Elizabeth Hansen (or E-Speed) is 26 years old and a ball of energy. A runner since 1992, with 10 marathons, 4 50K's, and two 50 mile races under her belt, she knows a few things about competitive racing. She ran the Boston Marathon two times (2005 and 2006), and her marathon PR (Personal Record) is 3:27:16 in Columbus 2005. After reading her Blog, Run With Me, and learning about her impressive experience, funny running stories and entertaining anecdotes of family life, I decided to ask Elizabeth a few questions about her career as an athlete. Elizabeth is not only a runner, but an avid race volunteer, race pacer, and accomplished tri-athlete. If anyone would have some good advice or enlightening stories for new runners or competitive athletes, I’m sure she would:
How did you become involved with running and the running community?
In sixth grade my homeroom teacher was also the cross country coach. He saw a scrawny little kid and thought I'd be perfect for running. He convinced me to run in intramural cross country and track and I was hooked from then on. I went on to run cross country every year of middle school and high school. At my peak I ran a 20:03 5K at the Michigan High School Division 1 States Competition. Earning a place on the Academic All States list my freshman and sophomore years. I slowed down after that and struggled to compete in college. I had some issues with stress fractures and weight gain. In 2004 I signed up to do the Chicago Triathlon with Team in Training and I haven't looked back since!
What kind of runner are you? Are you competitive during a race, or do you run to keep healthy?
Definitely competitive. I am driven by my own personal goals and I must admit I thrill in placing high at races. At some point I would like to win a 50K. If my training goes well the next few years I think it is possible. My other primary goals are to break 20 in the 5K and to break 3:20 in the marathon. Thankfully I enjoy running all distances 5K up to 50 so there will be plenty of opportunities for new personal records along the way!
What do you love about being a pacer?
I am a running chatter box. I love to talk and most of my runs are social. Pacing gave me the chance to talk to a whole new group of runners as well as help them to achieve their personal goals. I would love to coach cross country some day but as that is not likely. Pacing is a fun way of being a "coach for the day." The runners out there count on you and look up to you and trust that you will advise them throughout the day. It is a big responsibility but also a lot of fun!
What have you learned from being both a volunteer for a race and a runner in a race?
I love volunteering for races. At the Burning River 100 mile race this year I headed up the aid station at mile 91.3. You truly appreciate what goes into a race like that when you are manning an aid station. The first runner came through our aid station hours before the next runner. We had to be on alert and ready to help runners throughout the night and into the late morning. It was so inspiring and I truly believe most of the runners would not accomplish their goal without the help of the volunteers. I started my endurance lifestyle with Team in Training in 2004 and have mentored for their program. Many of the people in TNT are first timers and are out there to cover the distance no matter how long it takes. I have a special love for the tri-athletes and runners who are back of the packers. They work so much harder than most of the speedy folks and I am always crushed when a race does not follow through on support for those last athletes to cross the line. I think seeing a race from the volunteer side of things makes me a much more appreciative racer. I always make sure to thank the volunteers throughout the day. Without them there would be no race.
What is your advice to new runners?
First and foremost go out and get fitted for a good pair of running shoes. So many injuries come from running in old crappy shoes. Talk with a shoe expert and find out what will work for you. Your feet will be happy and your running will be better because of it. I think when you start running it is so easy to quit. Running is not easy the first time around and it may not even be easy for the first few months. But I promise the benefits are worth the effort. I truly feel so many people are missing out by not running. I can't fathom not being able to run. Once you get over the initial soreness and difficulty breathing, running is truly so enjoyable. I find it almost meditative. My other advice would be to keep it fun. Run in different places, run with different groups, run at different paces. Mixing up your training makes it more of an adventure and less of a chore. I truly can say I look forward to 99% of my runs now. Most of that is because I have a different group to run with everyday.
I hardly ever run alone anymore and on the occasion I do it is a treat rather than being something to dread.
How has running changed your life?
I honestly cannot imagine life without running. Running has opened up a whole new social world for me. I have met so many wonderful people that I never would have met without running. I am truly so blessed to have so many good people in my life. I can call upon any of them at anytime to go out and get in a workout. I am by nature a ball of energy and I think running is a great outlet for me. If I didn't run I would be bouncing off the walls constantly. Running is kind of my own personal therapy as well as a great way to stay in shape!
Visit Elizabeth Hansen’s Blog Run With Me for more information about her running career, running tips, or just as a fun read. Her witty writing is just what you’ll need to keep motivated!
(Picture Credits: Picture #1 captured by Mike Keller from Running With Scissors 60K, picture #2 captured by North Country Trail Marathon photos, picture #3 captured by Brian Stern from a local 5K race)