Thursday, August 19, 2021

Dance Marathon The Marathon Training Updates From First Time Marathon Runners

On October 10th, 2021 our brave charity runners will gear up in their black and lime jerseys, mark their bodies with the names of our kiddos, lace their running shoes, and take on the challenge that is the Chicago Marathon. University of Iowa Dance Marathon is unique in the fact that we are the only Dance Marathon program in the country that offers guaranteed entries as a charity runner at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Each year our organization is allowed 300 entries under the condition that each runner raise $1250. Acceptance into general admission for the race is competitive. Runners must apply for the race almost a year in advance and hope they are one of the lucky few selected. Running 26.2 miles is unimaginable for most. In fact, less than 1% of the world population will ever complete one in their lives. So what drives so many members of our Dance Marathon community to go the distance? To find the answer to this and more we checked in with some of our first time marathon runners amid their summer training.

Here's what Karter Donahue had to say

Karter Donahue

What was your running experience before training?
"Before signing up for the marathon, I have never been anything more than a casual runner. I would run 2-3 miles a couple times a week at most, just to stay in shape, but never got more serious than that. I wasn’t really, seriously considering it - but then my sister who ran DMM twice when she was in school told me that she would do it if I did, and we kinda just signed up impulsively!"

How has Dance Marathon impacted your training experience?
"Training for the marathon has really allowed me to deepen my involvement and commitment to Dance Marathon. Without Dance Marathon, I would have never thought I was capable of running a marathon. Dance Marathon has given me a purpose in my marathon training and a community of driven people to support me along the way. One of my favorite routes to run on gives me a view of the Stead Family Children's Hospital for a significant portion of the run, providing me a great reminder of why I run and why I continue to fundraise for this great cause."

What have been some of your biggest struggles during training?
"I feel like training has been going pretty well so far, but I’m nervous that once I start to increase my mileage past a half marathon that my legs might not be able to keep up. I have been battling a nagging knee injury so it has been difficult to figure out how much time I need to take off and what I need to do to rehab without falling too far behind in my training plan."

How do you overcome these struggles?
“Staying in a routine plays a huge role in how training goes. If I stay on top of my runs consistently, they become easier, but if I fall out of routine, it's so much harder to find that drive to go out and run. I try to keep myself focused on why I am running, which is to support our families at the UI Stead Family children’s hospital.”

Advice for other runners?
“Just keep going. Whether you’re running 2 miles, 10 miles, or 26.2 miles at this point in your training. As long as you continue to focus on getting better every run, you are doing a great job. Also, listen to your body. If you feel like something isn’t right take a day or week off to rest. It’s much more important to stay healthy than risk injury that could sideline you for weeks!”

Longest run so far: 8.5 miles

Favorite songs to run to: None! Uses runs as an opportunity to unplug and enjoy the scenery of his runs.

Fundraising advice: use the marathon as another example of how committed you are to the cause. This goes a long way in showing donors the importance of dance marathon.

Favorite post-run snack: Glacier Freeze or Lemon Lime Gatorade!

Fourth year dancer and first year runner, Amanda Varela shares her training experience

Amanda Varela

Why did you decide to apply for DMM?
“I decided to apply for DMM because I wanted to push myself to raise even more money for the kids we support. I do not know anyone personally who has been impacted by pediatric cancer, but meeting kids at the previous big events and talking to them was a big part of why I applied. I was signed up for the race last year as well but it was cancelled due to covid, unfortunately. I’m also excited for the ambiance of race day. Everyone is so supportive at races and I love being downtown, so running through the city and seeing all the views is something I’m looking forward to!”

What was your running experience before training?
“I ran cross country and played other sports in high school, I also enjoy doing 5ks, 10ks, and other races for charity like the Chicago Hot Chocolate Race every November. The farthest I had run before training started was a 15k.”

Do you have any goals for your first marathon?
“I don’t have any time goals but I want to try to run as much of it as I can and limit walking. I hope to raise more money than I have before. I have had both of my ACLs repaired so I sometimes get nervous my knees will give me trouble on long runs or race days; because of this I hope I’m able to stay healthy throughout the process.”

