Let’s Get to Know … Praful Aggarwal!

Joining a new running group can be a bit intimidating. But Milwaukee transplant, Praful Aggarwal, encourages everyone to give it a try.

“Over the past couple of years, I have realized how awesome runners are,” he says. “I always tell people that really all they have to do is show up. The veteran group members do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and enjoy the workout.”

Read on to learn more about Praful and his running journey!

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Age: 28 years
Years running: About 3 years ago, I got on a treadmill for the first time. But when tragedy struck the Boston Marathon, I decided to take running more seriously. My friend, Wendy Demos, helped me understand running. She introduced me to races, training plans, running stores, like PRO, and so much more. So I would have to say that I have been running for a little more than 2 years.
Favorite workout: I enjoy working out in a group, so anytime I get to participate in a group run or fitness class is when I have the most fun. More specifically I really enjoy speed workouts at the Hart Park track and Core/Strength classes at the WAC Wauwatosa.
Favorite gear: I am not too gear heavy and just need my Timex (30-lap watch) and shoes.
Pre-race routine: I like to get up at least 2-3 hours before a race in order to foam roll/stretch and get my stomach to feel like I want it to. Besides that, just get to the race and warm-up.
Favorite post-race treat: Watermelon and Oranges.
Favorite distance to race: Half Marathon. My first “real” race was a half marathon, so I just have a special thing for half marathons.
Favorite inspirational running quote: I would have to say, “Run Forrest Run” from Forrest Gump.

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Why did you start running and what’s kept you running throughout the years?
I used to be really big, so I took up running on a treadmill to get in shape. I quickly realized how boring and monotonous it was. So I started running outside and I really enjoyed it. However, once the distances started to get longer, my interest in running started to decline. Then one day, I ran into Angie Smith at a Lakefront Marathon Build-up Run and she literally took me under her wing. She introduced me to people and then I started running with her, Mariya Sorensen, Paul Kopernik, Robert Kowalski and others. There hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t enjoyed a run. Even when I have to run alone, the anticipation of running with my buddies later that week or next week and chatting about our training and stuff is what really keeps me going. And there is also the fact that I don’t want to get big again and, due to my love for food, if I don’t run I’ll be a beach ball in no time.

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Fill in the blank: When I run, I feel _______!
Thankful and humble

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?
To be honest, I just want to keep running. But as far as goals go, I want to improve on my half marathon time and get in the 1:35 range. Besides that, it’ll be really cool to one day say that I ran Boston.

How are you involved in the local running community and what encouraged you to get involved?
The first thing I did was become a member of the Badgerland Striders, which has been incredible. It helped me identify racing events in MKE and I started volunteering at races. I love every bit of it. It is just so much fun and the gratitude that runners express toward volunteers is such a rewarding feeling. So, I do try to volunteer as much as I can. What prompted me to get involved is that I enjoy people watching and meeting people, so volunteering and being involved in the running community is a really good way of achieving both these things.

Sometimes people are intimidated to come to a running meetup – what would you tell these runners to encourage them to give it a try?
Over the past couple of years, I have realized how awesome runners are. I always tell people that really all they have to do is show up. The veteran group members do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and enjoy the workout. That’s why I am always trying to recruit people to come to speed workouts at the Hart Park track.

Where are you originally from – and what brought you to MKE? What is it like running in MKE compared with where you are from?
I am from Delhi, India. I came to MKE to attend Marquette University for an MS degree. Actually MKE is where I started running and to me I really don’t know anything else. I never really ran in Delhi so I cannot compare the two, but Delhi is a big and beautiful city with some hot/humid weather for most of the year. I would imagine that runs at dusk and dawn will be really nice there. I’ll definitely take my kicks with me when I go back and will share my experience.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I live in Wauwatosa and love running around Hart Park and Hansen Park. However, my favorite place to run is by Lake Michigan, especially the routes that we take during the Lakefront Marathon Build-up Runs.

What are some of your favorite Milwaukee races?
I really like the Hartfest Half in Wauwatosa, as it is a pretty decent-sized event, is right in my neighborhood and the food after the race is simply amazing. Last year, I ran the Lakefront Discovery Run and I had a blast. The creativity behind all the costumes was just mind-blowing. I also like the Lake Country Half in Oconomowoc.

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What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?
I have lived in Milwaukee for almost six years now, and I think it is a nice-size city, which makes it perfect to run and workout. All the parks, trails and sidewalks are fairly well maintained and thus are good for running. The weather is also “pretty” good for running. However, the best part about running in MKE is the people. They are welcoming, appreciative and encouraging. There is always somebody either running, walking, biking or just hanging out. Once you put your shoes and get out the door, you just experience good positive vibes which are really something else.

Any other comments?
Running has changed my life. I know this will sound corny but I feel like it is my better half as it makes me better every time I am with it. I owe so much to it and to all the people who have become a significant part of my life. These are people whom I would have never met had it not been for running. These friendships are what I really cherish the most. I just have so much fun doing this that I am always on the hunt to get more people to run, which is weird considering that there was a time when I despised running.

Thanks for chatting with us, Praful!

Enjoy the rest of the week, everyone! And as always …

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Bill Flaws!

What’s one thing we all do after a race? We look through the race pics!

Sometimes, a pic captures a runner at his or her best, while other times the struggle is evident. But no matter what, they are a memory of the day and evidence of another race in the books.

Race photographer, Bill Flaws, has photographed about 400 races to date so he’s just about seen it all. Read on to learn more about how he got started and what he loves about taking race pics!

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Has photography always been a business or hobby? If so, what types of things do you photograph other than races?
Race photography and photography in general has always been a hobby for me. When I’m not taking pictures at races, I enjoy taking landscape and architectural type photos.

When did you start taking race pics and what inspired you to start?
I started taking pics at races when my wife (Mary Flaws) started running. It was a way to document her races. As she continued running more and more races, I decided that since I was there to support/cheer her on, I might as well snap pics of the other runners. I started posting these pics on our Running in the USA website as a way to generate some interest in the site. Eventually I had people asking if they could buy prints or digital downloads. That is when I decided to create an account at SmugMug to allow people to not only view all the photos but purchase prints, merchandise or downloads.

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To date, how many races have you photographed? Also, what are some of the highlights?
It looks like I’ve taken photos at about 400 races (running/tri/du) and have taken close to a quarter million photos. Oh my, that sounds crazy doesn’t it?!?

The furthest away race was the Big Island International Marathon in Hilo, HI which was Mary’s and our friend Joey Heinrichs’ 50th state. I believe I’ve taken race photos in 48 different states – no New York or Kansas for sure. Mary did the New York Marathon during a girls’ weekend trip to New York and she decided to do a marathon in Kansas when I had already committed to take photos at a race here in the Milwaukee metro area. I’m sure someday I will have the opportunity to finish out those two states!

One of the smallest was probably a race that Mary ran in Wyoming on a mountain ski hill. That race had a 50M, 50K, marathon and 10K. Mary was one of about 25 marathoners. As for the largest race I’ve taken photos at…you’d think Chicago Marathon would be an obvious answer since its close and one of the largest (and Mary did run the Chicago Marathon), however I did not take photos when she ran that race! Probably the largest I’ve taken photos at is the Boston Marathon or the Marine Corps Marathon.

What is your strategy when taking pics at races?
Before a race I try to take a look at the course along with checking out Google maps of the general area. From those, I decide which spots on the course I can get to, how far into the race is the location, where will the sun be, etc. At the race, I try to get pics of the start and at least one other spot during the race where the runners have thinned out a bit. I generally try to avoid being right at the finish line so as to not get in the way of spectators/family cheering on their runner.

After photographing so many races – and also being married to Mary – are you also a runner or did you run at some point?
This may be one of the most asked questions I get…So, do you run also? I did run some track in high school. Short distances…200 and 400. That was enough for me! I love the challenge of trying to capture and record athletes in competition. I like the determined looks on their faces and the emotion that comes out when athletes realize they are going to finish a race – be it a 5K or 50 mile. The energy from the spectators is great at most events and I’ve met lots of awesome/inspiring people through this little hobby. Since I don’t run, it’s my way of giving back to the running community.

