Filled with Gratitude

As of today I’m officially a week out from the Berlin Marathon and with the nerves just beginning to set in, I’d like to take a step back and thank so many people who have been supporting me over the last several months (for some, years) as I have been training like crazy for this.


To my husband, thank you for allowing me to take over our weekends over the last 8 months to prioritize my long runs on Saturday mornings. I really appreciate you never complaining when I don’t want to go out and be social on Friday nights because I need to get a good night’s sleep for my Saturday long run. Thank you for also holding me accountable to get up and do my runs in the morning, even when I have those days where I just don’t want to. I can think of a couple times recently during our move where I would be so worn out but you would encourage me to just put my shoes on and get out the door knowing that I would feel better once I got going on my run. It’s because of you that I didn’t miss any of my scheduled runs over the last 14 weeks and I’m so thankful to be able to say that. Thank you for celebrating the accomplishments with me but also being there to pick me up after a race has gone poorly. Thank you for supporting my wild and crazy dreams, and for waking up at the crack of dawn for my races to come cheer me on. I love you and am so grateful to have a supportive husband through all of this who may not understand why I do what I do but supports me 100% either way!


To my family, thank you for the time you have spent over the years coming to so many of my races even if only to see me for a brief moment as I ran by. I started running seriously in high school and without your support, I may not have continued with as much commitment and passion as I have had in the last several years. Thank you for coming in from out of town to see me run year after year in Champaign and for your hugs and comfort when things haven’t gone well. Thank you to Lindsey for the times she’s spent riding her bike alongside me for a long run or coming with me on some of my recovery runs to take my mind off of the running. Thank you for also humoring me and trying out this running thing and running races of your own. That has been one of the coolest parts to me and I will never forgot the time Dad, Lindsey, Jack, and I raced all together in Ohio, the time Mom crossed the line of her first 5K and completed smashed her expectations of time, or the time I got to run side by side with Dad in his first half marathon on a scorching day in Chicago. I’m so glad we’ve been able to share these memories together and I look forward to creating even more in the years to come.

To my friends, thank you for being understanding when I haven’t been able to be very social on the weekends due to early morning training runs or just being too worn out to leave the house. I know sometimes I’m a lame 25 year old but I’m thankful you still want to hang out despite my early schedule. Thank you for the texts and calls to wish me good luck before a race and to see how things went.


To the Busse Woods Running Club, thank you for the constant support and for providing a social outlet for me with running. It is refreshing to be around others who understand what makes a runner’s brain tick and to get to run with many of you on the roads! I have been so inspired by many of the runners in the club and their personal journeys with running. It has been so cool to see everyone working hard over this summer as they train for their fall marathons and half marathons and I am excited to see everyone crush their races over the next couple of months!


To my running coach, thank you for pushing me to set and achieve scary goals and for designing a training plan tailored to me that has allowed me to see 3 half marathon PRs in the span of about 5 months. When I came to you in January with a goal of breaking a 1:40 half marathon with a current PR of 1:41, I had no idea that would mean doing that 3 times over improving each time and sitting on a 1:35 half after just a half year of training together. You have helped me find my confidence again and that has made all the difference this go-around.

To the running Instagram community, thank you for all of your motivation and support. This community is so positive and it is refreshing to have social media be used for good. You all inspire me daily with your commitment to your own training, balancing full time careers, families, school, etc. and still crushing it out on the race course. Although we may be spread throughout the country or even around the world, it is so cool to be chasing our dreams together and reassuring to see that hard work does pay off.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in this training cycle. The nerves are starting to set in but I feel so ready and prepared to tackle this marathon and am excited for the opportunity to chase my big, scary goals on Sunday. To everyone racing in Berlin, good luck and have so much fun! Let’s do the thing!



The Taper Crazies

It’s not you…it’s the taper crazies! After having been through 5 marathon training cycles, I’ve grown to expect certain behaviors/feelings that can as a result of taper time. Everyone’s body is different but weird things happen to nearly every runner I’ve talked to during taper time! Here are some of the things I’ve experienced going through a marathon taper:

1. I am tired all the time. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I got the night before, I will feel fatigued throughout the day and just want to nap (which I do during the weekend but that doesn’t exactly fly at work!).

