By Shelley Tibbetts
If your New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to run a marathon, look no further than Erin Leigh Patterson for inspiration. She spent this past year crossing that achievement off her bucket list and making each mile along the way count, too. While training for the Georgia Marathon, she not only launched a successful campaign #26Miles26Girls to support She’s the First a non-profit she volunteers for, but she also ended up inspiring the first year of the org’s Run the World campaign.
Check out our interview with Erin for tips on how train for a marathon, overcome obstacles along the way and use the opportunity to support a cause in a big way (she raised a total of $17,323 for her own campaign, which is the largest fundraiser by an individual for She’s the First)!
ACT: You contemplated the decision to run in a marathon for about four years before completing two this past year. Why is participating in a marathon (or even half-marathon or 5K) a resolution worth keeping for 2014?
PATTERSON: Life is much more like a marathon (or any distance that requires time and training!) than it is like a sprint. Signing up for a race and committing the time and energy it takes to train teaches you so much about discipline, pushing boundaries, and setting big goals for yourself. I will never regret that I did the marathon, but I would have regretted missing it!
ACT: What inspired you to start your campaign #26Miles26Girls?
PATTERSON: Working with She’s the First has been one of the best and most rewarding experiences I’ve had. I knew I didn’t want to take on the marathon without a bigger purpose, and this was a great chance to continue working with She’s the First. My friend Brooke and I started #26miles26girls in Nov. 2012 knowing that it was a very big goal, but that having each mile be life-changing (for us and the girls in Nepal!) is what got me through the training.
ACT: Prior to training for the Georgia Marathon you weren’t a runner. What are some obstacles you faced because of this and how did you overcome them?
PATTERSON: I barely knew where to start! But thankfully the Internet gave lots of tips. I also asked lots of questions. Just like I seek mentors’ advice in work or in life, I asked other runners for tips and input. Everything also felt foreign! Am I supposed to be this tired? Will I make it on race day if I didn’t finish this long run? Having others’ input was invaluable!
Photo: (Erin Leigh Patterson)
ACT: How did you train for your races?
PATERSON: After signing up for the race I knew the work had to take place. Some days were great, others weren’t, but ultimately I knew that I had to press on — which is a great life lesson to persevere through the bad and the good. I also adopted some mantras or quotes I could repeat while I was running. One of my favorites is “You must do the thing you think you cannot do” by Eleanor Roosevelt. I also took up yoga, which is great mental training! Practice yoga even off the mat — breathing, thinking, pushing yourself.
I started training about 16 weeks in advance, but depending on the base you have and how long your race is, your training might be more or less. I trained about five days a week: one weekend day and four weekdays. Mostly this was running, but also some yoga, pilates, or other fitness classes. The most important thing in training for a distance race is to incorporate one long run and one speed workout, such as intervals. The rest is to maintain your fitness or build strength.
There are a number of training plans online. I would also recommend finding an interactive plan, such as a virtual coach. They will help you set realistic goals and give feedback along the way. But no matter what there are tons of resources out there for newbies!
ACT: Music is a great way to power through long runs. Can you share some of your favorite running songs with us?
PATTERSON: My current running playlist includes lots of Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.
Photo: (Erin Leigh Patterson)
ACT: What tips do you have for those who want to use running as a way to support a cause they care about?
PATTERSON: Supporting a cause is more than just helping others, it’s being part of a network telling a great story. If the girls in Nepal needed me, I needed them more. Their faces and persistence and hope that an education can make a difference is what inspired me during training. So if you’re considering a charity, find something you’re really passionate about. Then tell your story along the way — the people in your life who are supporting you want to hear how it’s going, so invite them on the journey. Though you might set out to help others, just be warned that you’re the one who will be changed.
ACT: What advice or words of encouragement do you have for others who want to become runners?
PATTERSON: I had a million excuses before I started running — bad knees! no time! I’m just not a ‘runner’! It’s too hard — until I started running. It’s not always fun, and while it gets easier, it won’t always be a breeze. But once you decide to do it, you will surprise yourself. So, my main piece of advice is: Stop thinking, and just run.
She's the First sponsors girls’ education in developing nations. Learn how you can get involved!