What are some of the funniest/most interesting ‘poses’ you’ve seen runners do during races?
I usually see the standard things – arms out with a big smile on their face running right at the camera; peace sign; thumbs up; sticking tongue out along with the “moose ears” maneuver (which is mostly from Mary!). I will occasionally get people that see me and jump in the air with a fist up. If you do this, please be careful…I actually had someone do that and he cramped up right as he landed – felt bad for him as he hobbled down the road. I’ve had lots of times when groups of women will stop to pose or a group of friends running side-by-side who will hold hands above like a victory salute. It’s all fun and gives me a chuckle.

What are some memorable races that you’ve photographed?
Some are memorable because of the weather that day or the scenery was awesome or my wife/friends had a spectacular day on the course or the friendly spectators/locals that I talked to. But here are a few that I won’t soon forget …

Run/Walk to Irish Fest in Milwaukee – This was not a good memory but memorable for sure. I had parked my vehicle on Lincoln Memorial Drive and during the race someone did a smash and grab. Broke the passenger side window and took off with a camera backpack and another bag with a backup camera body, lens and other accessories. Never saw that stuff again.

Salmon Marathon in Salmon, ID – This was a memorable one for me because of the locals I talked to did not mention the scenery. I had picked out a spot to take photos and a couple of guys had come out to watch the marathoners go by. They saw me with a big camera and came over to chat while I waited for the marathoners. I was probably there for over half an hour. They were not runners but were very appreciative of this marathon coming through their community and genuine enjoyed cheering for the runners going by.

Boston Marathon – I’ve been fortunate to be able to accompany Mary and other running friends to the Boston Marathon four times. My favorite is taking ‘the T’ from downtown Boston out to mile 17. Lots of spectators but you can still find space to get to the edge of the road to see the lead women and men along with the media trucks, etc. – and then see the rest of the field and hopefully spot your friends! Quite an awesome sight to see and the energy is great.

What are your top tips for taking a great race pic?
The first three are the real tips … the last three are suggestions:
1. Keep the sun at your back, but watch where your shadow falls!
2. Background – Try to pick a spot where the background won’t clutter up or distract from the main focus of the photo, the athlete
3. Get low – take pics looking up at runners, makes runners look better plus if you are taking photos of running kids, you are then down at their level as well
4. Take lots and lots of photos and then select the best ones.
5. Keep the camera as level as possible
6. Try to keep shutter speed well above 1/250 second which will help ‘freeze’ the action.

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One thing we’ve noticed is that Running in the USA race pics are very reasonably priced compared with other companies. What was behind the decision to keep prices down?
I did this on purpose. This truly is a hobby for me and this is my little way of hopefully giving back to the running community. Earnings from the sales goes back to paying the hosting company fees for hosting the photos and to buy/repair/replace/upgrade camera equipment.

What upcoming races will you be at and how will runners know it’s you so they can give a friendly wave?
Well, as I tell everyone … I will most likely be at a race that Mary is running or local races in the Milwaukee metro area. So, you may see me at the Mad City 50K in Madison, WI (4/11/2015), maybe at the First Call Half Marathons in Waukesha, WI (4/12/2015), certainly at Run for the Hills in Brookfield, WI (4/26/2015) and Ice Age 50 in La Grange, WI (5/9/2015).

If you see a goof with a big camera and white lens over his shoulder, usually a black hat and crouching near (but not right at the finish line!) … pretty good chance it’s me. Just yell Bill, that’s what most do!

Thanks for chatting with us, Bill! To learn more about Running in the USA, visit www.runningintheusa.com.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Angie Smith!

If you’re a Badgerland Striders member or race locally, chances are you’ve met Angie. She’s the woman who always has a fancy bow in her hair (she makes them herself!) and always has an encouraging word for her fellow runners.

We recently met Angie in a guest post about Disney races. Now, we get to know more about her training, racing goals and what she believes makes MKE a special place for runners!

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Age: 30
Years running: 16 years, with about 14 of them being solid; I had a couple years off in there.
Favorite workout: I really enjoy the spring/summer speed workouts with the Striders and also their marathon build up long runs. Favorite speed workout would probably be 5 sets of 4×400 starting at marathon pace and ending at mile pace. I love to run in groups so any time I have company is a good workout.
Favorite gear: I am very minimal and pretty much just need my watch (Nike Plus) and shoes.
Pre-race routine: I try to wake up 2-3 hours before the race. Other than that I don’t do much, but now that I am working with ThunderDome running, I am working on some stretching beforehand.
Favorite post-race treat: I have tried to give up soda so if it is a big race I will sometimes have a soda afterward or some fruity candy like Skittles or Gummy Bears.
Favorite distance to race: I really enjoy the 5k. My high school coach, who helped me out from 1998 thru 2014, always says I have faster twitch muscles than endurance muscles which makes me a better 5k-er. Although I do miss running the mile (1600) which I did in high school and college. Also in college I ran Steeplechase and really enjoyed that race.

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Why did you start running?
I started running because that is all I ever did. If you ask any of my family members, I ran before I walked as a child. My mom said it would drive her nuts that I ran everywhere; she wondered if I knew how to walk. So when I was at high school (Milwaukee High School of the Arts) freshman orientation, I passed the cross country booth. I knew I wanted to run track but knew nothing about cross country. My mom and I talked with them and found out track wasn’t till the spring but this was a great build up for track season. Plus I saw the lettermen jacket and I am a very award driven type of person and that was right up my alley. I can also say that a big portion of why I run is because of my high school coach, John Rodahl. We have built a great relationship through all the running we have done together. I honestly don’t know if I would have kept running if it wasn’t for him. I consider him a second father and we talk at least once a week.

What does a typical training week look like for you?
My training week includes five days running and two off days. My running days consist of three easy runs of four to five miles, one interval workout and one long run. This is typical to what most runners run. Since I am just starting with Matt Thull and ThunderDome Running, I am excited to see where my workouts will take me. I am sure things will change up a bit, but I know the structure will be similar each week.

Fill in the blank: When I run, I feel ____
Stress free and in the moment!

You recently started working with Matt Thull and ThunderDome Running. Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to work with a coach?
I decided to start working with a coach because I am a crazy Type A personality. Last year I drove myself crazy writing my own training schedule. I can sit down and write it out for others with no problem, but when it came to me I found myself over thinking it. What helped was calling Rodahl to check and see if what I was planning made sense. But I wanted to take on some larger goals this year and I didn’t want the added stress of trying to figure out how to get myself there.

I met Matt at the speed workouts in the summer and started following some of his athletes. I liked the results I was seeing from them, and I was also seeing great results from attending the workouts. I knew this was going to be the right decision for me. Also I would stay and chat with Matt after practice and we seemed to get along great. I felt like I could trust him, which he or any runner will tell you is one of the most important components between a coach and his athlete.

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?
I am hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I am currently in the hardest time frame for women – a 3:35 marathon which comes out to an average of 8:12 a mile. I am also hoping to break the 1:40 mark in a half marathon and just improve on my race times overall.

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You run the Badgerland Striders track workouts at the Pettit. Can you tell us a bit about the workouts?
Matt Thull and I have worked it out with the Striders. He will run the spring/summer (May-September) workouts and I will run the fall/winter (October -April) workouts to keep it going all year long. I volunteered to continue on with the speed workouts after Matt could no longer run them due to fall obligations.

For the winter we have been having anywhere from 15-20 people who show up. The workouts are on Tuesday nights at 6:30 at the Pettit for fall/winter and then same time and day but at Hart Park for spring/summer. Anyone is welcome to join and we have all paces that come. I know it can be very intimidating but we really have a friendly group of people. I try to alternate between longer intervals and shorter intervals. Sometimes I reuse workouts we did with Matt in the summer or use ones I have read about or ran at the high school, college and club level. I have also had people ask to do specific workouts, so we throw those into the loop, too. We are flexible enough to try to work in any suggestions that people have or to try something new.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I enjoy the long runs starting at Lake Park Bistro, but when I was living in Milwaukee, I loved my loop through downtown Wauwatosa. There were always people out and about and stuff to look at. I now live in Caledonia, and there is a little village called Wind Point about a mile and half from me. I have a 6½ mile loop that takes me past cows, corn fields and then these huge gorgeous houses that face Lake Michigan. I also go through a golf course and then pass the Wind Point light house, which has some gorgeous views of the lake. But mostly if I am running, I will enjoy it wherever I am.