2. I get random aches and pains that never showed up during peak training periods. It’s normally not a sign of injury, just extra soreness that decides to show up during taper time.

3. My legs feel really heavy. I haven’t gotten to this point yet but I expect by the beginning of next week I’ll feel this way (however, if it doesn’t happen I’ll just be happy, not alarmed). It normally lasts for the week before the marathon but is gone by race day.

4. I feel like I’m getting sick/I might even catch a cold. My throat has been scratchy this week 2 weeks out from the race but it’s hard to tell if it’s just allergies acting up or if it’s this crazy taper fatigue. It normally clears up by rest day so I’m not too concerned when it does happen anymore.

5. I get really grumpy. This I attribute to running less miles and not getting my normal endorphin rush that I’m used to. An advanced apology to anyone who might see me cranky over the next 12 days!

I’m not a doctor, but my explanation for why the taper crazies happen is that my body has been through marathon cycles before and knows that something big is coming when I start taking down my mileage and intensity. As a result, it recognizes that it will need extra sleep and slows me down to keep me from exerting too much energy during the taper. Our bodies are smart and if you’ve been through a marathon training cycle before, it knows that what you’re about to put it through is intense and is going to wear it down for a long time after so it’s trying to get prepared. Fortunately, nearly all of these signs go away come race day and a proper taper leaves you well-rested and ready to go!

Have you experienced any of the taper crazies I’ve listed above or something else? Let me know in the comments section below; I’d love to hear more!

Minnesota Half Marathon Recap


I signed up for the Minnesota Half Marathon in June as a fitness check for the Berlin Marathon. The race marked just over the halfway point in my training and would be a good indicator of how training was going. Leading up to the race, the race organizers did a good job of communicating with participants on packet pickup and other race day logistics.

Packet Pick-Up

Packet pickup was at a local running store in St. Paul (The Running Room). I had no issue finding parking but also arrived on the later side (7 p.m.) so there weren’t as many people picking up their packets at that time. Bib numbers were assigned the day-of and I got a bib, pins, and race t-shirt. With rain in the forecast, I decided to pick up a visor in the store since I had forgotten to pack one and the employee working was very helpful and friendly.

MN Race 1

Race Day

My husband and I left the house at 5:50 a.m. and arrived near the start around 6:10. We chose to park in a privately owned lot for $10 since the $5 lots were backing up already. It took awhile to pay for parking since there was only one kiosk but I was able to pay for parking by 6:30 and walk down to the start line. I got in line for the port-o-potties right away before my warm-up. They definitely had enough for the size of the group and they were located near the start line. I did a mile warm-up and then 4 strides to get my legs ready to run fast. It was extremely humid at 7 a.m. (over 90% humidity) and hot (upper 70s to low 80s during the race) so I was already dripping after 1.5 miles of warming up and knew that the day was going to be challenging.

I lined up in the corral at 7:05 to secure a good starting position. There was a 1:30 pacer and a 1:40 pacer so I lined up between the two closer to the 1:30 group. My plan for this race was to go out at a 7:10 and hold that through the first 8 miles and then if I had more in the tank to pick it up. This is where things started to get weird. They had a start line marked but the actual start was about .10 miles up and they had everyone walk up to the timing mat. There was no official “start”, just someone who said “go” which no one was suspecting but all of a sudden we were running. I turned my music up in my headphones and tried to lock into a steady 7:10 pace. Because of the heat/humidity, things felt hard from the start. Not even a mile had passed and I was already questioning if I should back off the pace. I told myself to just keep digging and that hopefully after a few miles it would feel easier once my body got used to it. Mile 1 came in at a 7:05 which was pretty close to what I was going for so I held onto that and just settled into a rhythm. Mile 2 clicked at 7:07 so I was staying very consistent and to the plan.

