Runner of the Month

Randy Pierce - January 2021

Thank you Randy for letting us spotlight you this month - and please enjoy the benefits offered by Peak Recovery and Health Center!

Hello Striders, I thought I’d craft a GCS runner specific bio in appreciation of this very kind acknowledgment. I’ve run most of my life with the exception of those earliest toddler months and a period of 1 year, 8 months and 21 days in which I was in a wheelchair from 2004-2006. It is largely because of those times I began to appreciate walking, hiking and eventually running again. Of course having become totally blind meant I needed some guidance to be able to run out in the world. My Guide Dog Quinn served that role initially for me. When he passed in January of 2014, I needed help and reached out to a lot of places with the Gate City Striders answering that call in one of the strongest testaments of commitment to how well

Randy Pierce and the Mighty Quinn at the 2013 BAA 5k Finish!
Randy Pierce and the Mighty Quinn at the 2013 BAA 5k Finish!
this club promotes all types of runners and assisting us all find ways to run in meaningful ways. I quickly had guides, coaches and best of all a community of friends who rapidly propelled my appreciation for the many gifts and styles of running. I would run my first Marathon that year, Cox-Providence, qualify for Boston and on the way be invited to compete and ultimately win the B1 National Marathon Championship as a totally blind runner. While I strive to be faster and have better endurance, my most important strides are always finding ways to enjoy the connections and friendships which come from sharing a passion for running. I’ve had a host of difficult runs and some incredibly triumphant runs but the consistent encouragement, advice and support of this club and the friendships built do more than sustain me through my present treadmill only miles, they make me eager and enthused for days I’ll be running outside with all of you again and challenging each other to be better in whatever ways each of us seek. I think that is who I am at the essence, someone who wants to connect with people and strive together to be better both as runners and people. Oh, and yes, I’ve been Furlerred!

Editor's Note: We would like to note that Randy not only ran 2,500 miles last year (which he mentions), but he also recently did his second ultramarathon of 54 miles on his treadmill!

Why do you run?  (e.g. health, fitness, mental/stress relief, competition, etc)

I run because I can and because there was a time I could not. Like so many things, and present covid-19 realities very much included, you really appreciate what you have when it is taken from you. My nearly two years in a wheelchair reminded me what a gift it is to simply walk and running is just the bow on the present of celebrating movement.

To be fair, that’s why I started running and now it is so much more. It’s fitness in part, both mental and physical. It’s connection to people (thank you GCS!) since I particularly need to run with people. It’s a challenge to be growing and improving despite the significant amount of grey hair atop my head. Sometimes it’s the competition though mostly with myself in that goal to improve personally. In all of that I guess what I’m saying is each run has in it the potential to give me a different set of rewards and meet a different set of wants or needs.

How many miles do you run in an average week both during peak and off peak times?

In peak times I’ve shifted to the 54-60 range with a few rounds into the 90s. Off peak typically slips into the 20-30 range although this January has been my vacation after 2500 miles last year!

What is your next race?

Randy being guided by fellow Strider Andy Bragg at the Hollis Fast 5K!
Randy being guided by fellow Strider Andy Bragg at the Hollis Fast 5K!

Officially it’s the Mt. Washington Road Race on a Strider pass, thank you again. It’s carried over from last year and I expect it to happen but like so many things in these days who knows and what virtual fun might slip into the mix in the meanwhile?

Do you follow any runners on social media?

Strava and the GCS club is a great start and the ones that are most important to me. All I could want for encouragement, challenge, and humility are there in spades.

What has been your favorite club activity since you’ve joined?

Who doesn’t love ice cream runs! In all seriousness all superlatives are tempered with the reality my different moods and needs are met by the depth and variety of options. Training hard for speed and the summer track has worn me out and lifted me up. Needing a Boston Qualifier and looping through the central mob of encouragement on the GCS Marathon is pretty special. Giving back atop the hill on the five mile Mine Falls Summer series with my sweet girl Autumn made me proud and appreciative as so many runners overcame their own work of running up the hill to give me a little shout out. In moments of ceremony, the Boston night this club does was a special event and I’ll attend that evening as often as possible. Sometimes though, I just want the relaxed connection of a Hollis Saturday group run or the crazy crew of WERGers to let life and laughter fall out while the miles pass under the souls and soles.

How do you motivate when you don't want to run?

First choice: Accountability partners. Second choice is my mantra to “Put off procrastination and do it now” because once I’m doing something, especially running, I usually find the hesitation melts away and I get into the enjoyment.

What advice do you have for new members of the club?

As with so many things, you get out what you put into it. This is true for old and new members really. The more you invest in time and energy to connect to the people and events the more rewards you are likely to receive. Sure, sometimes looking behind the proverbial "curtain of Oz” has some hard parts at times but overwhelmingly there is a diverse group of people coming together to celebrate something we all have in common. All talent levels, goal levels and commitment levels can come together and get the benefits they want by giving a little to it. Kindness is easy to find and so worth it to give. I think it’s why my own experience has been so tremendously rewarding.

