Interview with a Runner

This week's runner is Lauren Shekari, a Texas native who's lived in NYC for the last 10 years. She currently lives in Long Island City, Queens with her husband and their grumpy French bulldog. Lauren has finished 3 half-marathons over the past 1.5 years and isn't stopping anytime soon! She is dedicated to speed training and never misses her workouts. We've loved seeing Lauren become a faster and more confident runner over the past year and a half.

When did you start running and why?
I started running four years ago in an effort to lose weight before my wedding. I had never run in my life and between being in a happy stable relationship and recently quitting smoking (which tells you something about my activity level) I had put on a some extra pounds. With a demanding work schedule I thought running would be the best calorie burning exercise I could fit into a short amount of time. At first I could barely make it one block, so I did a run/walk 5k plan. I didn't lose any weight immediately (although later I lost about 20lbs with diet and exercise) - but I totally got hooked on running!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
"It never get's easier, you just go faster." That's a quote from cyclist Greg Lemond that my husband told me when I started running. I struggled a lot feeling intensely self conscious for being slow. I thought there was some magical place people got to where they automatically run 7 min miles without breaking a sweat. Maybe that's true for a few Kenyans, but, for me, running is tough physical work. My legs are short, my gait is a bit wonky, and I never ran before my late 20's, so in many ways the odds are not in my favor when it comes to running. I am OK with that, I just needed to understand that what I was feeling was normal and as I have stuck with it I have gotten much stronger and been able to pick up the pace.

What are your current running goals? Are you training for anything? 
My long term goal is always to run faster and longer. I just ran the NYC half (my third half marathon and my fastest yet thanks to Meghan - hurrah!), and I am itching to try my hand at the full marathon. My average pace in the NYC Half was 10 min/mile so I need to get a bit quicker before I dive into a full, but I'm headed that direction. Right now I am taking a few months mental break from the obsessive focus of training. I'm doing lots of cross training, allowing myself to slack off if the weather is gross, and remembering what it is like to run for fun without my Garmin!

Who inspired or inspires you to run? Or who do you love to run with?
My husband inspires me to run. He is an avid cyclist (of the spandex, clip in shoes, and shaved leg variety). When we started dating I was mostly an avid knitter, reader and eater - all great things but not especially physical endeavors. Hanging out with him made me want to keep up and it encouraged me to be more physically active in all areas of my life. He never pushed me to run, but once I started he became the biggest supporter of my efforts and cheers me on through the months of training and at all my races. I won't ever be able to compete with him on a bike, but now I can leave him in the dust on a run!

Favorite way to sweat other than run?
I love yoga and the way my body feels relaxed and aligned after. I also do a lot of spin classes because it is convenient and a nice cardio alternative to running. My absolute favorite thing is to be outside - so a bike ride, hike or trail run are all at the very top of my list. I love to get out of the city for some fresh air and trees!

What is your favorite running workout?
I really like the long slow distance runs (preferably somewhere pretty - Central Park is great). I pick a route, put some good music on my ipod, and I go. I might not be the fastest, but I can go and go. I get in a really zen zone on long runs. Its my time to be totally present in my body, focus on my breath and movement and forget about all the silly day to day stuff I might have going on. It keeps me sane. Also, as an added bonus, when I'm done I feel no guilt about eating like a champ and taking a nap (two of the best things ever).