What are some of your favorite Milwaukee races?
I do have a special place in my heart for the Badgerland Striders Lakefront Marathon. It was my first, second and third marathon and I just love the course and the time of the year. There is no better way to view fall in Wisconsin than with that race. I also enjoy the races put on by Lighthouse Events, such as the Winter Running Series. I like that they award points and have series winners at the end since I am award driven. I also got to be part of the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay this year and we had a blast and will be back for sure. I also pace with Performance Running Outfitters for Rock N Sole, Brewers Mini and, new this year, the Milwaukee Running Festival. Pacing a race brings a whole different feeling of accomplishment than when you race yourself, and I love that. I love helping others achieve their goals, and it makes it more fun for me too.

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What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?
By running the Disney races this year and through Facebook, I met a ton of runners throughout the United States and came to realize we have so much support here. When I talked about the group of 100 people that come to the build ups, versus all these people who had to do their training runs on their own, I realized how strong of a running community we have. Also our runners are so nice and friendly; other places that did not seem to be the case. I love the support we give to all people, no matter pace or experience, and I hope everyone utilizes what we have here. It would be a waste not to.

Any other comments?
If you have any questions about the Badgerland Striders or the speed workouts, feel free to contact me via Facebook or stop me at race. I love to talk running, so don’t worry.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Angie! If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Thomas Budde

Running provides countless benefits for those logging the miles. But it also has the potential to do a lot of good for others.

Thomas Budde, founder of the GIVE Shirt, uses running and racing to help inspire others to become healthier and happier. And through his nonprofit organization, he raises money to spread the goodwill even further.

Read on to learn more about the GIVE Shirt and Budde’s own running!

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Age: 140. Not yet! Still only 41.
Years running: 41. But much more often the past 8 years.
Favorite workout: Training groups of clients and constantly switching between numerous types of running (sprints, hills, steps, backward, etc.) and core with a wide variety of other natural body strengthening (pull-ups, push-ups, dips, crawls, jumps, lunges, etc.)
Favorite distance to race: 50 miles
Pre-race routine: Drink as much purified water with natural electrolytes from glass containers as possible for days, and eat as much organic vegan natural raw food as possible for at least a day.
Favorite post-race treat: Raw Meal by Garden of Life – Vanilla
Must-have gear: The GIVE shirt, and “give” hat (both dri-fit) – to spread the message and be super comfortable regardless of the weather. Calf Compression Sleeves (printed with the word “give”, of course!)

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How did you get started with running?
A Facebook “note” entitled “A Tale of Two Six, pt. 2” tells the story excellently.

In short, I finally registered for a sprint triathlon to help myself become healthier (exercise, nutrition, etc.). I found myself running the Chicago Marathon a few months later after only having run 11 miles once. I suffered incredibly, learned more than I imagined possible, and helped many others by having and sharing the experience.

What’s kept you running?
So many reasons … I’m healthier and younger and feel better physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, creatively, etc. I love to help motivate and inspire others to also become healthier and happier.

Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?
I run to help others – by directly inspiring and motivating them to be healthier and happier, as well as by increasing my vitality and lifespan in order to help others more, and for more years to come.

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What does a typical training week look like for you?
Jogging, hills, steps before and after sessions with clients. Wide variety of workouts with numerous clients, from intense cardio and strength cross-training to walking. Jogging to and from places instead of driving. Taking young nieces and nephew for runs and actively playing with them (chasing around house and yard, pushups with them on my back, helping them do pull-ups). Occasional jogs with friends or groups. Rare jogs from house alone. Ideally a longer run of 20-40 miles in warmer months.

Several yoga sessions. $15 Acupuncture at Milwaukee Community Acupuncture. “Energy” Massage by Jane Borden. Stretching. Sauna. Steam room. Meditation. Sufficient sleep. Large amount and variety of organic, vegan, natural, and often raw veggies with hummus, berries and other fruits, spirulina, chlorella, bee pollen, maca, coconut yogurt, kimchi, quinoa, nuts, seeds, etc. With irregular swimming, biking, weights, and a wide variety of other sports.

Can you tell us about The Give Shirt?
All info, including videos, is on http://www.thegiveshirt.com/. In short, we are increasing the consciousness and behavior of giving throughout the world, thereby making it a happier and healthier place. Uniquely and primarily we do this by distributing clothing printed with the word “give”. We also give ALL of the proceeds to numerous other charities, while simultaneously raising public awareness of those charities. We are 100% volunteer-operated and are only limited by the number of dedicated volunteers – so we hope you join us!

When did the project begin and how has it grown over the years?
2008. The initial “huge” idea was to get hundreds of shirts (all organic cotton, unisex, black t-shirts) and give all the proceeds away. We now have more than 10,000 pieces of apparel printed with the word give, thousands of which have already been distributed. And the idea has become an international movement which has become my way of life.

What is your goal for The Give Shirt?
That every person in the world is as happy and healthy as possible. We believe that giving is a powerful and essential tool to accomplish this.

What inspired you to start The Give Shirt?
In Thailand, I experienced people freely giving everything. And they are the happiest people I’ve ever seen. I began dedicating my life to helping others also be truly happy by sharing this powerful message of giving. For Christmas, I asked everybody to please not give me any “things”. My brother gave me a shirt with the word “give” on the front.

I tried to buy a couple more shirts just like it and couldn’t find one! I had to have them made. It cost less to make 12 shirts, so I was going to give some to others. Suddenly I realized … why not have thousands made so the act of giving can be promoted by even more people? The whole process can be about giving, so I won’t keep any money and give all of the proceeds to charities!

Thus, the GIVE shirt movement was born.

How do you raise money?
The 6th Annual Worldwide Runathon to Raise Awareness of Health is one way. People across the globe raise money for and/or donate money to any good cause of their choice, and some choose the GIVE shirt movement. Many give donations other times of the year, including when they get the GIVE shirt and other apparel. Sometimes volunteers organize other fundraising events, etc.

Who benefits from The Give Shirt?
Due to the ripple effect, everyone in the world, including in the coming future, benefits in some way. Everyone who consciously or subconsciously sees the word give printed on someone’s clothing benefits. Those wearing the clothing and promote the concept of giving benefit even more! Multitudes of charities that we help raise awareness of and money for benefit, especially those for whom we offer the GIVE shirt at their events. Volunteers benefit. Etc.

How can people get involved or donate to The Give Shirt?
Click the “Donate” button on the top right of website. Send an email to theGIVEshirt@gmail.com. See more info at the “Volunteer” tab.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
Trails without pollution and noise. Though I live to influence others, I also like running in traffic only for that reason. But along the lake downtown is a good mix of the two with hills and steps. I love sharing the energetic vibration of others, especially active, positive people caring about and enjoying themselves and the environment and helping others.

What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
The Badgerland Striders Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. We are partnered with them. They sponsor a booth for us to offer the GIVE shirt at the expo and provide a race entry for me to run with everyone, while co-promoting our cause year-round on the website, build-up runs, etc.

All other Badgerland Strider runs are great events with great people and super affordable entry fees because they are not a business making money, but rather a nonprofit group of volunteers and great people helping the community become healthier and happier by running!

I also love the concept of any charity run/walk, 5k or otherwise. Because the point is to help others. And running/walking is the tool. They also draw a great variety of people, many of whom are looking to help and “give”!

Any other comments?
Hope to see everyone at the Runathon! Or that everyone at least registers and does something active that day, wherever they are.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Thomas! If you’d like to learn more about Thomas and The Give Shirt, you can connect here:

Website: http://www.thegiveshirt.com/

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Annie Weiss

You met Annie about a month ago when we featured Fit With Food Consulting. Now’s your chance to get to know a bit more about the runner behind the business.

Annie recently placed 5th at the Black Canyon 100k in Arizona, her first attempt at the distance. We’re so impressed with her transition from the roads to the trails – and below she tells us how she did it!

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Age: 30
Years running: 5-6 years
Favorite workout: Long runs!
Favorite distance to race: 50 miler
Pre-race routine: So easy – I just wake up, and go!!! I get ready the night before – clothes and gear all laid out, glide in the AM and lace up!
Favorite post-race treat: Burger. Definitely a burger.
Must-have gear: Hydration pack and my Altras.

