Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Interview With Jenny Hadfield

Jenny Hadfield is a runner who has completed numerous races including the Inca Trail Marathon, the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, the Antarctica Marathon, the Boston Marathon, and the Glacial 50K Ultra Marathon. She is a columnist for Runner's World, has a monthly column in Women's Running Magazine, and has been featured in several magazines including Self, Women's Health, Forbes, Health to name a few. She is also an author who wrote "Marathoning for Mortals" and "Running for Mortals" (which I'm currently reading) with her husband, John Bingham, whose interview will hopefully be posted next week.

Jenny has an annual Holiday Challenge-Beat The Holiday 5 (pounds) that starts on Thanksgiving. The challenge runs from Thanksgiving to January 25, 2015. There are two levels of the challenge; the green and the red. The green is free and you get access to a private facebook group, entries in her giveaways,  and weekly newsletters. The red challenge (which I picked) is $59 and in addition to the green perks, you get a long sleeve running tech shirt, and an entry to the virtual holiday race (I will be focusing on my 5K time) that includes a bib number and medal.

Why did you start running?
I was challenged by a group of co-workers to run a 5K.  At the time, I was 35 pounds heavier than I am today, and I hated running. They helped me train during our lunch hours and started with walking. I finished feeling happy, which inspired the next workout, and the next and pretty soon they were mixing seconds of running in with my walking workouts.  Over that summer, I learned to run for 30 minutes continuously, but I also discovered the joy of running with a community. Finishing that 5K changed my life forever.

What's the best thing about coaching?
I feel blessed every morning to do what I love - help people discover their strengths, improve their weak bits and cope with the detours along the way.  I feel like in many ways I’m just paying it forward for the people that helped me discover myself through running.  The best part is meeting inspiring people all over the world and hearing their stories.  We can all learn from, and grow with each other.

Your columns in Runner's World and Women's Running Magazine are very popular. Why did you want to write about running?
If you would have told me that I would be a writer 20 years ago, I would probably LOL.  It all started via emails. I was the coach for the Indy Mini Marathon and they would include my email with Ask Coach Jenny in every weekly email that went out to all 30,000 participants. I’d sit and answer questions for hours each week, honing my voice, learning the answers and connecting with runners and walkers.  That turned into the Ask Coach Jenny column on and two books Running for Mortals and Marathoning for Mortals (and another on the way for women).  I feel as if I coach first, and write second.  Writing is the line of communication that ties me with runners and their stories and great questions.  We can all learn from a question, and I love to find the answers.  It’s a little like playing Sherlock Holmes.

If you only had to pick 3 essential running gear items, what would they be?
This one is tough because I’m a gear lover.  I’d have to go with my running shoes because they support me mile after mile. Next would be my bra, because, well, you know why. And the third item would be my iPhone because I use it for safety, to record thoughts and ideas and train with apps like PEAR Sports which coaches you on the run and based on your body.

What is your weekly mileage? Are you training for a race now?
I’m a seasonal runner.  I like to cross-train as much as I like to run.  So in the fall, I’m on my mountain bike and hit the trails for runs - I may hit 15-20 miles during the week or less.  Right now I’m starting to train to climb Mt. Rainier so I’ll include intervals and hill workouts, lots of stairs, hiking and strength training.  I sneak in yoga when I can, typically in the winter months.  If I’m training for a long race, I typically average 35-45 miles.  I find this is my optimal mileage zone for endurance training.

Do you have any rituals or superstitions?
Superstitions = never wear your race shirt before you finish the race.  It will bring you seven years of bad juju.

Race Rituals = Waking early, hot shower, a little coffee or tea, light breakfast or smoothie, arrive early, warm up, and meditate at the start - breathing, focusing on my strategy and going with what the day brings.

What was your lowest moment in running, what did you learn from it?
There have been plenty, but one that sticks out is the first time I tried to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I had a group of friends up supporting me, I took it out way too fast and crashed and burned by mile 18.  I had to walk the rest of it in.  Although it was a low moment, I learned the most from this race because I was able to pace myself more strategically in the next marathon and successfully qualified.

Do you have a philosophy on diet and nutrition?
A simple one.  The more I learn about gut health as it relates to nutrition, the more I come to understand that although we are similar, we are also different.  That what works for you, may not work for me.  I think with genetic testing and gut research we will learn a lot more about our optimal nutrition.  The key is to experiment, keep track and you’ll find your optimal recipe.

Tell us about your running vacations. Some of these races look like once and a lifetime experiences!
The greatest memories I have of our family is when we were on vacation.  My mom was an uber planner and we went all over the nation.  I got that gene and now my husband and I plan running and walking vacations all over the world.  They are set up with a goal; to run or walk a half or full marathon, but in stages rather than all at once.  We host running cruises in Alaska, in the Caribbean on river boats in Europe - and when we stop in a port, we run and walk around the jewels and gems of the destination so you get to meet local runners, explore cities off the beaten path, and connect with like-minded travelers.  I also host a staged marathon on the Inca Trail, where we trek in shorter legs for four days and finish at Machu Piccu.  It’s the world’s most epic finish line and it can bring you to tears when you see it.  The running vacations are a great way to be active on vacation, balance it with splurging on food and drink and connecting with fun people.

Advice for new runners?
Start from where you are and progress slowly.  It took me months before I was able to run 30 minutes continuously, but because I didn’t hurry it, my body and mind was able to adapt and get stronger along the way.  The key is to finish your workouts feeling challenged, but not spent.  If you feel happy and good about the workout, you’ll repeat it again and again. If it hurts, or you hurt, your momentum can easily fade.

Your running resume is impressive! Which is your most memorable?
Ah. That’s like asking which is your favorite pet.
My first 5K because it changed the course of my life.
My first marathon, because it proved I could do something I didn’t think I could.
My first Boston Marathon, because it proved that I could reach a goal well outside my comfort zone or perceived reach.
Eco-Challenges - all of them, because they ignited my wanderlust and passion for adventure travel.


Have you been to New Hampshire? If, so, what did you like about it?
I raced through it in an adventure race.  Although I didn’t spend much time visiting, I loved the scenery, the energy (vibe) and the people.


Race:  St. George Marathon and pretty much any trail race

Running shoe:  Brooks Pure Grit (trail shoes)

Running store:  Fleet Feet Sports Chicago

Way to relax: Read or watch a movie

Athlete: Meb Keflezighi

Recovery meal:  Smoothie - easy to make, easy to digest

TV show:  The Big Bang Theory

Movie: Forrest Gump

Book: The Help

Mantra:  Be the ball.

Guilty pleasure:  Pizza (Chicago, of course)

City: Chicago - probably why I still live here

Country: Outside of the North America, New Zealand

Racing Memory:  Racing with my nephew Pierson, who was four years old at the time (he’s five now) - it was his first and at DisneyWorld.  I had run with his father, my brother, in the Disney Marathon years prior in honor our of father, who we lost to brain cancer.  Sadly, my brother passed away two years ago - so Pierson and I ran in his memory.  A bitter sweet moment, but it carried us both forward together. I wrote about it here.

Thanks to Jenny who took the time to answer my questions, I know she is crazy busy. I would love to do one of her running vacations someday, they sound amazing! You can follow her on FaceBook, Twitter and her U Tube channel. I hope you will join me and enter her Holiday Challenge, it is a fantastic way to stay on track this holiday season!

1 comment :

  1. I absolutely love Coach Jenny! I've done the challenge two years running now (hahaha pun intended!) and used her beginner plan to train for my marathon in September! What I love most about her is that she is a REAL person! :-)