I have never been much of a runner — I always found it a bit boring and never really had the urge to push myself past the one mile mark. And then one sunny warm day in March, I suddenly had the urge to give it another try. It was beautiful out, I had just purchased new sneakers the day before, and my sister, who is getting back into running after an injury, wanted some company on a short run. By the end of the run I was frustrated that I was so exhausted despite being in decent shape, but also had a new desire to treat it as a challenge. So I let me sister convince me to sign up for EZ8 DC, a running class designed to help you improve your form, speed and endurance in just eight “easy” weeks. Except we did the four-week session instead. And “easy” is not really how I would describe a running class that meets at 5:45 in the morning. But after four weeks of it, I’ve signed up for another four weeks, two 5Ks and a the Capitol Hill Classic. So who is the woman behind this class, that brings together a group of women before dawn to do sprints up and down Capitol Hill? Not a life-time marathon runner, like you may think. Kathy Pugh has only been running for about six years. And she just ran the Boston Marathon in 3:47.37, a personal record.
After meeting with Kathy and learning about how she got into running, I wanted to share her story here to maybe inspire a few other people who think that they are not runners…something I always thought about myself.
1) Have you always been a runner?
No! I always hated running. In fact I was a swimmer because I was so grossed out by sweat. I first started running as a result of many mornings on the sidelines of my husband’s races. I’d get up, wait around, clap, and snap a picture of him. At some point I figured I was up and I should do something other than hang around like an ornament.
I really got into it after the birth of my daughter, Ava. We moved across the country when I was thirty weeks pregnant. I was fat, depressed, unemployed, missed DC, and in need of some structure. I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon and trained through a summer in Las Vegas. It was not as much fun as you would think. I could only dream of royal flushes and cold cocktails while pounding the pavement on the Las Vegas Strip in conditions similar to the inside of a hair dryer. Oddly, I loved it and have been running ever since.
2) Spring and fall are beautiful seasons for running. How do you stay motivated in the dark of winter and the oppressively humid Washington summers?
It’s rough. We have a small window of time here in DC where the weather is ideal for running. I sign up for a spring and a fall marathon which keeps me motivated on those days more suited to hibernating or leaving town for the beach. Running year round helps me to appreciate all the seasons. In the winter I have a tendency to get depressed. I loathe the treadmill and running outside actually makes the seemingly endless grey days enjoyable. I must say I feel pretty bad ass after running a twenty miler in a blizzard and I did that more than once last winter!
3) Why is your program all women?
I’ve thought about the possibility of adding a co-ed class, but for now I’m really enjoying the sisterhood that exists in our group. DC is a fiercely competitive city and there’s something so special, even sacred, in the way this group of women supports and pushes one other to reach their best. We’re free to talk about all those issues that affect us as women from how to safely train after childbirth to what’s the best jog bra- basically issues that aren’t always comfortably discussed in the presence of the opposite sex.
4) What is your favorite running route on the Hill?
My favorite route on the Hill is what I call “Capitol Loops”. I start at the bottom Capitol Hill on the Independence side and run around the perimeter of the Capitol Complex. The whole loop is a little over one mile. You never know who or what you will see on this route: senators, congressman, school groups, or protests. When I run this route I always marvel at how lucky I am to live in a place where some of the world’s most important decisions are made. Now that’s pretty empowering!
5) What advice would you give to people who say they aren’t runners?
If you can put one foot in front of the other you can be a runner. Start slow and stick with it. Set realistic goals. Believe me if I, the girl who doesn’t like to sweat, can do it so can you!