So You Want To Be A … Distance Runner

I’ve never, ever been a fan of running. At all. I don’t even like to jog my memory. But when I overheard this gorgeous girl at a See Jane Write blogger event describing the Disney race she’d just run, I was intrigued. Her enthusiasm was contagious. Her calves were rock hard. And when I checked out her blog, My Pretty Brown Fit, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. No, not lace up my running shoes. Interview her for the Wannabe Workshop. Meet Artney Walker, a distance runner that could convince even me to consider a 5k. She also blogs about food, fitness and faith and manages to keep her curls on point. Seriously, is there nothing this girl can’t do? Let’s find out.

First, let’s talk numbers. How many marathons and half-marathons, and what’s your PR’s for both?

I have completed four full marathons and twelve half marathons. My PR for both distances is: I FINISHED! That is a huge accomplishment for me. I seriously cannot tell you my fastest half marathon time. I do know my fastest marathon time was a sub 7-hour. I guess you can say every race is a PR!

If you would have told me five years ago that I would be a distance runner (and loving it), I would not believe you. When I first started running, I Distance Runnercouldn’t run, jog, wun, or wog 15 seconds without being winded. Distance running still has its challenges, but I don’t allow challenges to keep me from achieving my goals. I have proven to myself over and over again that I beyond capable and I can achieve ANYTHING!

What’s been your favorite race and why? The Disney runs look like so much fun!

I have so many favorites! Can I have more than one? All of my Disney races are my favorites. Disney is an experience! If I had to pick one…I’ll say the Walt Disney World Marathon. It was my first marathon and every mile was truly magic! I loved taking pictures with the characters along the course, wearing a costume (I was Tigger), and running through all four parks with all of my run Disney friends. By the way, there’s no such thing as a PR in a Disney race if you want to have a magical experience! After finishing 26.2 miles at Disney, you really feel like you can conquer the world!

Favorite #2: Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon is another favorite because it was my first half marathon. What’s funny is after I completed it, I swore that I would NEVER run another half marathon in my life. EVER! Never say never!

Distance Runner - Artney WalkerFavorite #3: I know you said favorite “race”, but I had to include the 40th Marine Corps Marathon. Last one I promise. It was my toughest race that I trained for mentally, and the hardest race mentally and physically. I knew I had to “Beat the Bridge” (mile 20) in order to successfully finish the race. I’m a back of the pack runner and I didn’t want to get placed on the straggler bus, a.k.a the bus of shame. I refused to give up. I ran for Team Fisher House charity, so there was no other option but to finish strong and make my team proud!

How’d you get started distance running? Was it love at first stride or did it take you a while to get hooked? What about it feeds your soul?

When I started distance running, I went all in. The latter part of 2011(before our Body Step class), my friend/Body Step instructor Jazmine Distance Runner - Artney Walkerinvited me to a Black Girls RUN! (Birmingham Chapter) Saturday group run. Seeing women who looked like me out there distance running/training was something I hadn’t seen before. Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks-Rocha are the co-founders of BGR! It’s a movement that encourages African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority while providing resources to runners of all levels. A high percentage of African-American women are overweight and suffer from chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and I did not want to be a statistic. I said, “Where do I sign up?” Being a newbie runner, I also loved the encouragement that I received from the ladies. It’s a movement that welcomes all fitness levels and ALL women.

Distance Runner - Artney WalkerIn the beginning I had a love-hate relationship with running. The challenge is what got me hooked. I completed my first official 10K September 2012, and that was the day I decided I wanted to run the Mercedes Half Marathon the following year. The rest is history.

The challenge of running feeds my soul. I know it is because of my faith in God that I am able to overcome challenges and cross every finish line. It truly is a faith thing.

What’s the hardest aspect of running for you?  

The mental aspect of running is definitely the hardest. They say running is 90% mental and I believe it.

I believe it too. What’s your training schedule like? Any cross-training or are you all about the miles?

