How Running Changed Me – Katie Anaya – Runner’s World

How Running Changed Me – Katie Anaya  Runner’s World

Atlanta, Georgia
Product Manager
Time Running:
15 years
Reason for Running:
Because I absolutely love it!

I started running in junior high school at age 13. My star event was the 300-meter hurdles. I wouldn’t say I liked distance running—it seemed extremely boring. My coach made me run the 3200-meter relay, which only required me to run two laps around the track, and I walked the entire leg in protest. Fast forward 16 years later to 2011 when I started running again, and I now love it.

When we were newly married, my husband wanted us to do an activity together and got me back into running. I complained nonstop, though, as I was out of shape and frustrated—I couldn’t even make it three-quarters of a mile without stopping.

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Things changed when we signed up for a 5K at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where I got my first medal. That race sparked something in me, and I wanted more. I signed up for a 10K, then a half marathon, and eventually, a full marathon. I was hooked.

While it was the bling of a shiny race medal that first got me, I soon realized I could accomplish crazy things and loved the challenges running brought. Today my favorite distance is the half marathon.

As a full-time IT professional and mom of three boys, running has always been an avenue to clear my head and give me time to recharge. Running has also helped me connect with a community of parents and runners who understand the stress of parenthood, and the benefits of running.

My proudest running accomplishment, though, has been running while pregnant—I’ve run throughout all of my pregnancies. During my third pregnancy, I ran a half marathon every month! I loved the look on people’s faces during races when they’d see me pass by with a basketball in my belly. It was priceless.

Not everyone can run during pregnancy, but staying consistent with my running helped me. I like to think that staying active while carrying my kids helped to keep my baby and me healthy, and also helped with my recovery. Sometimes, it required adjusting speed and pace, and I felt like I was running up a mountain on a flat road. But I kept going. Extra hydration was a must for me, and a maternity sports belt helped take the pressure off my bladder, reducing bathroom stops on my long runs. I kept up with strength training during my pregnancy, too.

In September of 2022, at four months postpartum, I decided to run 40 miles for my 40th birthday. My running coach planned the mileage ramp up when I was two-plus months postpartum. I had run two ultramarathons before this, so I knew I had to slow down when hitting high mileage.

Originally, I planned to run the 40 miles in one day, but the weather forecast changed to pouring rain, so I started a day early to see how far I could get before the expected monsoon. I made it 22 miles before getting hit with extreme downpours. I kept my watch on pause and returned the following day to finish the remaining 18 miles. It rained again, but I had two girlfriends with me, and I am so thankful for their support. In the end, I ran a total of 40.41 miles soaking wet, and felt so accomplished!

I make running a priority because I love it—I wake up early before my kids to fit in a run. Sometimes that means 5 a.m. track workouts, the treadmill, or running loops around my block. But, I always feel good after a run, and can start my day with more energy.

Unfortunately, I developed gluteal tendinopathy while training for the 2022 New York City Marathon. I developed my injury from a combination of things: slacking off on my strength training, overtraining (going from one marathon to the next), and a bit of stubbornness, to be honest.

I learned I must slow down and let my body rest to stay in the long-term run game. After running for nearly two years straight, I’ve learned that isn’t sustainable for my body.

It’s been about two months since my injury, and I’m doing rehab and physical therapy. My 2023 goal is to get back to running smart and strong, and run my third Chicago Marathon.

What started a a love of medals has turned into a lifestyle. My kids always ask if I’m going out to run a race or run errands. I am most proud to be a runner in the midst of motherhood.

Running has been my mental health outlet. Being without it while recovering has been hard, and I’ve noticed my stress and anxiety have increased. For me, running is more than just a hobby—it’s a part of my life. I’m thankful for the ability to run and move my body every day!

These three tips have made my running journey a success:

1. Do more than just run

Running alone is a great way to stay healthy, but to run long miles and long term, you can’t just run alone. Strength training is key to protect you on the pavement.

2. Find a running buddy

Accountability is key to staying consistent at anything. Running is no exception. Find a buddy to run with, and you’ll soon get triple the benefits of your runs—exercise, free therapy, and a world of laughs. I’m part of the .

3. Slow down and enjoy the moment

Running isn’t about getting a Boston Qualifying time and winning races. Most of us will never experience either. It’s about the joy of moving our bodies, no matter our size, shape, and pace.

Katie’s Must-Have Gear

: They allow me to slip running shoes on and off easily. Plus, the personalized elastic compression bumps relieve any foot pressure I might have with any pair of shoe. Bonus: my kids use them for school, too.

: The graduated compression helps with blood circulation when I run long distances and with recovery afterward. These aren’t your grandma’s compression stockings. They come in hundreds of fun colors and designs, and I have over 300 pairs!

: I religiously use this spray to prevent chafing when running in the hot Georgia summers. It doesn’t stain. Just don’t spray it inside the house or you’ll be slipping and sliding all over the place.

: They are so lightweight you can barely feel them. They give you the ability to listen to music while being aware of your surroundings. They’re also water and sweat resistant, so it’s okay if your kid drops them in the toilet.

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Emily Shiffer

Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania.