Welcome to the very first installment of the #ItsARunnerThing Q&A! This is a new series on Hungry Runner where each month we’ll hear from a new runner to find out what makes them tick, what inspires them and what they love most about this crazy, incredible sport.
This month’s guest is Anna Wildman. Anna is a food and fitness blogger, podcaster, and marathoner. When she’s not writing, you can find her running, cooking or scoping out the newest vegan spots in New York City and beyond.
Today she’s sharing what motivates her (even when she doesn’t feel like running), what she wishes more people knew about vegan diets, and some BIG life changes she has in the near future. Read on to learn more!
Q: Tell us the story of how you were introduced to running and eventually fell in love with the sport. Was it something you enjoyed immediately, or did it take some time for you to develop a real passion for it?
Anna Wildman: I HATED running until a few years ago. I always tried to make running a habit in high school and the beginning of college, but never did it consistently enough to make it happen.
Then I started dating a runner my sophomore year of college. He would take me on runs, which I never enjoyed. I felt like I was going to die on every run.
Then, the summer after my sophomore year, I was interning in Japan and I started to run on the treadmill every day after work just to get some exercise in. By the end of the summer, I was able to run about 3 miles comfortably.
After that summer I continued to run and eventually decided to sign up for my first half marathon my senior year. My love for running really kicked in during that training cycle, and I’ve been doing half marathons/marathons ever since.
Related: 5 Mistakes New Runners Should Avoid
Q: What inspires you to keep running, especially on those days when you’re not feeling as motivated or as fired up as you normally do?
Anna: Honestly, I just love the feeling of accomplishment. When I wake up knowing I have to run and don’t feel like it, that feeling of accomplishment afterwards is what drives me to do it.
And if I really don’t feel like running, or if I’m not training for anything and don’t feel motivated, I’ll just do something else: a spin class, [Kayla Itsines’] BBG, simple walk to the grocery store, quick ab workout, etc.!
Q: You just made a pretty big life decision! Will you share what your upcoming plans are, and what inspired you to take such a big leap?
Anna: Ah!! I know! I feel like a crazy person, but everyone has been SO positive and encouraging, which has been really helpful. So my plan is to travel Southeast Asia for a while: I’m starting in Taiwan, and then making my way south. I have no concrete plans yet; I want to travel based on other backpackers’ and the locals’ recommendations, my own experiences, and intuitions.
My decision to take the leap was initially sparked by my solo trip to Guatemala a couple years ago. I met all these backpackers taking long, months-long trips across South/Central America. I felt like a total loser — I was traveling for just 10 days and then going back to my desk job, while these people were on the adventure of a lifetime. I decided I wanted to do that one day, so that one day is now!
Q: Do you think running will continue to play a big role in your life as you travel around?
Anna: It probably will not play as big of a role as it does now since I won’t be able to run as easily in some cities/developing countries. However, I do want exercise to still play a role, whether that means walking, swimming, surfing, biking, or hiking.
Q: What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you during a race?
Anna: Nothing especially crazy comes to mind, but the craziest race I’ve ever ran was the Staten Island Half Marathon last year. It was MISERABLE. It was rainy, windy, and cold … I never thought it would end. The finish line was in a baseball stadium, but the stadium was super muddy and we were all walking ankle-deep in gross water.
Plus, all the volunteers had canceled last minute due to the weather, so the event was majorly understaffed, and it took about half an hour to grab our checked bags (standing in the pouring rain). I am still scarred from that race.
Q: If a beginner runner asked you for advice about starting to run but you could only offer them one tip, what would it be?
Anna: Be patient. Running SUCKS in the beginning. It is painful, tiring and unpleasant. However, if you keep at it long enough, one day you will be able to run 10 minutes without stopping. Then 20. Then 30. And once you can run for 30 minutes, the rest somehow comes easier.
I’d also recommend signing up for a race, maybe a 5K to start. If you enjoy that experience of training and racing, then keep signing up for different races! They’re a ton of fun and a great way to reach a new goal.
Anna after finishing her first ever marathon!
Q: Up until recently your blog was called “Running Vegan NYC” and even though you’ve rebranded, you do still talk about your experiences as a vegan runner. What’s one thing you wish more people understood about veganism?
Anna: Vegan does not mean gluten-free!! People always think that gluten is not vegan, but it very much is. Pasta and bread all day every day.
I’d also add that I wish people understood that we’re not weird alien creatures. We are normal people who never thought they would ever go vegan, just like you.
Q: Who is your biggest running inspiration and why?
Anna: Probably Rich Roll… I still cannot fathom running 5 Ironman races in under a week like he did. He is just such an ambitious, articulate, kind and inspiring human being!! #1 fan girl here
Q: What’s your next big running goal, and why are you excited to work toward it?
Anna: Honestly, with the marathon coming up this Sunday, that’s all I can think about. My big goal for this marathon is to beat last year’s time, hopefully by a lot (last year I finished in about 4 hours 35 minutes, this year I want to finish around 4 hours). After the marathon is when my travel adventure begins, so I probably will not be setting any huge goals for a while.
P.S. Anna ended up KILLING IT at the NYC Marathon on Sunday!
Q: What’s one thing — serious or silly — about running that non-runners will just never understand? #ItsARunnerThing
Anna: Oh man I could think of so many!
The perils of a tempo run. Are they not the worst??!?
The empowerment you feel when you get negative splits … honestly some of my proudest moments.
That yelling “you’re almost there!” is NOT helpful.
The glory of the post-long run nap.
The selection of the post-race free food is almost as important as the race itself.
Side note from Katie: I very much agree with this final point. The selection of post-race food is VERY important.
Thanks for sharing, Anna!
If ya’ll wanna follow along with Anna Wildman as she begins her travel adventures and continues to share her journey, you can can read her work at annawildman.blog, follow her on Instagram @annawildman, and listen to her podcast “No Bull” on iTunes.
Make sure you stay tuned for next month’s #ItsARunnerThing Q&A! There’s lost more inspiration and running advice coming your way!