Welcome to Walk Fiercely!
My name is Christa Hamra and I am just an ordinary middle- aged woman living in West Virginia, the most unhealthy state in the country. I have titled my blog “Walk Fiercely” because I have come to use that as my mantra. I might not be an athelete…but I am determined! I’ve found that the only way for me to be successful in staying active and healthy is to continue setting new goals for myself. If you think you can’t do it, you CAN!
It is with a heavy heart that after 52 Walk Fiercely blogs I am taking a hiatus from writing. I loved writing them and the support I’ve gotten from everyone, the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and I hope the humor and help I’ve given the readers. But it is very hard to find relevant topics every week and the time to write about them. So I am taking a break to regroup and recharge. I can’t say for how long. There might be sporadic posts if the mood, or topic, strikes me. Don’t rule me out completely. And if there is a topic you want me to write about, let me know.
Let me leave you with this thought. Today on a local radio station (V100), they said based on a survey of West Virginians, 32% said they could run a marathon without training for it. I call bullshit! Having trained for marathons more than once, I can tell you it ain’t that easy. Below are some statistics (source: statisticbrain.com and Runners World, Everyday Health).
|Percent of the U.S. population that has run a marathon||0.5 %|
|Record time for the fastest marathon ever run||2:03.59 hours|
|Total number of U.S. marathons held annually||570|
|Total number of people who finished a marathon annually||581,811|
|Average cost to run a marathon||$67|
|Number of marathons that cost over $100 to enter||41|
|Average number of calories a woman burns during a marathon||2,880|
|Number of miles in a marathon||26.2 miles|
|Average number of miles ran per week during marathon training||40 miles|
I’m thinking if only half a percent of the population has even run a marathon, then the ones who say they can do it without training are clearly ignorant to what is involved in such a task, both mentally and physically. I am proud to include myself in that 0.5%. Looking at the other statistics and how I stack up, I complete a marathon in about 3x the time it took for the fastest ever marathon. I am pretty sure I’ve paid more than $67 for most of my races, whether it was a half or a full. The calories burned sounds about spot on. Although since my reward after a race is usually Tudor’s Biscuit World, I pretty much blow those calories shortly after the race. I fall behind a little bit on the average number of miles per week. I usually average about 30 miles a week. But for me, it gets the job done.
I’m throwing down this challenge. To anyone who wants to do a marathon without training for it, join me in doing the Hatfield & McCoy Marathon in Williamson, WV on June 11th. Gives you enough time to by some new shoes and get a “cute” new outfit for the race. But not enough time to train and condition. The first person to take me up on this challenge, I will pay your entry fee. You think you’ve got what it takes, BRING IT! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment through the website.
Until we meet again, stay strong, stay active and always Walk Fierecly!
Last week was the 120th Boston Marathon. A race steeped in tradition and history, as well as adversity with the 2013 bombing. It is one of the top marathons in the world, currently ranked #6. Several members of the Tallman Track Club competed in the race, making Charleston, WV proud. As a marathoner myself, and one who knows she will never get to Boston, I am fascinated by the experience. So I decided to do something a little differently this week, a Q&A with a few of the participants. You’ve probably read about WK Munsey in previous posts as one of my mentors. I have known Sarah Fletcher since college. If you’re doing the math that’s about 25 years (ugh!). Both of them have completed the Boston Marathon numerous times. TW Moore is a member of the track club and competed in his first Boston Marathon this year. Getting his feedback as a first-timer was also intriguing to me.
Let’s meet our esteemed panel of fierce competitors.
WK is an avid runner, having started in 1983 so he could go up the 6 flights of steps at his elevator-less office without passing out. Since then he has completed 28 marathons! He has been involved with the Tallman Track Club in Charleston since 1986 and took over the leadership role around 2005. Asked how the club has changed over the year, he sites electronic technology as a game changer, making getting the word out to members and prospective members much easier through email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Sarah was a 400 and 800 meter runner in college, and a damn good one! But running a marathon never crossed her mind until years later. Her first marathon was in 2004, 10 years after graduating from Marshall Unversity. Since then she has completed a total of 7 marathons, 4 of which were Boston and the Marine Corp Marathon, #12 in the world. She is definitely a “go big or go home” kinda girl. And in that spirit, she has also completed both traditional and off road triathlons, adventure racing and the WV mountain bike series.
