This week’s campus celebrity is Melissa Skonieczny. Melissa is a senior Communication major, works in the radio business, and is a passionate runner.
When did you start running and how did you get into the sport?
I started running a couple years ago and really got into it after seeing my sister run so much. After watching her run the Wineglass Marathon in upstate New York in 2011, along with witnessing the amazing running community and atmosphere that surrounds races, I knew I had to try it. In addition, my dad is in his mid sixties and he runs every morning, as well as half marathons. I felt like if he could do it, there is no reason why I cannot try at the least. More importantly, I never really accomplished anything big growing up or set any goals for myself. I also never really had a niche, but I think I might have found it.
What do you love about running?
Races are the best part of running by far! I train and work so hard to put all my energy into one race. The whole atmosphere and community is inspiring. Everyone cheers you on before the race, during the race, and after – it’s great! You never really understand the community until you run alongside other runners with the same mindset and goal. There is no feeling like crossing the finish line knowing you accomplished a goal.
I also love to work out and go to the gym, but I always get a better workout and feel much better after going on a run. It requires no equipment; all you need is a good pair of shoes! There are always days where I do not feel like running or mid-run I want to die, but the feeling you get after a nice long run is amazing! Also, I feel like I have no privacy at all when living in the city and running allows me to have some time for myself, alone with my thoughts.
How do you prepare for races?
I always taper my runs about a week prior to my race, so only very easy runs that are two to four miles at most. The day before my race, I do not eat or drink anything out of the ordinary or go heavy on meals. I make sure I do not wear anything I have not worn before on race day or change up my normal routine. It is not the time to try something new! I drink a little bit of water and a little bit of Gatorade beforehand. I pack a couple running gels for mid-race energy…and of course my iPod.
When I am not training for something, it feels completely different though. I do not have a specific mile mark I need to hit for the day or week. Instead, it just depends how long I feel like going.
Which races have been your favorite?
I have run three half marathons. My first was the Disney Half Marathon in Disney World (2:38), the second was the Chicago Half Marathon (2:14), and my most recent was the Disney Princess Half Marathon (2:15) in Disney. As you can tell, I like Disney. They make the races so enjoyable! The course goes through the parks and the behind-the-scenes areas, so there is always something to look at. No one takes it too seriously or too competitively. The registration fee is pricey and the trip is not cheap either, but I would recommend it to anyone. It is just a fun time! I smile the whole way! The Chicago Half Marathon is great because it is close to home, but it is much more competitive. I set my personal record there, which was two hours 14 minutes.
Are there any runners who inspire you?
Hal Hidgon. He is a retired professional runner who writes insightful books about running. I read his book Marathon and it has helped me tremendously. I also follow him on Twitter and he is always saying inspirational things that encourage me to put my shoes on.
Are there any races you want to train for and run in the future that are more difficult or a longer distance?
My goal this year is to sign up for a full marathon. I have always put it off because I have no time to run an hour and a half everyday with my time-consuming school and work schedule. However, now that I am graduating in May, my excuses are expiring. In all honesty, my first marathon will probably be the Disney Marathon in January 2014. I will start training for that around August, but until then I will just keep running for fun.
When is running a challenge?
Running outside in the winter in Chicago is horrible, but it is better than running inside. Running inside is my last resort, because I hate the treadmill! As long as it is at least 25 degrees outside, I can run with earmuffs, a running jacket, warm socks, and gloves. Once I get going, it feels 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature outside, so that is always something I keep in mind!
Do you have any advice for people who want to start running?
Remember to take it easy when your body is telling you it is tired. I recently got a stress fracture in the bone of my foot. Any small pain can turn into something much bigger if you do not give it time to heal. I learned the hard way.