MN Race 3

The course was a lot hillier than I had expected and with a downhill portion at around mile 2.5, I saw the uphill that I would be facing later in the race around mile 7 once we came back from an out-and-back portion. I made the decision that I needed to work the downhill portions with the hills that I would face later on, fully knowing that there was a chance I could burn out my legs on the downhill but willing to take the risk this time around since this wasn’t the “goal race” and I wanted that PR. Mile 3 was a 7:02 and 3.5 had a water station. It was the smallest water station I’ve seen in a race with only 2 volunteers and tiny plastic cups (my husband called them shot cups because they were that small) filled with only about 1 oz of water. I tried drinking while running and got about a drip in my mouth and the rest all over my face. Lovely. I hoped this water station was just a fluke and that the rest would be better. Little did I know it would only get worse as the race went on. Mile 4 was mostly uphill and my watch clicked at 7:09. Good for an uphill mile but my HR was starting to spike (191 bpm average for this mile). I was relieved when mile 5 was mostly downhill and my pace came in at 6:57. Around mile 5.5 there was another water stop and I was frustrated when I nearly missed a cup because the volunteers were standing around talking and drinking water themselves. It was like they weren’t expecting runners to be coming by already; this was really frustrating to me because this is one of the most critical pieces of a race, hydration. I charged ahead and hit mile 6 at 7:00. It was at mile 6 that I told myself that I was going to have to fight for every mile but that I had a fighting chance. Mile 7 had the uphill climb that I had seen earlier at 2.5 and it hurt. My split came in at 7:13 and my HR was back up to 191. Once I made it to the top of the hill, I started pumping my arms again to get going and to get my head back in it. Mile 8’s split was a 7:04 and my HR had climbed to 193. This was also where the race started funneling in the 5K and 5-mile races which was a terrible idea because it created such a huge bottleneck. The fastest half marathoners were getting blocked by the slowest 5K runners and 5-milers; it was a bob-and weave deal for the next 2 miles and was really frustrating. I definitely lost time because of this and getting water was even more challenging because all of these people were walking through the aid stations. I was in a world of hurt around mile 8 and was ready to slow down, but saw my husband perched up on a tall pillar and got so excited and started smiling at him and waving and it propelled me through to mile 9 which I ran in 7:11.

MN Race 4

After mile 9 my headphones decided to die on me (I had them fully charged the night before…I’ll be contacting Bose because they’re no longer charging to 100% and dying after about 1-hour of use). This was really the worst possible time for them to go out because there were no fans, just the sound of a freight train rolling, and very few racers around. I became that obnoxious person who blared their music off of their phone speakers because I needed something to keep me in the zone while I was hurting. Mile 10 clicked at 7:35; I knew I had slowed quite a bit and was still working hard, but just couldn’t push any more than this on the uphill. I did some quick math and realized that if I just maintained an 8-min pace for the next 3 miles I would still PR. But today wasn’t just about going after a PR. I wanted more than that and truly was targeting a finish closer to 1:32-1:34 had things gone a little better on the course; my coach and I had talked about this and it definitely was possible given my workouts and the base I had coming off of spring half marathon training. So again, I kept pushing and tried to push out the 8-min thought from my head. At mile 10.5 I saw a water station and I needed water desperately since I hadn’t been able to get enough liquids in to take a GU packet. I walked through this aid station to drink a cup of water and a cup of powerade (the tiny plastic cups) so that I could actually get some liquid down. Then, I kept going. Mile 11 clicked at 7:32 and HR was at 193 bpm. I told myself that it was just 2 more miles and that I could run that any day of the week. It was an uphill climb to the finish and I maintained this pace with a 7:31 for mile 12 (HR at 195 bpm at this point). I then focused on getting through the next mile and then booking it after that for the finish. My pace picked up a bit with a 7:27 for mile 13, but my HR also grew to 196 bpm. Somehow, I was able to run the last .17 miles (tangents) at a 6:13 average. It hurt like crazy but I was so ready to be done that I just kicked. I saw that I was going to be so close to getting under 1:35 and I tried my best to get there but came up short with a 1:35:02. I did have to weave through strollers at the finish from the 5K which again was really frustrating but I was just so happy to be done.