Randy doing a winter hike, lead by the Mighty Quinn.
Randy doing a winter hike, lead by the Mighty Quinn.

What is your favorite race?

The Human Race of course – people matter. The partially tongue in cheek response aside, I tend to love the next one because it fuels the preparation and excitement behind all my running efforts. This doesn’t mean I’m not aware race day is great. I’ll never forget my 2015 First Boston Marathon or my 2020 Virtual Marathon despite the latter being on a treadmill on my front porch with striders surrounding me and the loss of my sweet Autumn heavy on my heart. How could I forget that end with the treadmill crashing, fortunately not me, at mile 25.9 and Tom Cassetty coming off the bench with a full breakfast to mask guide me for the final .3 to my best time ever.

What is your funniest running or race related memory?

Early on running with my guide dog when some folks were worried how that would work I was extra sensitive about my impact on my fellow runners. In the latter part of a 10K I heard a tremendous crash just ahead of me and to the side and I tipped my head in curiosity and concern, like a dog does actually. A woman running beside me quickly explained: “That’s not your fault! That guy was watching the amazing work of your guide dog and he just ran into the water table!”

What is your favorite post-race food?

Give me a burger and a beer please. I may think I want a lot more but my stomach rarely catches up with my eyes after the long distance prize.

What foods work best for you pre-race?  What did you find didn't work for you?

It depends somewhat on the distance of course but generally I’m a morning runner who likes to get a good breakfast 1.5 hours before the run. Give me eggs, bacon, coffee and a bagel and I’m fueled for some distance. Please do not give me salads or other roughage from the night before onward!

Do you prefer to run in hot/humid or cold temperatures?

Cold please but not icy cold rain like Boston 2018 – that was ridiculous and hats off to those finishers.

Randy finishing his first Boston in 2015 guided by Christine Houde, both with triumphant fists in the air!
Randy finishing his first Boston in 2015 guided by Christine Houde, both with triumphant fists in the air!

Outside of running, do you crosstrain and how?

I try to work in cycling, yoga and when possible one of my passions: hiking.

What other hobbies do you have besides running?

I’m a bit of a dog enthusiast and only partially for the obvious reason. Did I mention I like to hike? Getting laughed off the cornhole boards for sure or in serious moments my passion for the connections my presentations provide to students and organizations is pretty high on the list, even in these virtual times. Some folks might claim I have a football addiction but I think it’s (mostly) under control – and not just because of this year!

What is your favorite flavor of gel/GU?

As a confirmed chocoholic any of those variants work but Nutella comes in close behind. This all presumes I can wash it down with water.

What made you decide to start running?

Getting in better shape for hiking involved taking longer and longer walks and my guide dog Quinn was ever eager to get home faster for his play sessions. He got me back into running after blindness and I never looked back – after all it wouldn’t accomplish anything for me to look back!

Do you listen to music while you run? If so, any favorite songs/artists?

Only when on the treadmill since otherwise my guides get a little persnickety if I’m not paying attention to them warning me about the footing, turns and all that. When I’m pushing the pace I just want a beat to help drive me but otherwise the full range is fair game to keep me distracted. DJ President Steve kept me entertained for 26.2 of virtual treadmill and he only gave me “I’m a loser” once. I am potentially “a little” stuck in the 80s for some but Celtic, like Gailic Storm, is probably the most commonly heard.

Randy, his wife Tracy, Autumn, and friends Sarah Toney and Greg Neault at the New England Half in 2014.
Randy, his wife Tracy, Autumn, and friends Sarah Toney and Greg Neault at the New England Half in 2014.

Favorite porta-potty location that's saved your bacon?

“Well they told me it was a port-o-potty”! In all seriousness a sick Boston 2017 used several along the last stages (Thanks Tom!)

How many pairs of running shoes do you currently own?

Five are in rotation with three of them well over 500 miles and being phased out.

Do you like running in the rain?  In the snow?

Do you just assume I’m a masochist because I’m a runner? Ok, I love snow running even with the extra slip challenge. I don’t want too long a distance but it’s just fun. Warm rain is also fun once I’m good and wet. I have no interest in cold rain.

Favorite junk food? Seriously, the kind you don’t like to admit you eat.

The question otherwise titled, help us all mock you for years to come! Those dreadful cheap chocolate covered donuts by hostess, so yeah not even a good chocolate glazed quality donut. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and I’ll eat the entire box in a single sitting with a good cup of coffee…and nobody watching.

What is your most useful running accessory? Music player? Article of clothing? Etc?

I really love what my STRYD footpod has done to help me learn about my running. It’s a great power meter and has fed me more post run stats than I could ever want or manage while also helping me just to get the most out of individual runs.