Our first 3 Masters blogs were so rad we decided to make this a monthly Oiselle feature…after all, we will all become masters runners if we keep running! (Can’t refute that logic.) This round features 5 great Volée: Rebecca Traschel, Donna Mills, Joanne Harvey, Christine Grazio, and Dara Steele Belkin. Along with these 5 questions, I asked each of our ladies to send a running picture they loved, and one they didn’t care for. Interestingly, I found myself drawn to the unfavored picture…something about the grit and the honesty. See if you can tell which is which! And stay tuned for the next round...
Meet our masters women!
Rebecca Traschel (40)
Donna Mills (40)
Joanne Harvey (43)
Christine Grazio (44)
Dara Steele Belkin (40)
How old were you when you got into running? What pushed or pulled you to take running seriously?
Rebecca Traschel (aka Trax): I played team sports (soccer and lacrosse) in junior high and high school but I always ran on the side. When I was stressed, angry, sad, whatever, running was always my outlet. When I was a sophomore, I bumped into the high school track coach after a road race one weekend and she asked me why I wasn’t running for the team. I decided to quit lacrosse and focus on track for my junior and senior year. From that point on, running became a focal point in my life.
Rebecca Traschel training in Massachusetts.
Donna: When I moved to Orange County from Los Angeles, I was advised to try XC. I had never heard of XC before, I actually thought it might be a geography/travel course. Being 5' 10” at age 13 made me feel awkward and ugly. When my father took the time to come to my XC/track meets to support me, I felt loved through running, mainly because my parents were divorcing and I was lost in the shuffle of 5 siblings and moving from 8 different schools. My father always pushed me and said I was a champion so I started to believe I could do anything I set my mind to. After running competitively in college, I slowly stopped running around age 28 because my father passed from cancer and I broke my patella ice skating at a birthday party. Two kids later and moving from Florida, New Mexico, Texas, and California and not running for 8 years I started running 5k's and track. How quickly the rush of running addiction crept in my veins...At the age of 39 I did my first marathon and completed 4 marathons from May 2014 to June 2015 maybe to catch up-- or to prove to myself that I could do more than 5ks and track. Currently I am 40 years young and have been married 12 years. My goals are to run faster and set as many PRs as humanly possible.
Joanne: I originally began running my freshman year of high school, age 14, and I’m 43 now. I took a running hiatus for most of my 20s. Before turning 33, I had never run further than 5 miles, but at that time I had a one-year-old and three-year-old at home, and I was working full-time. I began running longer just to clear my head and avoid multi-tasking. Next thing I knew, I was signed up for my first half marathon.
Christine Grazio: I’m 44 now, and I really got into running just a couple of years ago. Running became a serious part of my life when I realized it could help me feel whole and centered again after struggling with infertility for a number of years; ultimately it became a part of a long slow recovery from an ectopic pregnancy and emergency surgery. I’d reached a place where I didn’t believe in myself any more and I didn’t believe in my body. At some point something just clicked and I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. I started making healthier choices, and running slowly became a a part of that. I walked and ran, and then ran, and then ran some more. And when I saw changes and realized it was possible to feel better be stronger, and become more centered--I just kept running. Running didn’t make me feel perfect--in fact, I feel more comfortable than ever talking about things that I struggle with and being honest, warts and all.
Dara Steele-Belkin: I'm 40 years old (41 in November). I was 29 when my first child was born, and it was around then that I began to discover running. Going for a run was the most efficient way for me to get some exercise, since I could just walk out the door and start my workout. From there, I continued to stumble into distance running. A friend of mine who was training for her first marathon invited me to run a half-marathon with her. I did it--totally untrained--and each mile I ran after 6 felt like a mini-victory, since I had never run that far. I felt great at the end and decided I would do another half, and I would train for it. And so I was hooked. I ran through two more pregnancies, and I ran my first marathon in 2010. Since then, I've run at least two marathons and two half marathons each year, so I'm always training for or recovering from something. I love running, even when I hate it. It has become part of who I am.
Tell us about something you care deeply about outside of running that fuels your run life.
Trax: I care deeply about my role as a mom. My girls (ages 8 and 10) mean everything to me. They are incredibly close to each other and totally different. I love that. They make me laugh, they stress me out, they keep me guessing, they make me crazy. I also care deeply about my role as a high school running coach. I have 60 girls on my XC squad and they are like a second family to me. I do my best to guide them both in running and in life during what can be a tricky time in their lives but I’m constantly learning from them as well.
Donna: I love to travel and learn new cultures. Children fuel me by their fearlessness...I like to help people to see the positive in life and to inspire others to just go and accomplish their goals no matter what knocks them off course. After broken bones, bruises, and cuts, your body pumps you with the healing stuff so then you are left with the new improved version.
Donna Mills training in Texas.
