an accomplished (2:20s) marathoner back in the 80s. Even though I was pretty young, I can still remember going out on the course of the Boston Marathon to cheer him on. Those memories definitely were part of the reason I wanted to try marathons and Boston in particular.
Being from the Boston area, I certainly have a lot of respect for Bill Rodgers and all he accomplished. Joan Benoit Samuelson’s past performances are equally amazing (especially her 1984 Olympic victory), but just as impressive is the fact that she is still running sub-2:50 marathons in her 50s.
I have also really enjoyed watching some of the great performances in recent years by Meb, Hall, Ritz, Solinsky, and others. It has really been a great time to be a fan of American distance running.
Current running goals?
Right now I don’t have any immediate goals. I took some time off over the summer to recover from an ankle injury and I have just been enjoying building my mileage back up this fall. I did manage to register in time for the 2011 Boston Marathon (having learned my lesson from last year, when I procrastinated and missed out). So I would like to try to consistently build my mileage well past my usual peak and then make a solid attempt at a new PR in Boston.
Best race experience?
Although it started off horribly with the loss of my watch, that race [2008 Lehigh Valley Hospital Marathon] turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had. By the half-way point, I had made my way to the lead pack and then proceeded to lead the race all the way to the finish. There was a lead bike escorting the front runners, so I got my own personal bike pacer for the rest of the race (who was thankfully yelling out the mile splits). It just felt so great to lead the race for the entire second half and I managed almost perfect pacing (just a very slight positive split), despite having lost my very expensive pacing technology. Ever since, I have become a recovered Garminaholic, now I only own a cheap basic watch and do most of my running without any watch at all. It was a very freeing experience.
[photos: top - Rob doing Goofy's Challenge in 2010 (Goofy's Challenge is running the Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday followed by Disney World Marathon the following day) ; bottom - at Blues Cruise 50k, 2009]