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How did you get started with running?
Honestly, I was sick of going to the gym to workout. One summer day in 2008, I said to myself, I think I’ll go for a run. And then I just kept going.

Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?
“Miles Make Champions.” Another runner said that to me during my first ultra and it has stuck with me ever since.

What does a typical training week look like for you?
I’m currently starting my next training period, so right now just building up the miles. I do 1-2 workouts per day. Typically one is easier than the other. The easier one will be weight training, spinning or hiking with a backpack of weight at a 15 percent incline. The other workout is a run that varies in intensity, speed and length. My miles per week range from 40-80.

sm20140126_000447_img_0093Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

How did you get into trail and ultrarunning? And what was the transition like moving from the roads to the trails?
I got into it when a running mate told me that I have the potential to get to Western States. So I started to run ultras. After about two years of injuries and having to stop running for a bit, I am finally back and going full force to achieve my goals. The transition from roads to trails wasn’t too challenging for me, but it all depends on your goals. A couple of years ago, my goal was an Olympic qualifying time. It would not help my road racing to stay on the trails; just like road racing now doesn’t help my trail goals.

How is trail running different from road running? And, do your racing strategies differ when doing a trail race versus a road race?
It is so different! You have to have extremely strong stabilizer muscles, be able to slow down quite a bit, and tap into your aerobic capacity for long periods of time. Lots of patience and strength are needed – physically and mentally. It’s a completely different beast. My racing strategies differ completely – in trail running, the tortoise will always win.

What is the longest distance you’ve raced? How did you find the strength to push through the final miles?
Longest right now is the 50 miler [Note: since this interview, Weiss raced a 100k], and this year, I have a 100k and 100 miler scheduled. I find the strength to keep pushing because I love the feeling of crossing a finish line – I always keep that feeling in mind.

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Will you continue to focus on trail and ultrarunning or are more road races in your future?
There are no road races in my future, unless coach says so! Right now, I will remain on the trails and completing ultra distances. When I attempt to make one of the national ultra teams, I’ll be back on the roads, but I have a little time for that.

Do you currently work with a coach? If so, how has that relationship helped strengthen your running?
I do currently work with a coach. I have worked with ThunderDome Running in the past – AWESOME for road racing. And I have also worked with Zach Bitter – another awesome coach! Based on my current goals, I am working with Tommy Rivers. My relationship with him has driven my motivation out the roof. He is incredible to work with.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
My favorite places in Milwaukee include the lakefront for sure! I run the back trails of Tosa once in a blue moon, but do nearly all of my running in the Northern and Southern Kettle and Lapham Peak. Also, Nashota Park, Pike Lake and anywhere there are woods.

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What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
When I was road running, Run into the New Year was always a blast! On the ultra side of things – Ice Age and Kettle are two of my favorites!

What are your running goals for the upcoming year?
My goals for this year include building up my endurance again and avoiding injury. Pending the next two years, we will pick a distance that I excel at and attempt the National Team. Long-term goal is to make the Altra Team.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Annie! If you’d like to learn more about Annie or Fit With Food Consulting, you can connect here:

Website: http://www.fitwithfoodconsulting.com/

Blog: https://aniweiss.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ani_weiss

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Rani Streff

We love stories that begin with someone looking to shape up by running a few miles a week and end with them falling head over heels with the sport. Such is the tale of Rani Streff – what began as a weight loss plan quickly turned into a full-blown love affair. She even changed her Instagram and Twitter handles to reflect her new love of running!

Read on to learn about how she got started, her most memorable racing moments and her favorite events in town.

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Rani Streff

Age: 25
Years running: 1 year, 10 months
Favorite workout: Currently: 6-7 mile progression run; during summer: long runs
Favorite distance to race: 5k
Pre-race routine: Silently freak out in the car 😉
Favorite post-race treat: I’m strangely usually never hungry after a race!
Must-have gear: Mizuno shoes

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How did you get started with running?
Like a lot of people I think, I actually started to lose weight/get in shape. I still lived with my dad and we had a dusty old treadmill, so it seemed like my best option at the time. I never ever, ever would’ve guessed I would end up loving it the way I do.

What role has running played in your life?
It’s made me a healthier, happier person – in ALL aspects of my life. I was previously very lost and quietly unhappy. Now I feel like I know what I want and have goals to work toward. It’s anchored me.

Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?
I have a few, but the two I find myself repeating most frequently during a challenging run or race are: “I can do hard things” and “Sometimes you just do things” (stolen from Scott Jurek!).

What does a typical training week look like for you?
Right now I don’t have a specific race I’m training for so I’ve fallen into this routine: T,W,Th: 6-7 miles tempo or progression, S: 8-15 comfortable, Su: 4-6 recovery.

Let’s chat a bit about your blog. How did you pick the name and what inspired you to start writing?
The name is a bit of a strange story – I used to use the username “couldberuthless” for pretty much everything (based off of the Something Corporate song) because it was never used and I wouldn’t have to use a number or anything. Once I started running, it made sense to make the change to my Instagram handle when all I posted about was running – and luckily, running fit in where ruthless was perfectly! The blog came secondary to the instagram, and I’m still working on figuring out what to post that people might actually be interested in!

What’s been your most memorable race?
It’s amazingly hard to choose because they’re all meaningful in different ways, but I’ll go with the obvious choice and say Lakefront Marathon. It was memorable for the fact that I was injured the entire training cycle and didn’t know if I’d even be able to run. In fact, most of my friends told me not to run. But I figured I would at least start, and I ended up doing leaps and bounds better than I had expected given the circumstances, never hitting the wall, and negatively splitting the course!

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Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
Before I (sadly) moved, I lived in Shorewood and had all these distances routed out perfectly from my apartment door. Most of these are my favorites. Conveniently we lived across the street from the Oak Leaf trail entrance on Capitol, and running to the lakefront and back along Lake Drive was probably my ultimate favorite.

It seems like you race a lot! What are some of your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
I think I race a lot because I love the running community in Milwaukee! It makes me happy and excited to feel like I’m surrounded by all these people who love running here, too. My favorite Milwaukee races would probably be: The Bacon Race in Cudahy because it’s such a fun atmosphere and Lakefront Marathon because it’s such a beautiful course. There are so many though; it’s hard to pick!

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What running goals are you looking to tackle next?
I’m mainly focusing on actually being able to train for a spring marathon next year. I was so surprised at how well things went on such little training for Lakefront that I’m excited to see what I can accomplish if I’m able to put into the training what I want to put into it. I’d also like to drop my half marathon PR significantly, but I won’t be focusing as much on that in training, just working harder at mentally mastering my body and mind to keep pushing the pace that I know I’m capable of holding.

Thanks for chatting with us, Rani! If you want to learn more about Rani, you can connect here:

Website: https://couldberunning.wordpress.com/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/couldberunning
Twitter: https://twitter.com/couldberunning

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Matt Kruger

If you race in MKE, you’d recognize Matt Kruger. He’s the tall redhead that starts and races from the front at distances from 5k to the marathon.

What you might not know is that Kruger lives with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that affects his ability to understand what other people are thinking or saying. But instead of using Asperger’s as a crutch, he believes it’s one of the sources of his running success.

Read on to learn more about Matt’s amazing journey from his start in a youth summer running program to training up to 120 mile weeks!

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2014 Lakefront Marathon
Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Matt Kruger

Age: 25
Years running: About 16 years
Team affiliation: Performance Running Outfitters
Favorite workout: Long distance along the lake
Favorite distance to race: Marathon and Half Marathon
Pre-race routine: I listen to my Christian music to get focused and do a light jog to get loose
Favorite post-race treat: Chocolate milk
Significant wins/placings:
– 6th place at Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon (2011) 2:39
– RACC winter race series champion in both the 5k and 10k (2011-2012)
– 2nd in the Heatbreaker Half Marathon (2012)
– Badgerland Striders Indoor 20k Champion (2013)

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Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

How did you get started with running?
When I was around 8 years old, my parents put me in a summer running program with the Greendale Recreation Department to see if I had interest in the sport of running after showing some potential in gym class at school. After joining the program, I have been running ever since.

What does a typical training week look like for you?
Generally, I like to do a lot of high-mileage training. When I am at my peak of training, I can average anywhere from 90 to 120 miles a week. I like to incorporate some speed work and some hills into my training, but distance is mostly what I like to focus on. Usually my distance runs are at a pretty moderate pace, and sometimes I like to try to increase the pace for the second half of a workout. I also like to swim and bike as cross training workouts.