For half marathon distance, I follow Jeff Galloway’s training plan. I was introduced to his plan when I trained for the Princess Half Marathon. It’s because of the Galloway Method (run walk run intervals) that I am a distance runner today. During training season, my typical schedule is: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (long run).

For full marathons, I follow a combination of Jeff Galloway and Hal Distance Runner - Artney WalkerHigdon with cross-training sprinkled in. I encourage anyone training for a distance race to cross-train (including strength training). I learned my lesson after my first go and I now do both during every training cycle.

Do you run to music or do you use the time to think, meditate or pray? Playlist, please.

Yes, I must have music! I have very eclectic taste in music. Promise you won’t laugh. My playlist ranges from Christian Rock to Country Pop to Old School Hip Hop: Sam Hunt, Hillsong Worship, Katy Perry, Kari Jobe, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, and Juicy J just to name a few. You don’t want to know what one of my favorite playlists is titled. *laughs* When it is time for me to meditate, pray, and talk to God I do listen to my Worship Run playlist.

From one curly girl to another, I have to ask about your hair care routine. How do you keep sweaty workouts from turning your ‘do into a don’t?  

I always wear my hair in a ponytail. I also love Bondi Bands because they help me maintain my mane by keeping the sweat out of my face and hair. I co-wash (wash my hair with conditioner), use Apple Cider Vinegar rinses, and twist my hair as needed. I also pineapple my hair at night. That’s about it.

Distance Runner - Artney WalkerI pineapple too! What’s your favorite way to fuel up for a race?

I keep it simple: ½ banana with ½ bagel with peanut butter, and about 4 to 6 oz of water. I tried the coffee thing and it just didn’t work out.

How important is your food plan to your training? I’m not a huge fan of running, but if it were a license to eat, I could be convinced to try it.

A food plan is very important. I try my best to follow the good health guidelines. I’ve had my trial and error moments (examples: no adult beverages, no spicy food, and no greasy food before long runs or race day). You may hear runners talk about carb loading, but eating an entire New York Style pizza is not necessary before your training runs or race day. Properly fueling your body with heart healthy foods and the right carbs is all you need. Just eat normal and practice moderation. I also think if you tried running (even for just a little while), you will get bit by the running bug!

I absolutely love your blog! What made you want to start blogging about food and fitness?

Thank you! I really appreciate you taking time to read my blog! I started my blog to create a space to share my running journey, ups and downs, weight loss struggles and victories, recipes, workouts, etc. I also wanted to inspire others on their quest to completing a specific distance of running, get started on their weight loss journey, or get fit (no matter their size).

When I was on Weight Watchers, I learned how to prepare tasty foods that were low in points value and that’s when I fell in love with cooking. I found myself trying new recipes and sharing my food finds with my readers and on Artstagram (Instagram). I’m a foodie at heart and I love exploring new restaurants, foods, and recipes, and I also believe in balance. I want people to see that just because you are health-conscious doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the things you love (in moderation). I also wanted people to know that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. It’s all about the healthy swaps!

Any must-have gear?

Garmin 220 Sports Watch, Bondi Band headbands, colorful running tights, Fitbit Charge HR, CEP Compression socks and sleeves, Hydration Backpack (for summer running), Hoka One One running shoes, and my SPIbelt.

What do you wish someone had told you about distance running before you got started?

I wish someone would have told me:

  • It’s not about being fast.
  • It’s all about endurance and staying injury free.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other runners.
  • There is nothing wrong with taking walk breaks.
  • You will get the same medal whether you finish first or you finish last.
  • It’s okay to be in the back of the pack.
  • Live by these words, “Your race, your pace.”

How can people connect with you?
Connect with My Pretty Brown Fit:

Facebook – My Pretty Brown Fit

Twitter – @myprettybrown

Instagram – @mypretttybrown

Pinterest – My Pretty Brown Fit

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