How do you overcome challenges in marathon training?
“In my experience the hardest part has been juggling training and my internship. As for the actual running part, it's knowing that the kids we are running for go through so much. If they can fight cancer, I can push myself through a long run. For me, running is very mental. I’ve learned that most times when I’m struggling it’s because I need to believe in myself and push a little harder.”

Advice for other runners?
“Believe in and be supportive of yourself! Also listen to your body and rest when needed!”

Longest run so far: 13.1 miles

Favorite songs to run to: Anything upbeat and EDM music!

Fundraising advice: Canning has been a huge help over the past 4 years!

Favorite post-run snack: Protein bars.

Three time DMM hopeful Brian Stromberg is preparing to finally run his first marathon with Dance Marathon

Brian Stromberg

What was your running experience before training?
“I had first signed up to run DMM in 2019 and had trained from March to July before having to stop. I had accomplished a long run of 9 miles when my ankle problems resurfaced. I’ve now well surpassed 9 miles and have focused a lot more attention on strength training to avoid injury. Last fall I ran a half marathon as part of Dance Marathon the Marathon’s Virtual Race Day. That is the furthest I have ever run. Otherwise I run about 6-8 miles a week when I am not training.”

What makes Dance Marathon the Marathon significant to you?
“I love the sense of community within DMM. To this community, the running of the marathon is about so much more than ourselves. I am motivated by the strength of all the kiddos on the 11th floor. In my 3 years of Dance Marathon, I made connections with kids and their families that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Do you have any goals for your first marathon?
"I want to be able to finish the race within 4:45. I am nervous about miles 17-23 because I hear those are the hardest, but I am most excited to represent our lime in the huge crowd."

What have you learned through training?
“I learned (and am still learning) the importance of routine maintenance on my body to ensure I am able to keep training. A technique that was really helpful for my fundraising was hosting a community day in my hometown! I was able to fundraise over $400. I set up a table outside the business and collected cash donations that contributed a lot. I know our Community Relations Chair would be happy to answer questions if you email”

Advice for other runners?
“Cross training is really important to build strength so you don't get injured!!!”

Longest run so far: 13.1 miles

Favorite songs to run to: 80’s classic rock and a lot of Fleetwood Mac.

Fundraising advice: Host a Community Day! (Brian was the DM27 Community Relations Chair if you can’t tell.)

Favorite post-run snack: Peanut butter toast with smashed bananas and cinnamon.

Finally, we hear from Mia Nelson

Mia Nelson

Why did you decide to apply?
“I decided to apply for DMM because I loved every other experience I had through Dance Marathon and wanted to try something new. I had heard a lot of good things about the marathon itself and wanted to try it out. I think especially with Covid and everything that happened last year our families may feel a little disconnected and I want to remind them we are all there for them.”

What was your running experience before training?
“I have never attempted a marathon before, I never even ran in high school or anything. I would run short distances to work out but nothing major. The farthest I ran before training for the marathon was probably a 5k. I did the miles in the maize race through DM.”

What motivates you to run?
“I am most excited to be involved with our families in a new way. I think the mile motivators are the coolest thing and so inspirational. I motivate myself to train by reminding myself I had a goal that I set and would like to achieve. This always helps remind me to keep going when I am on my longer runs and makes me feel better about myself when I finish. Dance Marathon has shaped my marathon training experience because I have met so many people that have the same mindset as me and are working hard for our families. That keeps me motivated.”

What have you learned through training?
“I have learned a lot in the training process. It is not easy at all to run long distances like that and it is so much easier to give up or stop running, but the feeling of finishing is so rewarding. The hardest part of training for me is finding time for the long runs. I work a lot and it is hard to dedicate a long period of time. I learned to look at my whole week, plan enough time to run, and really commit to that time period to make sure it gets accomplished.”

Advice for other runners?
“My advice for other runners is, you are so much more capable than you think! I had no idea how long I could run until I actually started, the hardest part is to just keep going. It feels so good to accomplish the goals you set for yourself.”

Longest run so far: 10 miles

Favorite songs to run to: Anything by Megan Thee Stallion.

Fundraising advice: Ran the Quad City Bix 7 and asked people for donations for this race as it was part of training.

Favorite post-run snack: Protein smoothies and popsicles.