Runner Profile- Katie Wade
Running to most people is a chore, a punishment, a grinding way to “get in shape”. For me, running is a way of life. It has brought me closer to my family, allowed me to befriend incredible athletes, stay in the best shape of my life, and encouraged me to travel all over the country. It is so much of who I am and what I do, and I’ve been lucky enough to create a life that combines my hobby and my profession seamlessly.
My father began running when I was a young teenager. I grew up in a very small town in eastern North Carolina, there were no sidewalks, no running paths, and certainly no 5k runs. I remember friends asking me, “Was that your DAD running on the side of the highway?”, and I’d roll my eyes as I confirmed their suspicions. He was in his late 40’s and training for his first marathon. Meanwhile, I played soccer and competitive volleyball year round. I suffered from chronic exertional compartment syndrome in both legs that went undiagnosed from the age of 13 until 19. Compartment syndrome is a condition that causes swelling and pain in the lower legs with exercise and is found in athletes who participate in repetitive sports that usually involve running (soccer and volleyball). During halftime of every competition , I’d be on the sidelines with ice packs on my legs trying to get the swelling down (doesn’t help) and gulping Ibuprofen (also doesn’t help). I somehow managed to run through a few 5ks and 10ks in high school alongside my dad, but my condition got worse when I went to college. After my freshman year, I saw an orthopedic surgeon and had the pressure testing in my legs, which confirmed the diagnosis, and immediately had the release surgery. I was then up and running four weeks later.
By this time my father had run several marathons. My oldest brother had picked up the sport. I was following closely behind. I ran my first marathon, Kiawah Island Marathon, in December 2004, with my dad. I ran the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in March of 2005, injured. I then went on a 4 year streak of running for only several months until another injury would hit. I’d rehab, heal, train, and get injured again. I had a total of 6 stress fractures and a hip labral tear over the course of those 4 years. I felt like I lived in a boot!
Something had to change. I had been a personal trainer for 6 years at this point and had never taken my own advice. I was doing ZERO strength training. I was expecting my body to run miles and miles without having muscles strong enough to support the bones. I began to lift weights in early 2009 and was finally able to train long enough for a marathon. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon that fall, my third. Since then, I’ve run a total of 29 races of marathon distance or longer, including a 50+ mile total twice and 11 marathons+ in 2012 alone.
I am emphatically passionate about the importance of strength training for runners. There is no better option (in combination with a solid running training plan!) for reducing your risk of injury and prolonging your running career. The stronger your body is, the BETTER it will perform. We runners don’t like to take anything away from our “running time”. We don’t stretch, we don’t warmup, and we don’t cool down. I KNOW THIS. But if you could add in just two sessions of 30 minutes a week of solid strength training, it would undoubtedly pay off in the long run. Someone should learn from my mistakes!
I have been lucky enough to meet many talented women over the years to train with, and we’ve traveled nationwide for marathons, earning ourselves the name Team Hot Legs. We’ve competed (and won the women’s division) in several relays and most of these women have gone on to do amazing things in the running community. We still get together a few times a year for reunion races and train together whenever we end up in the same city. I’ve gotten to race with my dad in his 50th state (Des Moines Marathon, Iowa in 2010), I’ve gotten to crew for my brother during a 100 mile mountain race (Old Dominion 100 mile in Virginia 2005) and crewed my other brother as he ran solo across the state of Florida (2012). I’ve seen my mom finish many of her 50 half marathons and 5 ultras across the years. My daughter rode in a stroller for her first 5k when she was 3 months old. She’s since done 4 (three with my husband!) and at a year old, she’s my cutest training partner. I now specialize in coaching distance runners, both with programming and with their strength and flexibility programs. This sport spans literally every facet of my life – friends, family, work, social network, and vacation – since they’re usually planned around a race.
My distance running these days has surely taken a back seat to our expanding family. I ran the Umstead Trail Marathon in March 2013 and then the Kiawah Island Marathon in December 2014, giving birth in between. As we plan for more children in our family, races take a bit more planning and sacrifice, both of which I’m having a hard time with. I would love to finish the 50 states one day (I have 14 so far) and I’d love to run a few marathons internationally. Currently I try to maintain about 20 miles per week (3 runs) and I strength train in some capacity about 4 days per week. I do one workout a week at either the stadium or at Devil’s Millhopper (my favorite place to train). I teach outdoor conditioning classes at GHFC Tioga twice a week and get to participate in those classes about half the time. I also teach a weekly spin class at GHFC. I have found that a variety of exercise keeps my body and mind balanced and injury free. I like the variety, it prevents burnout and allows me to be exposed to lots of different people.
I love to have goals for running, but I love even more just to go with the flow. I love a sunny day when I can go for an unplanned run around the neighborhood with the running stroller or an early morning loop through the trails. Running races is the fun part, but if you don’t put in the work in your training, you’re asking for trouble. Find a balance that works for your life. Progress slowly and responsibly. Do your strength training. Follow a sensible, progressive program. Don’t integrate speedwork until you have a solid base of running behind you. And remember: you only get this one body. Treat it with respect and caution, allow it to move, feed it with good food and water, and rest sufficiently. Most importantly, run happy!