What was your most memorable race and what made it stand out?
I have to say that my most memorable race was the Lakefront Marathon in 2011. I ran my fastest time ever and finished in 6th place. The thing that stuck out with that race was that after not running for many years, my high school coach (Richard Dodd) would run his first marathon back. It was neat to see him cross the finish line and encourage him after running the best race of my career.

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Can you tell us a bit about Asperger’s syndrome? When were you diagnosed with the condition and what does it mean to live with it?
I was diagnosed at 3 years old. I have trouble understanding what people are thinking and saying. I have trouble with my conversation skills, and find it makes it difficult for me to fit in socially. I was talking to a good friend of mine on the phone a few weeks ago and I asked her what her perspective was on how I could improve socially, and she gave me really great advice. If I could learn to be a better listener, I would be a blessing to those around me. I have always talked and struggled to really listen to the person that I was talking to, which makes it very difficult. I have been trying hard lately to become a better listener. I realize I have a long way to go yet, but I am realizing that if I learn to listen more, my relationships with my friends will be much stronger.

Does Asperger’s syndrome affect your running? On the flip side, how does running help?
I have a certain routine when I race, and if that routine gets compromised, I am worried I won’t perform well. By consistently doing it a certain way, I get more organized before a race.

In addition to Asperger’s syndrome, I also have Attention Deficit Disorder, which sometimes makes it difficult for me to stay focused at work and stay on track. I work at Wisconsin Detail Services, which is an automotive detailing shop in Glendale, and so it is very important for me to stay focused at work in order for me to stay productive on the job. I find that running helps me out a lot when it comes to focus and concentration, because running and relieving that energy after work helps me feel much more refreshed and ready to focus the next day.

With Asperger’s, I tent to fixate on things. When I am with friends and I see something that I like, I tend to fixate on it. For example, classic cars, which I have great interest in. If I see a Corvette driving down the road that catches my eye, I tend to ramble on about the car, even though some of my friends might not have the same interest as I do. Running has been another one of those interests that I tend to fixate on, and it has helped and harmed me, both at the same time. I like to make goals to stick by and really fixate on those goals, which motivates me to do better.

But sometimes my mind starts to fixate on thinks like what the competition will be like, how much prize money is offered, and who will be on the race course cheering me on. These things distract me from running my own race, and those things in the long run are meaningless anyway.

I have taken the past month off from running, including training, to cleanse my mind of those things that I was so fixated on before and have now learned to focus more on serving my God who has given me this gift to run in the first place. My Asperger’s will continue to cause me to fixate on things, but I pray that the Lord will allow me to control those fixations and focus on the things that really matter.

I would like to thank God for giving me Asperger’s, because without it, I might not have had the strength to stick with it as long as I have and not quit. Asperger’s has helped me a lot in my running, but it also has its challenges, so if I continue to seek the Lord, I know that he will give me the strength to use Autism as a tool to make me a stronger runner, because I know that Asperger’s is what makes me more passionate about the sport than anyone I know, and I have to learn to ignore the distractions that erupt because of this passion, and not let them hinder my running.

Do you have any running role models or mentors that have positively influenced your running?
One of the individuals that really inspired me ever since I set foot on the high school track is my high school coach, Coach Richard Dodd. He has been a real role model to me, and he was the one that started me on this journey that I am on right now.

When I started my freshman year of high school at Whitnall High School in Greenfield, the first person that I met was Coach Dodd. After running my first high school cross country meet in the junior varsity race at Sheridan Park in Cudahy, Coach saw the potential in me as an athlete. He pulled me aside and told me of this potential. He also realized the challenges that I have with Asperger’s and how that could affect my relationship with my teammates. So he spoke with my teammates and told them of the potential that I had and the challenges that I have socially with Autism. After going through middle school with problems with bullying and teasing, it felt good to be a part of a team, with a bunch of athletes who understood and respected my potential as a runner. It also felt good to be a part of a team of individuals who accepted me for who I am.
I continue to seek out Coach Dodd to this day, because ultimately he was the one who put this fire in me, and without him I might not be the man I am today.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
My favorite place to run in Milwaukee would have to be along the lakefront. The best place to run by far is the Oak Leaf Trail through Cudahy and St. Francis. It gives you a spectacular view of the lakefront, as well as downtown Milwaukee. Another great place to run, as I run there all the time throughout the winter months, is the Pettit National Ice Center. It provides a relief from the ice and snow that make up our Wisconsin winters. I really enjoy running there because I get to talk with some of my friends who are on the US Speedskating team, as well as meet new friends every time I run. It is also great because there are always fast runners there that I can hook up with to get some speed work in when I need it.

r20140726_080628_img_0501nw2014 Heatbreaker Half Marathon
Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
I really enjoy the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, and I do run that one every year. There is a new race starting next year, the Milwaukee Running Festival, which is said to draw more of an elite level crowd. I definitely plan on running in that race because I have been looking for a more elite level marathon race in the Milwaukee area and this will fit the bill for me. Another great race that I really enjoy running every year is the Firecracker Four on Independence Day. The race is held at Hales Corners Park, and even though the race is only 4 miles, it has been a tradition for me to run in that race ever since my freshman year of high school. Coach Dodd was the one who started the race so I have done it ever since he told me about it prior to my freshman year.

What running goals are you looking to tackle during the next few years?
My main goal right now is to just improve on my times. I realized that the past few years I have been caught up on who was faster than me in a race and how I wanted to place in a race. I have been trying too hard to impress people who come to the races and have lost focus on the real reason why I race.

My biggest goal is to stop being concerned with who I am going to impress in a race, and focus on using my racing as an opportunity to worship God for the gift that He has given me. I have overcome a lot in my life. I have overcome and survived cancer and have been able to manage my Asperger’s syndrome. It would be awesome to show people the power of God’s love on the race course and for people to see me not only as a good runner, but as a follower of Christ and that the Holy Spirit lives in me.

It says in Philippians 4:13-14: Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

This is one of my favorite bible verses and it shows that no matter if I win or lose, I still have to keep my focus on the one who gave me this gift. If I get caught up on other things and use running as an idol, then that is when I slip and my times fall apart. If I can keep my life in perspective, nothing, not even an Olympic gold medal, is out of reach, because I know that nothing is impossible with God. I just have to trust in Him and let him guide me in my running career in whatever way He wants me to go.

Any other comments?
I really enjoy writing and have actually written a few quotes that I follow on and off the course. A race is not run when you cross the finish line – It’s how you get there. Training for the Olympic team takes more than just the will to achieve greatness, it takes countless hours of training and mile after mile of running. You have to eat right, sleep right and put a lot of focus on that goal. If you feel tired, or your legs feel tired or sore, do you slow down and quit? If you get that idea in your head, how then can you win the race? You are already defeated, because if pain is your competitor, how can you win?

It takes ultimate focus to run. You can’t let pain or fatigue distract you from reaching your goals. You do have to be smart with your running, yes, but to reach your goals, there will be pain and fatigue. If you feel tired, will you decide to go home to the couch to watch television when you could have been doing a workout? There are many days that I feel tired after work and would love to drive straight home and relax, however I don’t. I strap on my running shoes and take it all in stride.

Sometimes you let failures and memories of the past prevent you from realizing your dreams. When you race, you are to never look back, and instead, focus on the runner in front of you. In that same way, in our race of life, we should never look back. The race of life is in front of us. Remember that what happened in the past shouldn’t dictate what can be accomplished in the future. You need to pick yourself up, because just like the steeplechase, there will be obstacles in your way to jump over. Even if you fall, you have to pick yourself up and continue running.

When I was 17, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. I was unable to compete my junior year of high school as I underwent chemotherapy treatments and lost all of my hair. I didn’t let the fact that I had cancer affect me or my running. I never turned my head back and kept looking forward as I qualified individually for the Wisconsin State Cross Country Championship my senior year of high school. This was exactly one year after I beat the disease. I then went on to win the sectional track meet in the 3200 meter run the following spring.

I know that I have a God that loves me and that has blessed me in many ways. I will continue to serve Him and will put everything in His hands, because only He knows what is in store for me as an athlete. I will continue to serve God in whatever endeavors are in store for me, whether in running or in life. It is great to have a God who loves me and has continued to bless me in everything that I do. If I continue to honor Him in all that I do, I know that I will go far. God bless!