MN Race 2

I finished this race knowing that I had given 100% of my effort that day. I did my cooldown at an 11:15 pace and could not move any faster; this was really a sign to me that there was nothing else I could have given to nab those extra 2-seconds and be in the 1:34 range. It was one of most physically and mentally grueling races I’ve ever run but I am so proud of the way I hung in there and gritted it out to finish in a PR by 1 minute and 37 seconds on a day that literally everything was not going my way. These are the races that build my character and that help me realize that I am oftentimes stronger than I let myself believe. Being the competitive person that I am, I want to get out there again and do another half and see just how much more I can push myself, but that will have to wait until after Berlin and quite frankly probably not until 2019. For now, my sights are back on Berlin and closing out these last 6 weeks strong in my training. The hardest runs are yet to come in this training cycle and they’re going to help me be the competitor that I want to be come September 16th. And those 2 annoying little seconds that are after my latest PR? They’re just extra motivation for me in Berlin to throw down the hammer in the final mile to not let that happen again. And if that means bringing a drinking straw to get down my liquids from silly plastic cups, you can bet that I’m going to be that girl!


Spicy Kale and Quinoa Black Bean Salad


Adapted from The Glowing Fridge

During marathon training, my appetite is always through the roof and I have a hard time not giving into all my cravings (ice cream, cookies, chips and salsa…you name it). I’ve been victim to the marathon diet before and have actually gained weight while training for a race. I promise you it’s easier than it sounds when you start eating a lot of extra junk food that’s easily accessible because you’re hungry 24/7.

I work full-time, often putting in far more than the standard 40 hours at the office, so between training, work, and having time to spend with my family, I want meals that are not time-consuming to make but are also packed full of the nutrients I need for a healthy body and that keep me full so I’m not snacking after dinner.

I came across this Spicy Kale recipe a couple years ago when living in St. Louis and looking for more ways to incorporate kale into our diet. From start to finish it takes about 30 minutes to make and it stores well so I have often prepared it the night before to have dinner ready to go on a work night. This dish is friendly to all diets – vegan, vegetarian, and even those of us who eat meat on a regular basis (it fills you up and you won’t miss the meat in this meal, I promise). I hope you all enjoy this recipe and please let me know what you think if you make it!


1 cup quinoa uncooked

1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed

1/2 red onion, chopped (I buy pre-chopped red onion because my eyes burn too much when chopping onions)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup corn (I use a full can of corn instead drained and rinsed)

Spicy Dressing

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 glove minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh lime juice from 2 limes (I buy lime juice from the grocery store instead)

1/4 cup hot sauce of your choice (I use Frank’s RedHot)

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Salt/Pepper to taste (I normally skip this)


Combine 2 cups water with 1 cup dry quinoa in a pot and bring to boil. Expect the quinoa to expand into about 3 cups so use a large enough pot to accommodate. Once the quinoa is boiling, reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Stir occasionally until all of the water has been absorbed and remove from heat.

While the quinoa is cooking, wash and de-stem the kale and place into a large mixing or serving bowl. Drain the black beans and corn and rinse before adding to the bowl. Chop the onion and add to the bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the spicy dressing. Mix well and set aside.

Add the cooked quinoa to the kale salad and mix. Once mixed, pour the spicy dressing on top and mix again.

Dinner is served!

Off the Run

Your journey is your own. It’s meant to be different from someone else because we are all unique. Yet we try to make our lives fit into predefined boxes. As part of the running Instagram community we’re putting our lives on display in a 2″x2″ square, often with a pace/distance stamp on it. As humans, we naturally seek satisfaction from those around us. But our greatest satisfaction should not come from the approval of others. We are more than the number of followers we have or the number of likes on a photo. As runners, we measure things in numbers (pace, distance, time, heart rate, etc.), but there is more to this life than running accolades.