TW was on the cross country and track teams in middle and high school, but didn’t get back into running until 2009 when he and his wife moved to Charleston and he decided to tackle the 15 mile Charleston Distance Run, a challenging race steeped in history in its own right. His first marathon was the Marshall Marathon in 2012. Since then he has packed a punch completing a total of 6 in 4 years. This being his first Boston, he notes that it was filled with emotions from both ends of the spectrum. But he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world, with his family there to cheer him on.
Question: What has been your favorite race and why?
WK: The Boston Marathon. The Boston race is one where everyone in the town takes ownership. The organization, volunteers, spectators and the course itself all make it a standout race. Plus you have to qualify for the privilege to run. A close second is the 15 mile Charleston Distance Run
Sarah: All-time favorite race would be the Ironman in Chattanooga (told you she was fierce) because the training was such a commitment but the accomplishment is unmatched. It is the longest Ironman at 144.6 miles where the standard is 140.6. Favorite marathon would be Boston because of the fan support and volunteers. Throughout the whole 26.2 someone is always cheering for you.
TW: The Chicago Marathon because the course was flat and fast and this race was my qualifying time for Boston. Favorite all-time race is the Charleston Distance Run because it is a great showcase of our town and the history of the elite runners participating in the earlier years is pretty amazing.
Question: Tell me about your experience in this year’s Boston Marathon.
WK: The first thing is not to get too amped up. The crowds are incredible and if you have your name displayed on your bib get ready for the spectators to scream it the whole 26.2 miles. And if you are a 60 year old man rocking a tutu, you better be ready to own it!
Sarah: My favorite moment from this year’s race was when the female winner, Atsede Baysa, gave her trophy to Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon. This was the 50th anniversary for women. Took them 70 years before women could run the race.
TW: This being my first Boston Marathon as I made my way to my corral I went through a serious of emotions- excitement, anticipation, anxiety, nervousness, impatience, hunger and worry were just a few. I was happy with my overall race, but will be much better prepared if I attempt it again. Having “Heartbreak Hill” at mile 21 after 3 other hills in sequence just seems cruel. A notable aspect of the race is the spectators. At 3:00 pm I had finished the race, made it back to my place and showered, I was standing in the kitchen and asked my wife what that noise was. It was the crowd a block away still out cheering for the runners. It was incredible!
Question: If someone wanted to train for a marathon, what advice would you give them?
WK: Be consistent in your training. The body likes routine and in the last 3 weeks really hone in on your marathon goal pace.
Sarah: My advice would be to get fitted for correct shoes and replace them often. Start your training slow and gradually build your mileage to avoid injury.
Question: This one’s for TW. We all know the saying “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” So how do you get to the Boston Marathon?
TW: Practice, practice, practice! Practice on a consistent basis. If the practice becomes a habit, great things will follow. Practice with people, especially people faster and more experienced than you. Faster runners push you outside your comfort zone. Experienced runners can give you advice and motivate you. I was much more comfortable before each marathon because I talked about the course strategy with runners who were more experienced than me. Practice alone. Running with others is great. But running is inherently an individual sport. You have to concentrate on your training and that requires a lot of focus on what you are asking from your body and how it responds.
Question: Finally, is there anything else you would like to add or advice you would like to give?
WK: Running has been an incredible gift. And to enjoy running you don’t have to be the fastest, strongest or the most gifted, you just have to be willing to get out the door and go!
Sarah: Exercise on any level promotes good health. So my advice is to get out and move! Quality of life improves with exercise. Encourage exercise on any level and set the example.
TW: If you run, you are a runner. Do not be intimidated by where another runner is in their development. We are all somewhere on the running continuum and we all have the same struggles and triumphs.
There is so much more wisdom that these three have shared with me. And I could go on forever. But I know I need to keep it a reasonable length. I hope this has given you some insight into the dedication, commitment, joy and fun that running, walking, staying active and having goals can bring to your life. If you want to know more about WK, Sarah or TW or have specific questions you would like to ask them, let me know and I will try to connect you.
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You should give your all to whatever you do every day of the week. But for me, Thursdays are special. That’s when you get to flex your muscles, literally, and show everyone what you’re made of. Every Thursday my gym, Anytime Fitness in Kanawha City, has a competition among the members called Throwdown Thursday. They choose one exercise and encourage all members to test their strength by taking the challenge. There is a male and female winner, with prizes. I have participated in the past. But have gotten discouraged lately because it seems the challenges have focused on upper body. I can’t compete in upper body due to my neck issues and lack of general upper body strength. For those days, I just cheer on my fellow gym rats and enjoy watching the others flex their muscles.