Thanks for chatting with us, Matt!

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Rebecca Benish

For many of us, running is a way of life. But for Rebecca Benish, she is literally running for her life.

Read on to learn how this MKE runner is battling MS, one mile at a time.

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Rebecca Benish

Age: 35
Years running: 2 years (still a newbie!)
Favorite workout: I have a different view of training, I don’t necessarily believe that more mileage = better running performance. I Crossfit and I love it when there is running built into the WOD (workout of the day). Ladder runs, sprints, sled pulls – those types of running workouts are my favorite.
Favorite distance to race: 5k and 10k
Pre-race routine: The night before a race, I layout all of my gear, pack my race bag, make sure my playlist is updated and Garmin watch is charged. I paint my nails, too. The morning of a race I get up about 3 hours before I need to leave the house, have a banana (sometimes I will have an English muffin in addition to the banana) and a Starbucks caramel frap. Then I hit the shower, get dressed, grab my bag and am out the door. I take the time during my morning routine going over my plan for the race and the normalcy of my shower routine helps to settle my nerves.
Favorite post-race treat: Surprisingly, it isn’t food or beer; I prefer to treat myself to a pedicure and/or a massage.
Must-have gear: My Garmin watch, my iPod shuffle and my Inov-8 Road x lite 155s. I have tried other shoes and I just keep coming back to these.

Disco Run Jeff Weiss Photo Cred

How did you get started with running?
I was diagnosed with MS, and I knew I had to do something to stop it, if I could. So I downloaded the Couch to 5k app in the spring of 2012 and haven’t looked back. I have learned from my MS diagnosis that I need to keep moving to stop the disease in its tracks.

What’s kept you running?
I run for everyone that can’t. When I don’t want to run because I am feeling lazy, I think about those that can’t run or even walk for that matter. I run because it is better than the alternative. I literally know what it means to have to run for your life.

Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?
I have been really lucky to know a couple of real-life heroes that inspire me. A few years ago, I started working for the City of Oak Creek and after my first year with the City, we were faced with an awful tragedy. My friend and coworker was shot several times, a peaceful temple was turned into chaos and many lives were lost. My friend/coworker did many, many interviews after this tragedy and one of his quotes sticks with me, “But what you learn more than anything is you’re much more capable than you think you are, and you’re much more able to do what you think you can’t.” He has become one of my biggest cheerleaders on my running journey. If a man that took more bullets than 50 Cent tells you that you are tough and brave, boy you better prove him right!

What does a typical training week look like for you?
Typically, I Crossfit 2 days a week and run 3 days (one long run day and two days tempo/fartlek type runs), my weekly mileage is shockingly low at 15-20 miles a week.

Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to volunteer as a mentor for Performance Running Outfitters 5k Training Program?
I learned about their programs back in the spring of 2013 when I participated in the Rock n Sole 10k program. Since I was so new to the running community, and I had only one runner friend, I wanted to connect with other runners and make new friends. I mentor to help new runners realize that they can do what they once thought they couldn’t. Seeing them at the finish line of the goal race is one of the best feelings in the world, knowing that I was a part of their journey from non-runner or former runner to full-fledged 5ker!

What is involved with being a mentor for this type of program?
PRO puts together the weekly schedule of workouts for the participants and once a week we do their long runs with them. Each week before the long run, there is a topic (injury prevention, apparel, etc.) or a guest speaker. It is our job as mentors to expand on the topics covered each week and to pace the runners on the run. I am usually super chatty out on the runs to distract them from what they are doing and by the time they know it we are done. Keeping them talking helps me to gauge if we are running too hard or if someone is struggling and needs to slow down.

What have you learned/gained by being a mentor?
Confidence. Being a mentor makes me feel not so new at running and it keeps me running. It inspires me to keep learning about running so that I have current and valid input for the weekly topics. I have gained lots of new runner friends.

You were diagnosed with MS in 2010 – Can you tell us a bit about the condition?
I may have been diagnosed in 2010 but I had my first clinically isolated event in 1996, which was a pretty traumatic ordeal. If anyone would like to dive deeper into my history with MS, they can check out my blog at http://runningms.com. The National MS Society (taken from the NMSS website) defines MS as an immune-mediated process, in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”

Within the CNS, the immune system attacks myelin — the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers — as well as the nerve fibers themselves. The damaged myelin forms scar tissue (sclerosis), which gives the disease its name. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms. The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors.

An easy way to think of MS is to imagine that you have a lamp and the cord is all broken, frayed and damaged in places. What happens if you plug it in? Maybe the light bulb blows? Maybe sparks fly and start a fire? Maybe nothing happens? Maybe the lamp works fine for a while but then all of the above start? That’s MS in a nutshell. Except our maybes are vision problems, numbness, tingling, the MS Hug (it isn’t as nice as it sounds), a decline in cognitive function, extreme fatigue (like brushing your hair is impossible because you don’t have the energy or strength to stand up and hold the brush at the same time). The fatigue ugggg, I guess if you imagined having 25 pound kettlebells attached to each extremity and then not sleeping for a week and then try to get ready for work. I guess that would start to describe it.

There are 4 types of MS and I, luckily, have the milder form of relapsing-remitting (for now), meaning I have periods of no symptoms and have periods of symptoms. During remission, you may bounce back to your former self or you may hold on to a symptom and that becomes your new normal. The other three forms are secondary progressive (the disease worsens over time with periods of remission), primary progressive (only diagnosed in 10% of MSers and you slowly get worse with no remission periods over time) and progressive relapsing (even more rare occurring in 5% of MSers, you just steadily get worse from the beginning of the disease with no remissions at all). At any time, the disease can take a turn and your MS turns into a more aggressive form. Most of us diagnosed with relapsing remitting will eventually progress to secondary progressive.

What types of thoughts and emotions did you have to work through after getting your diagnosis?
Well, I didn’t have much time to process my diagnosis. My father-in-law was diagnosed with lung/brain cancer within weeks of my diagnosis. I knew his battle was going to be far worse than mine. I decided I would not feel sorry for myself one tiny bit and that I would fight my disease like hell. He was such a positive, happy person that his positive outlook always sticks with me to this day and I like to think he is cheering me on from above at my races. I learned from this diagnosis that it could always be worse and having a positive attitude makes the disease easier to fight and tolerate.

How has running helped you with MS?
It is thought that exercise quiets an overactive immune system. I think exercise, coupled with a (mostly) Paleo diet and my Copaxone is doing the trick for me. However, no one person’s MS will be the same as the next. Every single one of us has a different set of symptoms and different disease progression. In the beginning, I am not going to sugar coat, starting to exercise was beyond hard and my body hurt all the time. I was exhausted but I stuck with it and now most days I feel energized and great. I cannot stress this enough, you have to deal with the suck to get to the feel good. There will be days you don’t want to run or workout but those are the days it is most important because when you stop moving that is when the disease takes over.

Does MS ever affect your running?
Running makes your core body temperature increase, which is a big trigger for MS symptoms (as long as those symptoms resolve in 24 hours it isn’t considered a flare up). So summer running is slightly hectic for me but luckily the only symptoms I have had during a hot run are my vision getting all wonky (think about a head rush when your vision goes slightly black) and my legs feeling like lead, but as soon as I cool down I am back to normal. Also, running is a stress on the body and there is some mention of excessive stress causing symptoms or flare ups, so anyone with MS would want to increase their mileage slowly over time to see how their MS does with the increased stress and they would want to start running in the cooler months.

In addition to the MS, I have something called Reynaud’s Syndrome, which is an excessively reduced blood flow in response to cold and/or emotional stress. The Reynaud’s started almost exactly when I had my second major MS flare up in 2010. My toes/feet and left hand get ice cold, and turn white when I get too cold or am under significant emotional stress. It can be painful and take forever to feel back to normal.

How do you overcome the challenges?
Usually, going out really early or really late for a run during the summer is enough to get around the heat but sometimes the humidity is just too much and I am forced to use the treadmill. It also helps to wear as little as possible. At one point I was self-conscious about wearing shorts and tanks but then I thought, who cares? My body is doing incredible things and even though it is attacking itself on the inside I am still out there running and finishing and PRing.

