September 2020-Ron Sasso

Q: Tell me a little about yourself (where you’re from what you’re doing now…etc)

A: I’m originally from the east coast (New Jersey) but I have lived in the beautiful Black Hills for more than half my life. Before I lived here I took a trip cross country by myself, taking secondary roads across and camped the entire way. I fell in love with the area. I still remember watching a sunset over the prairie and then watching a full moon rise over the Missouri River. Magnificent! That was when I first fell in love with South Dakota and it only got better. It took me a year after my trip to make the permanent move out here.

I work as a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Black Hills Legacy. I have three wonderful kids (17, 20, 23). Unfortunately, they don’t run—yet but there’s always hope. I got amicably divorced a couple of years ago after a long marriage. 

Q: How long have you been running and how did you get started?

A: I started running before high school. My father encouraged me to run (my mother was also a runner). 

I raced in high school (PRs 4:48 mile, 9:40 3,000m). My high school had a fantastic group of distance runners. We were all weird (as most runners are) and we had a great cross country coach! I was the youngest runner on the cross country team. Our coach brought in an article from the local newspaper at the start of the season and read it to us. The article had us pegged to finish dead last in our league. He reminded us that he believed we could win and we would prove them wrong. We ended up taking 2nd place in northeastern New Jersey.  

Recently my entire cross county team did a Zoom meeting with our cross country coach for his 80th birthday. That was very cool! 

I had some overuse injuries but always kept running some distance. I ran nine full marathons then got sidetracked. I got involved with the Black Hills Runners Club about seven years ago and that made a huge difference for my running consistency.

Q: Would you rather run with a group or alone?

A: Yes. I really enjoy running with the group but I also like putting on some good rock and roll and going for a solo run.

Q: Do you prefer roads or trails?

A: Is this a trick question? I would enjoy the trails more but my balance isn’t great and I don’t want to get injured, so I am usually running on the road. A wide flat trail would be my first choice.

Q: What is your favorite distance or race?

A: I really like half marathons. Actually any race 10 miles and up to 13.1 miles. You still get a medal and you can walk down stairs normally the next day. I don’t have much natural speed, so a little distance works better. 

Q: How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

A: I have systemic scleroderma which affects my body. If I sit around for too long (a couple of hours) I will get stiff and will start getting arthritic. So, I try to keep on moving. I try to get 10,000 steps in every day and try not to take off more than a couple of days in a week. My first half mile is always more challenging and slow. If I do take consecutive days off my body will not feel “rested,” it will feel worse. That’s why I keep running. I feel very blessed that I don’t have a disease that requires me to sit still. That would be really horrible. 

Q: What do you find to be the most rewarding/inspiring thing about running?

A: There are many days that I don’t feel like running. I have found that it is extremely rare when I feel worse after a run than I did before I ran. I love that anyone can do it. I think it’s fun to watch someone getting started and how they may be overweight and slow…and then a year or two later they are cruising! Almost anyone can run! It is healthy, and you get more oxygen to your brain.

Q: Tell us a little trivia about your running?

A: I used to work with people with brain injury. At one point I ran a full marathon wearing a bike helmet to raise awareness. 

Q: What is your favorite running memory?

A: I have so many of them! One of the best learning experiences was with my first ever full marathon. I was cruising at the start and had passed an elderly woman who seemed to be just plodding along. I thought to myself, “There is no way that she will ever finish.” I thought I would never see her again. I didn’t…until mile 18 when I was cramping up and she was just plodding along at the same pace…going past me. 

Another worth sharing is after a half marathon race. A group of us were car-pooling back into town. My stomach was really feeling horrible and I felt like I would throw up (but really didn’t want to). I used to have a very strong stomach and had gone about a decade or more since I had last vomited. I was struggling. Finally, I asked if they could pull over. I tossed my recovery fuel until I reached dry heaves, then got back in the car. As we started moving again, I made the comment, “Wow. I can’t remember the last time I threw up.” 

From the front seat: “I can. (pause) It was about two minutes ago.” 

Did you know it hurts to laugh hard after you just gave your abs a vomiting workout? 

Q: If I didn’t run I’d….

A: Die a slow, painful, death. Actually, I’d probably weigh 400 pounds because I love chocolate ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. I do bike a bit though but it doesn’t burn enough calories as running does. So, maybe I’d weigh 300 pounds.

Q: Do you have a pre-race ritual?

A: I sacrifice a live chicken while dancing and chanting around my bib. Okay, no. That’s probably someone else’s pre-race ritual. 

Actually I try to be consistent with my food because my stomach can be difficult. I will bring an assortment of clothing as my body doesn’t handle cold weather as well as it used to…and then I’m making a decision the night before…or the morning of the race. I will have a music playlist ready. I then have to run a half mile to get loose. 

Q: What are your future running goals?

A: For the past four years I have wanted to break 1:40 for a half marathon. My scleroderma and the inconsistencies of my body has made that goal a little more challenging. I did 1:40:51 on a really bad day four years ago. I had another race where I trained well but my red blood cell counts were low and it was at altitude. But I have not given up hope yet….but I am happy that I can still run at a good pace. Most people with scleroderma cannot do that. 

Q: Tell us something about yourself we might not know?

A: Even though I work in real estate I have a counseling license that I keep active. I also have written eight feature length screenplays and over 1,000 poems. I’ve come close to selling a few different screenplays.

Q: What advice do you have for new runners?

A: First, don’t be hard on yourself. It takes time to get fast or to run farther. Don’t worry about either of those—they will come if you want them. You can also start at any age. The biggest thing is to be consistent. Set a plan to be consistent with your running. Make it a priority. That’s why the Black Hills Runners Club is so helpful. Running with a group can help keep you motivated!