Raised to Run: Ellen Hart
I met Ellen Hart while I was living in Denver while I was training for my very first marathon. She was more than fast. I admire her for her strength beyond running. Overcoming obstacles, being a working mother, and always a friend on the race course! Here is a great article on her and below are her thoughts on running. This will be her first ING NYC Marathon!
Amy Freeze: What are the reasons behind your runs? You have returned to competitive running!
Ellen Hart: I run because it makes me feel good. Now, not every run feels good, but overall, there is never a day that I don't feel better after I've gone running, than I did before. It makes my body, my mind and my heart feel better. I seldom run with music (only when I'm on a treadmill), so I have lots of time for thinking on a run. Sometimes I have a worry or a problem to figure out, but usually I let my mind wander where it will. It's as if the bucket of stuff gets sorted somehow, settles itself into an order I might not have discovered on my own. I think I was put on the earth for a few reasons. One of them is running--I never have to question the "rightness" of running. When I feel strong and fast, I exult in the capabilities of the human body. When I feel slow and hunched over, I am grateful for the quality of persistence, and the opportunity just to be able to run at all (one of my sisters has MS). When I am in a period of running consistently (there have been injuries and children requiring time off) I like how my body responds to the demands of the activity. I like breathing hard, I like muscles.
Amy Freeze: How did you start running? What are your early memories of running?
Ellen Hart: I started running in 3rd grade. Before that I'd had asthma, which constrained my running and playing outside like most kids. Our family moved to New Mexico when I was in 3rd grade, and my asthma was gone. I went to a public school with a great playground. When the bell rang announcing PE period, we lined up at the door to the outside, and then burst out to run a lap around the playground. I lived for the opening of that door. I loved the feeling of leaving everything behind, and just getting to run as fast as I could. I then ran track from 6th grade to 9th grade. I wanted to get better, so started running in the mornings before school. I did well in a few track meets, and loved the feeling of excelling in something I loved. I could make my dad notice me (I was one of 8 kids). I also played team sports, and focused on field hockey, soccer, and basketball through the end of high school and college. But my freshman year of college, at Harvard, I went to watch the Boston Marathon. On a hot day, I had goosebumps on my arms from excitement--this was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. My junior year I ran the Boston Marathon--not knowing what shoes or clothes to wear, or how to train or pace. It was fabulous!!!!
Senior year I ended up running the 10,000 meters, and qualifying for nationals and Olympic Trials (1980, the boycott year). I came in 3rd at OT's, went nowhere, but was hooked.
I competed for a few years as an elite runner, doing well, and being part of the transition in the sport from amateur to sort of professional. I struggled with a terrible eating disorder for many year, which ended my running career.
Amy Freeze: How did you return to running?
Ellen Hart: Fast forward--got married, had kids, ran very little for a number of years. But also got healthy! Started running masters races in Washington DC and then in Denver when we moved back in 1998. I had my old best friend back!
I ran happily for a few years but then got injured. After almost 2 years of non-running due to plantar fasciitis, I started doing triathlons--training in the pool and on the bike, and limping through a couple of events in 2006. By 2007 my foot was better, and I've continued doing tri's. I also compete in a half dozen road races a year, and sometimes cross-country. Triathlons are funny--I can make it through the swim, even the 2.4 miler in a full Ironman. And I've gotten competent in biking. But it's when I'm in transition 2 of a triathlon when I really feel like me. I lace up my running shoes and realize, "I know how to do this one--from the innermost place. This is when the fun really starts!"
Right now I am training for the Ironman World Championships in Kona on Oct 13. This season I've won the National Championships at both the Duathlon (run 5K, bike 35K, run 5K), and the Triathlon (Olympic distance 1500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run) in my age division W50-54. Sept 9 I won the Ironman 70.3 World Championship (swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, run 13.1 miles) in Las Vegas.
I will run the Rock & Roll half marathon next Sat. That will be my 5th running race of the season, 3 halfs, a 10miler, and the Bolder Boulder 10K.
I run 3 days a week. One day long, one day short and fast on a track or measured loop, and one day about 1.5 hours with some faster tempo running in it.
I try so hard not to get depressed when I get injured, but I usually am unsuccessful. Then I make myself do something, anything, at least 4 days a week, whether it's biking or swimming or yoga, just to keep from getting even more depressed. Physical movement is key to my mental health. Running is my favorite, of course, but it's important for me to do something. I schedule my workouts just like any other appointment. It is that important to my physical and mental health. I spend way more time exercising than most American 54 yr old women. I sometimes need to justify that to myself, since the time I'm spending running is time I'm not spending doing something more traditional or helpful or productive. But I've determined that I'm worth it--worth feeling good and happy and healthy.
Amy Freeze: What are your favorite racing experiences?
Ellen Hart: Favorite race experiences: winning Bolder Boulder in 1981, and winning Ironman in 2010.
Favorite running experiences: the soft path by our house when my kids were little; running up Georgia Pass on the Colorado Trail.
PowerBar, TriBella Women's Multisport, and Brooks. I have so many people that "sponsor" me with love and support.