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You recently joined MS Run the US as an ambassador – Can you tell us a bit about the organization? What are your responsibilities in this role?
MS Run the US is an amazing organization started by Ashley Kumlein is 2013 in support of her mom, Jill, a long time MS fighter. It is a relay run across the country, where the runners run 140 miles per week as their leg of the race. MS Run the US’s goal is to raise money to help those living with MS and also to raise money for research to help find a cure. As an Ambassador, I have committed to raising $1000 by this time next year and to help spread awareness of the disease. I joined to become an Ambassador when I did because I saw team MS Run the US help Jill walk across the finish line at the Brewer’s Mini back in September. It really hit home for me and I was close to tears. I even got to say a few words to her before I left.

Everyone knows what the pink ribbon means and the month of October but how many know the significance of the orange ribbon and the month of March? I want the same level of awareness for MS. Odds are readers know someone fighting breast cancer (I know I do, my stepmom fought it and won) and the odds are just as good that readers know someone fighting MS – but there seems to be far less awareness about the disease.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I love running in Shorewood on our weekly runs with PRO. I love running the big hill at Bender Park in Oak Creek. I live way out in Caledonia and running the roads helped me to learn our little part of town, plus I know lots of people that live near us so I always feel safe. My routes usually take me past people we know in case I ever need help.

What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
I love the Brewer’s Mini and 10k because it is a challenging, hilly course. I love/hate Rock N Sole because of that darn bridge. The Irish Jig Jog 5k is great because it raises funds for MS Run the US.

What are your running goals for the upcoming year?
I would really like to break 25 minutes in the 5k and 1 hour for the quarter marathon/10k. I will probably run the South Shore Half and Lakefront next year (Anne Chapman the Shorewood PRO store manager, put that little bug in my head, so thanks Anne!).

Thanks for chatting with us, Rebecca! To connect with Rebecca, check out her blog at http://runningms.com/.

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … John Dewitt

At the young age of 23, John Dewitt achieved what many MKE runners can only dream of – running an Olympic Trials Qualifying Time and finishing among the Top 10 Americans at the Chicago Marathon – one of the biggest races in the world. And did we mention this was his marathon debut??

Below, this amazing MKE runner tells us what led him to try the marathon distance, his training leading up to Chicago and what’s next on his list of running goals!

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John Dewitt

Age: 23
Team affiliation: Wisconsin Road Racing Team/ Brooks ID Development Team
Years running: 12 years
If you could run with anyone, who would you run with: Ryan Hall
Favorite workout: 2 miles @ 10k pace, 4 miles @ 10k pace + 45 seconds, 2 miles @ 10k pace (no rest)
Pre-race routine: Listening to music (Taylor Swift is a personal favorite)
Favorite post-race treat: Swedish Fish
Favorite distance to race: Half Marathon
Significant wins/placings/awards:

  • 2012 NCAA Division 3 Cross Country All-American
  • 2013 NCAA Division 3 Track and Field All-American (10,000m)
  • 3-time CoSIDA Academic All-American (2011, 2012, 2013)
  • 1st at 2013 Citizen’s First Fox Cities Half Marathon
  • 23rd at the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon (10th American)

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Why did you start running and what’s kept you running over the years?
I started running as a part of the McDill Running Club in 4th grade in Stevens Point. It was just a few miles, 3 days a week, but it really got me excited. I was always a young man with a lot of energy, so it was a great way for me to burn some of it and be competitive in the process. After a few years of doing that, I put it down and picked it back up my sophomore year of high school, when I joined track and field. Ever since my first two mile, I have always loved how exciting it was to push myself to my limits. I quickly fell in love with running and haven’t stopped since.

Can you tell us a bit about your running career to date?
As I said, I picked up track as a sophomore in high school and then proceeded to join cross country as junior, where I made my first trip to the State meet. From there, I qualified for State again as a senior in both cross country and track (2 mile). As my high school career wrapped up, I decided to go to the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh with the dream of becoming an All-American. Finally, after 14,000 miles of running and 4 NCAA National Championship appearances, I achieved my dream in my senior cross country season, finishing 32nd at the 2012 NCAA Division 3 Cross Country Championships. I followed that up in track with a 5th place finish in the 10,000m run, and my second NCAA Division 3 All-American title. After college, I had to find a new dream, which quickly became qualifying for the Olympic Trials. I ran my first half marathon in fall of 2013, where I was 40 seconds away from qualifying for the Trials. Another year passed, and I decided to take a step up to the marathon, making my debut at the 2014 Chicago Marathon. In my debut, I ran 2:17:38, which was under the qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles.

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Congrats on an amazing marathon debut and OTQ time your first time out. What prompted you to move up to the marathon distance?
Throughout my running career, I had always gotten better as the distance had increased. I was a better 2 miler than a miler and a better 10k runner than a 5k runner. So, naturally, I knew my best shot to qualify for the Olympic Trials would be in the marathon. After I got so close in the half marathon in 2013, I knew it was time to give the marathon a try, and it’s worked out pretty well thus far.

What did a typical training week look like for you leading up to the marathon?
In my peak training time, I run around 90-100 miles a week, in 3-week bursts. So, every 4th week, I take a week down at around 70 miles per week. In those weeks, I do a lot of runs at a faster pace, just based on feel. However, each week is focused around 2-3 workouts, one of which being a long/hard effort, typically early on Sunday morning.

Did you have any expectations going into Chicago this year?
My goal was to qualify for the Olympic Trials, so I was super nervous headed into the race. Everyone had talked about “the wall” and how awful the pain in the marathon was. At halfway, I was super nervous and wasn’t sure if my body would hold up for the second 13.1 miles. However, I just kept moving along and, despite the major pain, was able to hold on to that 5:15 pace per mile.

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Looking back, are there any things you would have done differently during or leading up the race?
Honestly, not really. It was one of the best races of my career and I ran it nearly as well as I could have. I just wish the day could’ve been more than 24 hours.

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Finnel and I

Along with your own training and racing, you also coach high school track and cross country. Can you tell us how your own experience helps you help your teams? Also, how does coaching benefit your own running?
I’m not sure that coaching helps my running; it is a large time commitment, where I am focused on the athletes’ training as opposed to my own. That being said, I absolutely love it. I love getting to hang out with my West Allis Hale boys and I get to live life with them, really using my experiences to give them perspective. With all the experience, I feel like I can offer insight into how they can make steps toward the next level and how they get back on track when the going is tough. Overall, I love being around the team and the guys. They continually remind me of the joy of running and being a part of a team.

What running goals are you looking to tackle during the next few years?
The next big thing on my calendar is the Olympic Trials in 2016. My training will revolve around trying to be fully prepared to perform my best at the Trials.

Who do you look up to in running?
I have been fortunate enough to have many great role models along the way. Honestly, there are simply too many great coaches and teammates from my time at Oshkosh West and UW Oshkosh that I looked up to, but I can say that each and every one of them had their impact on my career, in some way or another. However, most notably, is the impact my family had on my life. My parents taught me how to work hard and believe in myself. My brother modeled what it was like to be dedicated to running and chase after your dreams. And my sister continually reminded me how to take joy out of all situations. From my coaches, teammates, and family, I have grown a lot to be who I am today.

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I love to run along the lake, as the Oak Leaf Trail is a personal favorite of mine. Along with that, I use the lagoon in Veteran’s Park to do a lot of workouts. Also, I enjoy running on the dirt trails by the river in the summer. They aren’t the easiest to maneuver all the time, but I appreciate the soft surface and the feeling of being away from the world.

In general, what makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?
There are just so many good runners in the area that it creates the opportunity for us to get together and build off each other. More than just training together, we get to watch each other be successful, which drives everyone to work harder and get better.

Any other comments?
I just want to give all glory and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. On top of that, I would just like to thank all the people who have been a part of my life in some way or another; it really has been quite the journey and I can’t wait for it to continue.

Thanks for chatting with us, John!

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Let’s Get to Know … Kyle Konczal

Sometimes, finding time to squeeze in a run is hard! With family obligations, work, school, fitting in a social life, etc. sometimes the thing that falls by the wayside is running.

But with dedication and a desire to run fast, it’s possible to fit it all in. Just ask Kyle Konczal.  While working a full-time job and getting his MBA, he still found time to train for a marathon – and race a 21 minute PR with a 4th overall finish.