I’m writing this from a current place in my own life. Much of my identity has been wrapped up in being a runner, and while I could never envision my life without running, it should not be the only thing defining me. Here is a little bit more into who I am:

I am a Christian. My faith is incredibly important to me and guides many of the decisions that I make and my values. Before many of my races, you might see me saying a quick prayer on the starting line. I take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone out on the course or in my life.

I am a wife. My husband and I have been together for nearly 7 years and have been married for 1.5 years. He is my best friend and the most supportive partner I could have ever dreamed of. We met in college and started dating at the beginning of my freshman year. I feel lucky to have met the person I will spend the rest of my life with so young as I know it doesn’t happen very often anymore. He’s my person.


I am very close with my family. Family is extremely important to me and is the reason we moved back from St. Louis after 2 years; it just wasn’t home without our families nearby. I have become very close with my husband’s family as well and we are blessed to have such involved families in our lives.

I am an animal lover. We adopted our rescue dog, Lola, in St. Louis when she was 1.5 years old and had just had a litter of puppies. She is the sweetest girl and the best addition to our family. Growing up we always had a pet at the house and still have 2 family pets at my parents’ house (a cat and a dog). I can’t imagine growing up without a furry friend!


I am an analytics manager by day. Truth be told I’m still trying to figure out what my professional passion is. I have two degrees, one in Marketing and the other in Supply Chain Management and I would really like to move more towards the creative side of things again and get away from the numbers and Excel for a little bit…this keeps me up at night and scares me but I’m thankful to have a steady income while I’m figuring it all out. I am also serving as the Director of Marketing & Social Media for my running club which is a non-profit. I’m not getting paid but it’s the best job I’ve ever had and I wish it could be a full-time gig to be able to devote all my working time and energy to it!

I love to travel and explore new places. During college I spent 3 months in Seattle on an internship and hiked nearly every weekend. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Italy, France, Spain, Malta, Tunisia (Africa), Canada, Mexico, and a few Caribbean islands. I always say that if my family didn’t live in Chicago that we’d be gone in a heartbeat and hopefully be out west. My favorite state in the country is Colorado because there’s something to do year round as an avid skier (I’ve been skiing for almost as long as I could walk…).


I have a few very close friends and many acquaintances. I describe myself as an introverted extrovert. I can easily hold a conversation with a stranger and enjoy company but in small doses. I definitely appreciate my alone time and many times after work I come home and just want to veg on the couch alone for a bit to decompress! My best friends are actually the ones I see the least often as we’re living in different states but no matter how long we’ve been apart a conversation is so natural and picks up where it left off.


Finally, my passion is what drives me. I’ve had a few people recently tell me that I have an athletic gift and I whole-heartedly disagree. I don’t think I have any natural talent; I also don’t mean this in a braggadocios way at all I think I just have a ridiculous amount of drive to constantly improve and better myself which gets applied not only to my running but to nearly every aspect of my life. It’s tiring, and time-consuming, but it is what keeps me going every day (and also leads to having a problem with relaxing…but that’s a story for a different day).

So after all this, I ask you, what have you been letting define who you are lately? How do you want to define yourself? There is so much more to each one of us than just a PR in an Instagram bio or a daily post about our run. All of the things that define me are just as important in my life even if they aren’t being showcased on an Instagram page.

I challenge you to share, who are you #offtherun?


Berlin Marathon Training – Week 1 Recap

Week 1 of Berlin Marathon training is in the books and since I’m documenting this journey chasing down my unicorn, here’s a recap of what I did last week:

Monday – 4.01 Miles @ 8:14 Pace (aerobic-pace effort) & Core Workout

Tuesday – 6.33 Miles @ 7:28 Pace (Fartlek effort with workout portion of 3 minute intervals at half marathon pace (fast)) & 1.04 Miles @ 9:57 Pace & Leg Workout

Wednesday – 3 Miles @ 9:51 Pace (recovery run with my husband on Global Running Day!)

