Today I am pleased to welcome my guest Amanda Wolski, a teacher/marathon runner/blogger who also happens to be my sister-in-law! Amanda tells us about how she surprised herself by becoming a runner and how this practice has enhanced her life in many ways. Welcome Amanda!

How did you first come to your movement practice?

It’s kind of a funny story, actually. Believe it or not, I used to hate running! I couldn’t run around the block without being winded and crabby.

After I got married in 2002 I got a gym membership and was using the elliptical. Then I started going to a Boot Camp class in gosh, maybe 2004? Part of class involved running and as much as I complained about it, my competitive nature kicked in. Before I knew it I was at the front of the pack! My instructor started to tell me that I was a natural. It took me a while but then I started to believe her.

It wasn’t until I ran my first race – Run Wild for the Zoo 10K in 2007 – that I thought maybe I AM good at this. Maybe this is my thing. It still took me a while to really feel like a runner but that first race was a huge milestone for me.

How long have you been practicing?
I mark that first race as my anniversary. So 6 and a half years.

How do you integrate practice into everyday living?

I run everyday. A rest day for me is still 3 miles at an easy pace. LOL! I prefer to run in the morning. For me it’s the best way to start my day. I enjoy the time to think without all the noise on the streets. Unfortunately that means getting out the door before 5am some days if I have a long run. But missing a run isn’t an option. It’s a part of my life.

How has your practice affected you physically, emotionally, spiritually?

Running has had an enormous impact on my life in so many ways. I have gained so much strength, both physically and mentally. My legs and lungs have gotten stronger as I’ve increased my distances and picked up my pace. I’ve been able to do things in races I never imagined my body was possible of doing. So much of it is mental stamina and focus, as well. One of my inspirations is vegan ultrarunner, Scott Jurek, who says, “Sometimes you just do things.” So sometimes you just go out and run 20 miles because that’s what you have to do.
Running is my stress relief, meditation, and quiet “me time.” I work out a lot of problems while I run. I used to always run with music but for safety reasons, I’ve gotten used to doing long runs without headphones. There’s something peaceful about the solace of being with your own thoughts.
One of the greatest things about running is the friendships I’ve built with other runners. It’s a fantastic community and people really support each other at races and through training. There’s nothing like a good run with a friend!

What has been your most proud moment as a runner?

My most proud moment was qualifying for the Boston Marathon, which I did with my first marathon. Crossing that finish line, knowing I not only finished my first marathon but that I also qualified for Boston, was an amazing feeling. After I run Boston on April 21st, THAT will probably be my proudest moment!

I love the playlists (that you listen to during races) that you post on your blog. How do you choose which songs to include? What makes a good running song?

Thanks! I have so much fun making them! The first thing I do is think about the specific race. If it has a theme I start there. For example, when I did Mustache Dache I chose all songs whose front men were sporting mustaches at the time of recording. If there’s no theme I look at new music that I’ve gotten recently and find song that have a good driving beat. To me that’s what makes a good running song – the beat.

Then I think about the course and try to strategically place the songs in an order that will help me push through tough spots – hills, boring areas, the end when I need to really push the pace.

For the half or full marathons, I like to throw in at least one fun song per playlist. Something to make me laugh, like old-school Will Smith or something by Weird Al. Why not have fun with it? I usually round it out with a couple tried and true favorites that show up on several playlists.

What advice or suggestions would you give to someone who would like to start running about how to get started?

Everyone is starting from a different place, so don’t get overwhelmed if it’s hard at first. Definitely a run/walk approach is the way to go. Maybe you start with a block of running and then walk for two blocks. Maybe it’s a half a mile. Start with what you can and build up. Just get out there and try it.
I would definitely recommend finding a partner to run with. Friends help encourage you, hold you accountable, and help push you when you’re afraid to go the extra mile. If you can find a Couch to 5K group that meets in person and runs together, that would be a great way to go, too! The more support the better!

And for anyone who thinks they can’t do it, I like to tell my story about how I didn’t like running! Look at me now!

When Amanda isn’t running she teaches 2nd grade. She’s been a vegan for 6 years and started her blog Vegan Road Runner in 2010.