Joanne Harvey: This is cliché, but true: my children fuel my run life. I’m not a particularly doting mother—I expect my sons to do a lot for themselves, and I try to lead by example. Also, I occasionally solve the world’s biggest problems on my long runs. ☺
Christine: I’m part of a women’s triathlon group called Triwomen that mentors women in my area who are training for their first sprint triathlon. Many of our members have never competed in any kind of race or athletic event--and it’s really inspiring to see how energized they are when they realize they can do it. Seeing how activities like triathlon and running can help women connect with each other has definitely motivated me.
Dara: I care deeply about my family, particularly about helping my children find the things in life that will drive them and fulfill them the way running drives and fulfills me. While sometimes my running pulls me away from my family, in the hours spent training and racing, I feel that my running also provides a strong example for my kids. They learn by example about dedication, hard work, and the rewards that come from those things. They learn that you don't always win, that every day can't be your best day, and that there is honor in just finishing. Drawing on my own experience, I try to help my children to find the activities that they will love, so that they can carry those activities into their adult lives.
What big run goal do you have for the next 3 months?
Trax: I turned 40 in February and I’m determined to prove that age is just a number. In October, I’ll be running the Mohawk Hudson Marathon and my goals are to PR (under 3:11) and to place top 3 in the Masters category. Of course, I want to have a good time, too. I’m fired up! (Editors update: congrats to Trax! Just ran 3:01:47 at Mohawk Hudson Marathon!)
Donna: I would love to Qualify for the trials at CIM 2015.
Joanne: I’m participating in my first formal running training program through Fleet Feet Sports and intend to PR at the Seattle Half Marathon in November. I’ve run this course (full and half) several times and am looking to beat my 36-year-old self.
Joanne Harvey training in Seattle.
Christine: I’m running the Philadelphia half marathon in November, and I haven’t yet put down a specific time as my goal. I was thrilled to reach my sub-2-hour half goal last year. Staying healthy and running smart so I can run for the long term is always number one for me.
Dara: I'm struggling with my goals right now. I had a big goal of breaking three-hours in the marathon, which I accomplished a couple of years ago. Then I wanted to do it again as a "Master," which I managed to do at this year's rainy Boston Marathon. My goal is always to try to improve, but I've gotten flexible with that concept. Sometimes improvement means running a time that isn't any faster, but one that feels a lot better in the process. I think that is my primary goal right now--to run fast and feel strong doing it.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Trax: Chill the F*** out. Life is too short. Don’t take things so seriously.
Donna: In life things will knock you down but when you lift up with a smile and keep on pushing through the obstacles, you become stronger mentally and physically and that is without a doubt a gain.
Joanne: Be patient. I’ve wasted a lot of time worrying about things that ultimately resolved themselves. You don’t get that time back.
Christine: Start running sooner. Don’t be afraid to change things that aren’t working. You’re tougher than you think.
Christine Grazio training in New Jersey.
Dara: Do something with all that free time. Life gets busier and more complex as we get older. As a student, a young professional, and a newlywed, I had lot more free time than I have now. I wish I had used that time to run more, learn yoga, and cultivate other sports and hobbies, to give back to my community. Those activities are so enriching to who we are, and yet sometimes we don't find them until later in life, when we have less time to contribute.
What have you noticed about aging? (You can pick the focus)
Trax: I find that I need more sleep than I used to. If I don’t get 8-9 hours a day, I struggle. I can literally feel my body starting to shut down as the day comes to an end. When I started running marathons, about 8 years ago, I could train, coach, get my mom duties done and head out with friends, to boot. Now, I simply don’t have the energy to make it all happen and sleep seems to take priority.
Donna: Honestly not to be a Cheesy Positive Nelly, I feel like I'm younger now than ever before (Benjamin Button would be proud).
Joanne: The thing that I have noticed about aging is that I’ve finally developed a heightened self-awareness. Physically, as a runner, I’ve learned to better differentiate between harmless, exhaustion-based aches and pains and possible injury onsets. Mentally, I’m more aware of my capabilities and limitations, and I’ve learned to use these to my advantage. I have more experiences to reflect on, and these have translated into a better understanding of how I deal best with life’s curveballs: I am more resilient and often overcome by profound gratitude. ☺
Christine: Taking good care of myself overall is more important: recovery days, eating well… But when everything is working, knowing what my body can do and feeling strong and fit make me forget about some of the things that seem to be creeping up on me--gray hairs, wrinkles, and droopy knees. I feel like I’m the best me I have ever been, age spots be damned!
Dara Steele Belkin training in Atlanta.
Dara: I’m amazed at how my perspective changes as I age, particularly with regard to physical image. I was shocked to find that, as I age, my view of beauty changes. There is a particular beauty in youth that is universally accepted; there is something undeniably appealing about things and people that are shiny and new. But as we get a bit older, we are able to recognize that things, and people, who show a little bit of wear on them can have a different, perhaps deeper kind of beauty. The look of a runner who has seen many years and thousands of miles on the road is unmistakably lovely. Whether it's the long sinew of a mature runner's muscles or the "patina" that time and the elements leave on our faces, there is beauty there.