Thursday – Complete Rest Day

Friday – 5.15 Miles @ 7:41 Pace (Aerobic Run with mid-run strides mixed in; 8×20 second strides w/ 40 seconds recovery run between) & Core Workout

Saturday – 12.0 Miles @ 8:19 Pace (Hills, hills, hills! This was an aerobic effort and it certainly pushed me hard with the heat/humidity and the hills. I wasn’t able to run until the evening with thunderstorms ruining my morning plans but I got it done and on pace.)

Sunday – 3 miles @ 10:19 Pace (Recovery run – about all my body wanted to do Sunday after Saturday’s tough long run. I slept in till 10 a.m. which never happens so I was definitely beat up after that run.)

Week 1 Total Mileage: 34.53 Miles

Summary: Week 1 was a good first week of marathon training. I hadn’t broken 30 miles since the week of April 23rd so we’re slowly building up my base again. This was always the plan so no surprise here but to think I’ll be peaking doing double this mileage is both scary and exciting! Saturday’s long run hurt me a bit mentally but I reminded myself that it was the first time I had done a hilly long run or run for that matter in a very long time. On top of that Saturday was a rough day overall with a house inspection that went poorly on a house we put an offer on so I was already mentally drained. I swear I always pick marathon training season to make big life changes (last year we moved from St. Louis to Chicago in the middle of Chicago Marathon training)! Marathon training is tough; I keep reminding myself of this. It can build you up and break you down in a second. But I love it and I’m excited to keep working towards my goals for Berlin. 1 week down, 14 to go!


Here We Go Again…

It’s about 9 p.m. on Sunday night, the night before I begin marathon training for Berlin, and I can’t help but feel excited. I mean, how cool is it that I get to say I’m training for the Berlin Marathon! It’s been said that you’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten your last one and 8 months after a disappointing Chicago Marathon, there’s a fire lit inside me and something feels different going into this training cycle. In my last post, I laid out the big goal I have for myself at Berlin this September, running a 3:25, and since putting it out in the open, there has not been one doubt in my mind that it’s possible. I realize that I’m going to have to work harder and train smarter than I ever have before, and that’s exciting to me. I love the marathon. I love the grind leading up to it, the weekend long runs where I get to run for hours, and the race itself where I get to leave everything out on the course.

Again, something feels different. I feel stronger coming off of two back to back half marathon PRs after nearly 2 years of no PR in the distance. I know a lot of this can be attributed to working with a coach who has been challenging me with different workouts that I haven’t tried before in training. Hitting the hard workouts has given me the confidence that I can do hard things and that this is within the realm of possible. During this training cycle I will hit the most mileage I’ve done in a week before, and that excites me. It will require getting enough sleep each night, eating the right foods to fuel my body, and training smart (aka running those recovery runs slow and leaving the fast running for the days it counts). I’m ready for all of it and excited to push myself hard.

I know it won’t all be easy. We’re in the middle of buying a house which will require moving (luckily just across town), I’m busy at work, I’m on the board for my running club which has been growing rapidly, and I want to make sure I’m putting my family first with a busy schedule. As the miles begin to add up, I’ll have to be more diligent about my schedule, but I chose this and I’m excited to chase another 26.2 again and hopefully walk away with not only a BQ but a big PR!

Chasing Unicorns begins tomorrow! Let’s get after it!

Setting Big Goals and Chasing Scary Dreams


At the end of 2017, I made a lot of personal running goals for the new year, but the biggest one was to make 2018 my best running year yet. That could mean a lot of things, but to me, it meant chasing down PRs in the half marathon and marathon and ultimately punching my ticket to the Boston Marathon. Over the past few months of spring half marathon training, not only did I nab two new big PRs, but something much greater happened – I gained my confidence back. I lined up at the start line for the Carmel Half Marathon knowing that I had put in the work and that a big PR was possible. I lined up at the IL Half curious how much more I could push myself to see what was left in my legs. I hope this newfound confidence carries over to my marathon training that begins on June 4th as I have more big goals for myself.