Read on to learn more about his typical training weeks, how working with a coach helped elevate his running and his favorite places to log miles in MKE!

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Photo by Bill Flaws – Running in the USA

Kyle Konczal

Age: 26
Team affiliation: Performance Running Outfitters & ThunderDome Running
Years running: 4 Years
Favorite workout: The Long Run. I love after a week of solid mileage, getting out on a 20-mile run with semi-tired legs and clicking off some solid mileage!
Favorite gear: Has to be my Nike Structures. I have been running in them since the beginning (13 pairs). They obviously have treated me very well!
Pre-race routine: I will be up about 4 hours before a race and will go for an EARLY morning walk around Wauwatosa. Shower, breakfast, relax with a cup of coffee and watch a few episodes of Family Guy. I find the humor to be the best way to calm the mind on race morning.
Favorite post-race treat: An IPA (India Pale Ale). My theory is any endurance effort deserves a reward!
Favorite distance to race: My favorite distance is the marathon. The physical and mental challenges one endures during this distance can become such an addiction to try to master!
Significant wins/placings: The 2013-14 Great Lakes Multisport Winter Run Series. In midst of one of the worst winters, I challenged myself to race both the 5k and 10k races. I survived the winter and took 2nd Place Overall in both the 5k and 10k Series.

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 Why did you start running? And … what’s kept you running?
In 2011, I began a weight loss initiative and after 6 months of P90X I needed to find a new challenge. My mother (Vicki) had been running a 5k every month for a few years and she challenged me to a 5k. I was back and forth whether to do it, but finally agreed upon it. I ran the Jingle Bell Run 5k at the Milwaukee Zoo. I found the challenge of racing to be quite entertaining. Shortly after the 5k, I signed up for my first GLM Winter Run Series.

What keeps me running is exactly what I fell in love with. The challenge of pushing myself physically and mentally keeps running fun. When I step up to the start line of a race, the excitement of running with others who love running as much as I do produces a positive sense of competition and enjoyment.

Fill in the blank: When I run, I feel _______!
Happy. When I go for runs, I disconnect myself from all of my daily distractions. I leave my phone and music behind to trek out to daydream and think. When I have an opportunity to run with friends, it is the best time to catch up and share laughs together. Running from a macro perspective provides me serenity and pure joy with every stride!

Who do you look up to in running? Do you have any role models?
I can never narrow down my role models for running as there are too many amazing runners! A few that currently influence my running are Timothy Olson, Fernando Cabada, Anton Krupicka and Kilian Jornet. These four have inspired me to trek forward and strive to continuously push myself further and farther into the world of running. There is so much to learn and experience with running, and they have opened my eyes to future opportunities and goals.

How long have you worked with ThunderDome Running and why did you decide to work with a coach?
I have been working with Matt Thull and ThunderDome Running for about a year. I ran the 2013 Lakefront Marathon and fell apart at mile 15 (Time: 3:13:57). I began talking with numerous friends who work with ThunderDome Running and they suggested that I inquire. Upon an initial conversation with Matt, I became quite excited. I proceeded to begin training for the 2014 Wisconsin Marathon under the guidance of ThunderDome Running.

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In what ways has working with ThunderDome Running helped improve your running/racing?
Prior to working with ThunderDome, I was chronically in pain and lacked the logic of a proper training plan. Matt’s experience and guidance provided structure, which opened a new door and began taking me to new levels. The weekly training plans provided a structure that was safe but challenging, week in and week out. I began seeing improvements in my endurance and abilities but also my overall health. My body no longer felt beat up every day and I was able to bounce back quicker from workouts given the proper structure of mileage and pacing. Matt’s method is simple; he provides the training tools, workouts and support. To find success in working with ThunderDome Running, you need to have the commitment to follow, listen and communicate. Doing so has helped me reach new levels and continuously achieve my goals

Another improvement that came from working with ThunderDome Running was a focus on my nutrition. To be successful at becoming a well-rounded runner, you must do more than just put the miles in. You have to have a respect and understanding of the nutritional requirements. I began working with Annie of Fit With Food Consulting to gain knowledge and understanding of the marathoner’s nutritional requirements. Annie provided me with guidance of my daily nutrition to get me down to a goal race weight. More importantly, when training began to intensify, she leveled me out and guided what my body needed for recovery and preparation for race week nutrition.

What does a typical training week look like for you?
My training for the 2014 Chicago Marathon has seen an increase in weekly mileage to range from about 60-75 miles. An average week looks like:

Monday: Recovery/Glue Mileage
Tuesday: Glue Mileage w/Strides OR Off Day
Wednesday: Workout Day
Thursday: Recovery/Glue Mileage
Friday: Glue Mileage
Saturday: Glue Mileage w/Strides
Sunday: Long Run

Many runners have difficulty fitting everything in – family/friends, work, social life, training, etc. How do you make time to train?
Marathon training is a huge time commitment, and sometimes sacrifices need to be made in both social and running lives. Training for my first two marathons was daunting; I was balancing a full-time job, pursuing my Masters and marathon training. Because I am a “Morning Person” I usually will get up at 4AM and get in a run before heading off to work. After work, my nights consisted of spending time in the classroom or doing homework. In June of 2014, I completed my Master’s program which provided me greater time to focus on running and family and friends. I even snuck in a vacation!

What running goals are you looking to tackle in the next few years?
I try not to look too far beyond my current goal race, which at this time is the Chicago Marathon. Next spring I will be running my first Boston Marathon. I am very excited for this race and hope to have a really solid performance. After Boston, I am considering a pursuit of a 50-miler in the fall of 2015. I recently vacationed in Colorado and spent some time in Leadville, the host city for one of the oldest ultra marathons in the United States. I fell in love with the mountains, Leadville and Colorado during this trip. I dream that someday I will run the Leadville 100! Far off goals/dreams; for now, my eyes are set on Chicago and Boston.

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What race has been the most memorable for you?
The 2014 Wisconsin Marathon stands out to me. This was my first marathon training with ThunderDome Running and I came into the race healthy and in the best fitness I have ever been in. I struggled late in the race and was caught by another runner. We worked together for 5 miles pushing and motivating each other. (Ever grateful, Brian!) At mile 25, my friend Griffin was yelling like crazy and cheering me on, and at that point I dropped the hammer. When I turned the final bend, my Dad was there cheering me on and I saw the clock click over to 2:52. The emotion of my accomplishment ran over me. I PR’d by 21 minutes and placed 4th but moreover I met my Boston Qualification by 13 minutes! My mom, dad, aunt and uncle were all at this race to cheer me on and celebrate this amazing experience.

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Do you have any favorite Milwaukee races?
My favorite race is the Brewer’s Mini Marathon. The course is gorgeous and the route takes you through some of the historic and unique locations that make Milwaukee. My favorite part is running through Miller Park with the crowds in the stands cheering everyone on. It makes this one race not to pass on. I have run the Brewers Mini every year since the inaugural run in 2012. With marathons just weeks away following the Brewers Mini, racing has not been the best option in 2013 or 2014. Last year, I was given an opportunity to pace the 1:45 group. I had such a great time talking and motivating fellow runners, and it became one of the most memorable experiences in my running career. I will be out there again this year pacing the 1:40 group!

Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
I live and train mainly in Wauwatosa. With the amount of running I do in town, I like to have a change of scenery. I love running downtown along Lake Michigan and on the Oak Leaf Trail. With the wide variety of trail options, it is an ideal location to run!

What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners?
What makes Milwaukee a great place for runners… is the runners. The running community is full of amazing, supportive and inspirational people. We are all unique and have our niches, but differences never matter because we come together to run. I run a number of Badgerland Striders events throughout the year, and the community of runners that organize these races are wonderful! They put on great events that bring together runners from across Southeastern Wisconsin! They also have awesome, cost-effective races that are high quality, and they sure know how to host an after party!

Any other comments?
“A runner must run with dreams in his heart.” –Emil Zatopek

No matter your speed, the distance or the number of races you have run. Continue to strive to reach your running dreams. Running is not easy, but that is what makes it so much fun! #RunLove

Thanks for chatting with us, Kyle! To connect with Kyle, you can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjkonczal

If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at keeprunningmke@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!