Last week I walk into the gym ready for my regular training session, and Josette, one of the very supportive gym employees, asks me if I am going to try TDT today. I said, “Uh, no! It’s always upper body.” She quickly corrected me and said today was lower body! I didn’t even ask what the exercise was. I just said “YES! I’ll do it!” and I started jumping around with excitement.
I found out that the exercise was a wall sit, basically leaning up against the wall in a 90 degree position. But there is a twist, as always. You can just wall sit for as long as you can and record that time. OR you could add 45 lb. weight plates to your lap. And if you make it a full minute, every plate you add counts as an additional minute of time. For example, one minute plus 3 plates is a 4:00 time. I thought there was no way I could put even one 45 lb. plate on my lap and survive a minute. But how many times have I said the only thing I’ve got going for me is my legs. This was my chance. Let’s do this!
My trainer was actually timing people when I got there. I went to watch and cheer everyone else on. One lady, Missy, the usual favorite in TDT, was getting ready to do it. She did 3 plates for 2:09, time recorded was 5:09. Now I am thinking there is no way I can put 135 lbs. on my lap and not collapse. But Micah assures me it will be fine and I can do it. I trust him. So, here we go. I just hope my legs don’t let me down. I get in position, they load up the weights and time starts. (see picture of first attempt, forgot to get pic of second try) I was surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. After the first minute I’m feeling pretty good. After a minute and a half, I’m holding my own. There are folks standing around watching, including Missy. I look at her and in my “friendly competition” voice and a smile say to her “2:10 if it kills me!” I continue to breath and pray. At about 1:50 both my legs start shaking uncontrollably. But I stay in position, close my eyes as I will those last :20 to come. I hear Micah say 2:10. And I immediately drop. Now I should probably point out that for safety reasons, there was a small box stepper under us so when we were done we could just collapse onto it without hurting ourselves. As they take the weights off you can see my legs still shaking. I had to sit a minute before I could stand. But it was all worth it. All I could think was I DID IT! I knew no one would be able to catch Missy or me. So I thought I had this one in the bag. I went on to my training session.
Not so fast sunshine. I heard Missy say she was going to do it again. I give props where they are due. And Missy and her husband are both fierce and dedicated, working out regularly. Now I start to doubt that I can pull off the win. She comes in the training room a few minutes later and says, “You need to beat 1:20 with 4 plates. And I will be cheering you on.” (Did I mention one reason I love my gym is the support you get from everyone.) She left the room. I looked at Micah, sweaty and breathing heavy, and proclaimed “She’s going down!” After the training session, I was ready to give it another try. Micah suggested that instead of 4 plates for 1:21, I should just do 5 plates for one minute. Easy for him to say! But I trust his opinion so I figured, go big or go home.
I’m ready to try again. Missy, her husband and a few others are watching. I give Micah very specific instructions- don’t tell me what the time is or how much longer I have left, just tell me when it’s over. I get in position, they load up 5-45 lb. plates (225 lbs) on my lap and time starts. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Legs start shaking. I am starting to think I can’t make it. I ask Micah to tell me the time. I was at :51, only :10 to go. I start snapping my fingers as a distraction. Finally, Micah says TIME! I drop to the seat. Again my legs are shaking as they take the plates off. But damn, I felt great! Missy comes and gives me the double high 5. Micah congratulates me as well. Victory is mine! This might be the one and only Throwdown Thursday I ever win. But it’s still another accomplishment under my belt. Every positive experience, no matter what it is, motivates us to do better and push harder.
It is worth noting that Missy’s husband was the male winner with 10 plates! And that another trainer, Kevin, did 13 plates. He isn’t eligible to win because he is an employee. Kevin is a beast. And I am pretty sure he has been genetically altered and not 100% human. This is him. He doesn’t even have the box under him. He’s got this. Just another day at work. WOW!
Not sure what the next Throwdown Thursday will be or what other challenges I might have to face in my life. But I do know that whatever they are, I will face them head-on and do the best I can. That’s all any of us can do. Stay fierce, my friends.
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