Monday, January 6, 2014

Healthy Employee Spotlight: Running Woman

Melissa, after the Rehoboth Beach
Seashore Marathon
Registered dietitian Melissa Riley intends to see all 50 states someday, but not by tour bus or car. Melissa will run. You see, Melissa is a marathoner—a woman who runs 26.2 miles in less than four hours.

“I love the physicality of running and the mental challenge to improve my time every time I run,” explains Melissa. Melissa works full time as a clinical nutrition manager for Meritus Health, attends graduate school and performs nutrition consulting on the side, but she still schedules four-to-six marathons a year. To prepare, Melissa runs six days a week with Saturdays devoted to a long run between 12 and 20 miles.

“Running makes me feel good and it’s easy. All you need are sneakers,” says Melissa.

Tough stuff
Melissa accomplished her first marathon when she was 30 years old. Eleven years later, she has completed the Boston Marathon and Central Park Marathon in addition to marathons in California, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and Dublin, Ireland. She’s also triumphed in athletic feats such as the JFK 50 Mile, a military-inspired run through parts of the Appalachian Trail, and the “Goofy Challenge,” a 39.3 mile event held over two days at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

“I had to challenge myself to finish the JFK 50. It’s especially tough when you realize you’re running longer than an eight-hour work day,” says Melissa.

To date, Melissa has earned a first-place medal and garnered several second and third place finishes. But the real prize for Melissa is being around healthy people. Since joining a running group in Frederick, she has expanded her social network, made close friends and found a way to reduce stress.

“I feel lucky that I found something that I love to do,” says Melissa.

At 41, Melissa logs in better times than she did when she was in her 30’s. She averages an eight-minute mile and runs as a “pacer” in many marathons, encouraging new marathoners to finish the run. Melissa supplements her running with weight training and sessions on the StairMaster, which keeps her in “marathon-ready” shape throughout the year.

Advice for runners
For runners who want to achieve the holy grail of a marathon, Melissa offers these tips:
  • Set a goal of running the next race up—from a 5K to a 10K and a 10K to a half marathon.
  • Increase your distance by ten percent each week.
  • Don’t push yourself beyond what you can do. Gradually increase your miles.
  • Be forgiving of yourself. You’re going to have some good runs and some bad runs. 

With nine states down, Melissa’s latest quest is to run marathons in the remaining 41 states, but it’s going to take time and money.

“I love running because you get to be outside and enjoy the scenery,” says Melissa. In her opinion, there’s no better way to see the United States than from outside—with her sneakers striking the pavement.

By: Anne Gill

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