Since my half marathons, I have begun reevaluating the time goals I set for myself for the Berlin Marathon. Still, my ultimate goal has been making it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon, but to do that with a cushion my goal was a 3:30 with a BQ time of 3:35. Today, I find myself wanting more than just that 3:30 because I’m more confident in myself as a runner and that 3:30 while still a fantastic goal and 8 minutes faster than my current PR of 3:38, might not be pushing myself to my full potential. When I break it down, 3:30 is running two 1:45 half marathons. That used to seem a little daunting to me, but with a current half PR now of 1:36, it seems doable if I put in the work this summer and stay healthy. I started thinking to myself…what is in the realm of possible now and what time would I be happy with? And I keep coming back to the time 3:25. It’s become less and less scary as I’ve thought about it over the last few weeks and writing it down now it sounds pretty darn good. 3:25 equates to a 7:49 pace. I’ve always believed I could run a marathon pace in the 7’s before but when your goal starts becoming closer and closer to reality it can be scary. I was commenting to someone the other day that it’s funny that we pray and pray for things to work out the way we imagine but when they actually start playing out we question, “ok, what’s the catch”, rather than be thankful things are going well.

I know the next 4 months of training are going to be intense and they’re going to push me to both my physical and mental limits but I’m so ready to put in the work and make my dreams come true.

What big goals are you chasing this year? Let me know in the comments below!

Why I Hired A Running Coach

December 25, 2018 – Christmas Day but also the beginning of my half marathon training cycle for my target race on March 31st, the Carmel Half Marathon. I had thought a lot about what plan I would follow this time around after coming off of a disappointing racing year in 2017. I had come within 45 seconds of my half marathon PR (1:41:44) but just wasn’t able to get under that number in the three attempts I made last year (1:42, 1:43, 1:45; ugh). After much debate, I decided to create a hybrid of the Nike Half Marathon training plan and the Hal Higdon Advanced Half Marathon program and began my training. My training cycle was going well, but I finished every workout feeling like I could’ve pushed a little harder, gone a little farther, and wondering if I was training to my full potential. The thought of hiring a running coach had crossed my mind after the Chicago Marathon in 2017 (another disappointing performance), and I started looking into coaches in the area before deciding I could tackle it on my own once again.

Fast forward to January 15, 2018, 3 weeks into my half marathon training cycle. I had been following Jessica Rinehart on Instagram for the past 6 months and had seen many of her athlete’s and her own success in running, including achieving Boston Marathon qualifying times. I started perusing her website and took a leap of faith and contacted her to learn more about her coaching philosophy, share my personal running goals and running history, and see if it would be a good match for a potential coach. I talked to Jessica on the phone for 30 minutes and after the conversation there was no doubt in my mind that it would be a good fit and a good next step for me in my training. Her training philosophy was similar to mine (wanting to run 6 days/week, adding in some strength training which I had been lacking but knew was important, and continuing to build my base mileage to be a stronger athlete by the time I start marathon training again in the Fall). I was ready to pull the trigger and sign up for coaching, but needed the approval from my husband first as we make financial decisions together.

I should not have been surprised at how supportive Ross would be of the idea of hiring a running coach. He has been my biggest supporter since the day we started dating and he’s seen me through the highest highs (setting race PRs) and lowest lows (training my butt off the months leading up to a race and then falling apart the day of) of running. Fortunately, we were able to make the financial commitment to hire a coach and he encouraged me to go for it and see how things went. While it’s only been about 4 weeks since I started training with Jessica, something feels different about this training cycle. I hit 46 miles of running last week and felt like I could have run more; I hadn’t hit 46 miles since marathon training last Fall and here I am running a race half the distance and running more than most of my marathon training weeks last year. I think this is also part of my “success” problem from last year, but I just followed free training plans I could find online, not realizing that every runner is different and responds to mileage differently. Based on how my body is responding to higher mileage weeks and how good I’m feeling physically and mentally, I think I need more mileage in my training to get my body to respond on race day how I want it to.

