Runner of the Month

Tara Towle - March 2020

This is turning out to be quite the month, and as we all sit in dealing with the repercussions of COVID-19 let's celebrate the accomplishments of Tara Towle!  She has a great story and had an excellent year of racing last year.  Thanks for letting us highlight you - and please enjoy the benefits offered by Peak Recovery and Health Center!  We thank them for their sponsorship!

 

Tara running at the 2018 CHaD Half Marathon. Part of the NHGP series!
Tara running at the 2018 CHaD Half Marathon. Part of the NHGP series!

I joined the Gate City Striders as a new runner in 2013 after discovering the Summer Trail Series. Since then, I’ve raced distances from 60 meters through marathon. I’ve competed in the NHGP, NEGP, ATR series, XC series, Mountain series as well as USATF NE Indoor & Outdoor track championships. Becoming a GCS was one of the best decisions I ever made. Luckily I didn’t let myself quit after my first track workout when we ran into the woods for hill repeats. I thought, “These are not my people!”, but I couldn’t face telling my kids I had quit after the first day. I’m very glad I forced myself to go back the following Wednesday.

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

In times of uncertainty and stress, running is a constant. My health is important to me, but I also need to have fun and socialize. The running community is the most supportive and welcoming group of people I have ever met.

I guess in many ways, being part of the running community as an adult has given me the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream. I grew up dreaming of running the hurdles in the Olympic games. As a kid my favorite day of the week was trash day because I could practice my hurdling by jumping over all of the trash cans lined up on the sidewalks. In the early 70's there were very few opportunities for girls to become involved in sports. I played volleyball and softball in high school because we didn’t have a cross country or track team. I’ll never be on the Olympic team, but being part of the GCS team is pretty darn great.

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

Tara at the 2019 Ralph Waldo Emerson Trail Race. Part of the All Terrain Runner series.
Tara at the 2019 Ralph Waldo Emerson Trail Race. Part of the All Terrain Runner series.

Currently I maintain my base training of 20 miles per week year round. My peak mileage rarely exceeds 25 miles. I do a ten mile run every weekend and 2 additional runs of 4-7 miles each.

What is your next race?

My goal is to complete the All Terrain Runner Series and Cross Country Series again this year. Next up is the Merrimack River 10 mile Trail Race followed by the Wachusett Mountain Race. The mountain and trail races are low key and everyone is welcoming and encouraging.

How has your training changed to meet your goals over the past several years?

After several years with the Striders I decided to follow the path that many Striders were on and I began training for my first marathon. During the months leading up to the marathon, the thought of an upcoming long run on the weekend filled me with dread. Running became a chore and I was no longer having fun. I ran the Baystate Marathon in 2017 and vowed I would never do that again. Instead I set out to rediscover my joy of running.

2018 was a year filled with a series of injuries, but also a new commitment to becoming a healthy, happy and lifelong runner.

In 2019 I discovered the All Terrain Runner Series and the Cross Country Grand Prix.

The ATR Series gave me the courage to try mountain races, track, trail and cross country. I met new people, discovered new challenges and opportunities for growth and most importantly fell in love with running and training again. I now have 4 seasons; indoor track in the winter, trail & mountain in the spring, outdoor track & road in the summer and cross country in the fall.

Tara representing the GCS at the 2020 USATF NE Masters Indoor Track & Field 400 meters
Tara representing the GCS at the 2020 USATF NE Masters Indoor Track & Field 400 meters

Do you follow any runners on social media?

I follow a bunch of runners on Twitter; Des Linden, Shalane Flanagan, Mary Cain, Meb
Keflezighi, Galen Rupp, Hal Higdon, Eluid Kipchoge and Mirna Valerio.

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

I like every event involving ice cream! The Hayward’s runs and ice cream truck after track are my favorites.

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

I keep a consistent schedule. I usually have 2 group runs planned per week to hold me accountable. Knowing I will regret missing a run is a motivator for me.

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

The best way to meet club members is to volunteer, come to track workouts and participate in at least one of the Grand Prix Series. As a new member I was intimidated by all of the fast runners and marathoners in the club. When Michael Wade told me I should join the competition team in 2014, I though there was no way I was fast enough to race on the team. Michael assured me that all I had to do was buy a singlet for $20 at Fleet Feet and run. I soon realized that on any given day I could score points in the NHGP series and round out my age group in the NEGP. The support I received from teammates early on as a new runner was incredible.

What is your favorite race?

Lone Gull 10K was my favorite until they changed the course a few years ago. My new favorite course is the Franklin Park Cross Country course in Boston. Last year I ran the Boston Mayor’s Cup and the USATF NE Cross County Championships in Franklin Park.
Cross country is the purest form of our sport. Running in the Cross Country Grand Prix Series with GCS last year was a blast! Since the men and women run in separate races, we can cheer each other on. It’s such an energy booster to have a teammate cheering you on as you are running up a hill or fighting through a tough stretch in the woods.

What is your funniest running or race related memory?

During the Boston Mayor’s Cup XC community race, the men and women run together. The course is set up so that you run alongside the finishing shoot a few times as you complete various loops. I was completing a loop and running beside the finish line to head out for another loop when I saw the winners banner being held across the finish line. I looked to my right and saw that I was running a few feet away from the leader of the race! It’s the only time I’ve ever been able to run alongside the winner and watch them break the tape during a race.

What is your favorite post-race food?

Tara at the 2019 USATF NE XC Championships at Franklin Park
Tara at the 2019 USATF NE XC Championships at Franklin Park

Any non-spicy food and an iced coffee. Find me after a race if you want an extra beer ticket. I rarely use mine.

(Editor's Note: Dibs!!)

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

My go to pre-race food is a plain bagel with peanut butter (Jif All Natural). I’ve learned to hold off on coffee until after a race.

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

45-55 degrees is perfect. I’m not a fan of heat and humidity.

Outside of running, do you cross train and how?

I strength train twice per week at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning. I use an elliptical to train for mountain races and as a substitute when I can’t run. I’m also a big believer in foam rolling, stretching, eating well and getting plenty of sleep.

Outside of running, what other hobbies do you have?

My family and I are soccer fans. We go to several New England Revolution games each year and I rarely miss watching a USA Women’s National Team game on TV.

What is your favorite flavor of gel/GU?

Toasted Marshmallow Gu.

What made you decide to start running?

My son ran for the Nashua PAL Striders Cross Country team as an 8 y/o. When the season ended he wanted to keep running in Mine Falls. Upon hearing this my husband looked at me and said “I’m not going to run, so I guess you need to learn to run in the woods”.

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

I will listen to music (70’s, disco, BeeGees) if I’m on the treadmill or elliptical.

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

I will usually head to Mine Falls if it’s raining to stay as dry as possible. I’ll run in the snow as long as it isn’t icy or slippery. I learned my lesson last winter when I fell on a snow covered patch of ice.

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

Homemade chocolate chip cookies, Ben & Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream and Frito’s.

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

I’m not sure if they are absolutely necessary, but I won’t run without wearing calf sleeves.