I’m running different workouts than I had been in my prior training (a lot more fartleks and tempos and less intervals) and training smarter. Jessica has assigned weekly strength workouts for me and I’m completely dedicated to following the roadmap she’s set up for me to achieve my goal of running a 1:39 half marathon on March 31st. Being able to have someone else decide what workout I’ll run on what day and at what pace has taken a lot of the “thinking” out of my running and allows me to focus on hitting each workout and the parts I love about running.

While my husband was very supportive of me hiring a running coach to try something new in my training, the rest of my family was a little skeptical. And I understand that. They are supportive of my running but I think that unless you’re a runner yourself you don’t truly understand what goes through the mind of one. We’re an extremely dedicated group, always pushing to be our best and achieve new levels. I would go as far to say I’m obsessed with running; it’s a huge part of who I am and I often plan my days around it. I tried to explain that because I have a free gym at work, I don’t have to pay a monthly membership fee for a gym so this is like my replacement to that. But then I realized I really don’t need to rationalize this. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a goal I’ve been laser-focused on for the past few years. I came incredibly close in 2016’s Chicago Marathon when I ran a 3:38 (my qualifying time is 3:35) but I know in my heart I can not only get that 3:35 but I can run even further below it. And I’m going to need to. This year’s Boston qualifiers had to run 3:30 below their qualifying time to even get to run Boston so I will need at least a 3:30 to be safe. I know the first step is getting that half marathon time down and I’m excited to see what Jessica and I can do together to make that happen. I realized that I will never have as much time or energy as I do now at 25 so now is the time to try something new and make things happen.

If you’re considering hiring a running coach, I encourage you to do your homework. Find someone whose philosophy in training resonates with you so that you’re committed to the training process and someone who is willing to push you/readjust when things don’t go according to plan. Not everyone will understand why you’re doing this or why you’re so invested in your running (both financially and with the time-commitment) but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re doing this for you and enjoying the journey to get where you’re going.


Since writing this post I have run two half marathons, both far surpassing my goal of sub 1:40. The first was the Carmel Half Marathon on March 31st which I ran in 1:37:09. 4 weeks later I ran the Illinois Half Marathon on April 28th and finished in 1:36:39 which will stand as my current PR. In this latest training cycle, I dropped 5:05 off of my half marathon PR time, only 3 months after starting working with Jessica. Hiring a coach was one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself and my running and I can’t wait to take on another 26.2 after working with Jessica this summer!

About Me



Hi! My name is Katherine Wuestenfeld and I am an avid runner born and raised in the Chicago suburbs! I currently am living in Arlington Heights, IL with my husband, Ross, and our lab-mix, Lola (who makes a great running companion!). I have been a runner for over 10 years, beginning in middle school track and field as a 400 meter runner before later becoming a distance runner in high school. I had the privilege of being one of the cross-country and track and field captains for my high school team and was part of the state-qualifying cross-country team in 2010. After high school, I decided to focus my efforts academically and transitioned to road racing to stay in shape throughout college. I ran my first full marathon in 2012 as a freshman at the University of Illinois finishing in 4:10. It was after this race that I was hooked on the marathon, but took a few years off from marathon training to focus on my studies and dropped down to the half marathon distance. In 2015, I ran my second full marathon at the Chicago Marathon breaking 4 hours for the first time and finishing in 3:57. I returned again to Chicago in 2016 and ran a 3:38, just 3-minutes off of my Boston Qualifying time, and ever since then I have been chasing my BQ. I’ll be running the Berlin Marathon in September 2018 where I will hopefully qualify for the 2020 Boston Marathon!


I started running as a way to stay in shape; in high school, my parents encouraged each of us to participate in a team sport and I initially picked soccer. However, after 2 years, I realized the thing that I liked about soccer the most was the running piece and so I switched to distance running my junior year of high school. I wish I had found running earlier but I’m still glad that I found it at an early age. Over time, I have grown to view running not only as a way to stay in shape but as my stress-reliever and a huge part of my identity. Running has taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I can apply to all areas of my life, like creating a plan to reach a specific goal, and I hope to be able to share many of those lessons and inspire others reading this blog in their own running journeys!