February 2021-Marie Strang

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself. (Where you’re from, what you’re doing now…etc)

A:  I am originally from Ethan, SD, a bursting metropolis of about 350 people!  My parents owned and operated a Fritza’s Hotel Bar, a bar/steakhouse and hunting lodge for more than 20 years. I’m an only child, so for those of you who know me, that probably explains a lot!

I graduated from Ethan High School in 1998 and there were nine kids in my class…. I joined the National Guard later that year. I then attended the University of South Dakota. After graduating college, I moved to Gillette WY and was a probation and Parole officer.  I deployed with the 152nd CSSB in 2013 and retired from the National Guard in 2020. I am a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones and much like the National Guard I have enjoyed serving others and helping them reach their goals. I’m married and have two children and two dogs. My husband Mike, works full time for the National Guard. My step-daughter Ashlin is 23 and lives in Denver and Esther is 3 ½.

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

A: I have been running since the 7th grade. My grandmother kept a picture of my Uncle Dan and it was of him crossing the finish line of one of his marathons. He is probably the reason I took such an interest in running. It’s probably worth noting I wasn’t very good at basket ball so running seemed a better fit. In Junior High and High School, I ran track, (my little school didn’t have cross country back then). I stuck to middle distance. The mile, medley relay (anchor) and 3200-meter relay. The 3200-meter race seemed WAY TO FAR! Little did I know when I joined the army I would be running and marching much much further.

Thanks to the Army AIT (advanced individual training) I discovered the ability to run long distances. We spent Saturdays running along the civil war battle fields of Ft. Lee Virginia. I had the opportunity to go back to Ft. Lee 15 years later and run some of those same routes!

I don’t remember a time where I didn’t love running. In 2004, my dad passed away unexpectedly and as a way to process the grief and loss, I decided I wanted to run a marathon. I talked with several other runners in the National Guard and they suggested I start with a half marathon. Seemed reasonable, so I recruited three other friends to run the Deadwood Mickelson Half Marathon with me. We trained for a full and I still remember my first 20 mile run. I will spare you the details, but it rivals Dean Karnazes depiction of his first 50 miler! Anyway, we all trained diligently, but ultimately, I was the only one who showed up to run the race! Ha! Everyone else bailed. They had good reasons, but the story is better if I tell you they abandon me. I will never forget the sense of accomplishment and true Runner’s High I experienced when I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. I don’t know that finishing any other race as ever compared to that moment.

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

A: Oh, that depends on the day. I enjoy both running alone and running with a group. I’ve spent most of my running career running alone but the accountability and energy of a group is motivating. Often times, my schedule doesn’t align with a group run, but if I can recruit a friend to tag along on a run here and there for company I really enjoy that as well!

Q: Do you prefer roads or trails?  

A: YES! Both! I love the challenge and focus a trail provides. It provides a much-needed break from the noise and chaos of the “city”. I love to take in the scenery, wildlife, and smells of nature. However, I enjoy the quick pace of the road and mindlessness of just running and not having to worry about tripping and falling!

Q: What is your favorite distance or race?

A: I have literally raced all over the United States. I spent time running for the All-Guard Marathon team and I was fortunate to run races from Delaware to Hawaii. My favorite race has probably been Baatan Death March in White Sands New Mexico. The scenery and comradery are unrivaled. Favorite distance is split. A quick Half Marathon is super fun and fast with little recovery time. BUT, a 50 MILER is such a mental and physical challenge with a whole different approach that I actually really enjoy that distance as well! OK, I really enjoy the aid stations on a 50miler….  I’m weird.

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

A: I combine something I like to do (but don’t have time to do) with something I should do. So, when the weather doesn’t cooperate or I don’t FEEL Like running, I pull out the ole iPad and find a good Netflix series and use the treadmill! I get some quality Netflix time with a few miles. While these runs may not be as fast or challenging as other runs, I’m still getting time on my feet and eventually I find my way out of my funk and my passion returns to really start training.

The other thing I like to do is recruit friends (sometimes against their will) to run/sign up for a race with me. Some of you reading this may have fallen victim to my guilt trips. Having an accountability partner to train with helps keep me on track.

Q: If I didn’t run I’d ………..

A: I get angry. More than a couple days with out at least a few miles and I start to get really irritable. Short-tempered, anxious, and frustrated. I need to move, get fresh air and feel the exhaustion of a good run.

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

A: Running is selfish. You are the only run who can run those miles, sign up for the race and finish it. The most rewarding part of running is committing to a distance and then going out and running it. The simple act of setting even a daily goal to go for a run is very rewarding.

Q: What is your favorite running memory?

A:  This is a really tough question to answer. Running has brought me so much joy and I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the course and run along with first time marathon finishers and there is nothing better than supporting and witnessing that accomplishment. But, a memory that has stuck with me is from my first race, I started out next to an 69 year old female ( I was 24 at the time), and we started visiting. She told me she was supposed to do the full, but pulled her hamstring and is only running the half. (Yea, ok… good idea… I’m healthy and only running the half) She went on to tell me, that for her 70th birthday she was going to get 7 of her friends and run 70 laps around the track to celebrate her birthday. I was in awe! She then trotted off ahead of me and I never seen her the rest of the race. I’m sure she was ahead of me on the course, injured hamstring and all!

Q: Do you have a pre-race ritual?

A:  Probably. I have a process. Set out the gels/fueling, pack a after race bag.  Pick out the clothes, pin on the bib number, try on all the clothes to look for “pinch points.”  Run around the house/hotel room to see if anything is going to rub, bounce or bug me. Adjust. Run around the room again, take off all the clothes and set them next to the bed. (they have to be close at hand because the moment the alarm goes off, I have a split second of “This is Stupid, I hate running, I’m not getting out of bed”! Then I remember the clothes are right there so I might as well get up and get dressed).  My favorite pre-race breakfast is Oat meal and peanut butter toast, One cup of Coffee and one Spark.

Q: What’s the most valuable lesson you have learned from running?

A: Your progress, successes, struggles etc, shouldn’t be compared to anyone else’s. Don’t measure your success/progress by someone else’s accomplishments. They aren’t running your race.

Q: What are your running goals for the future?

A:  Boston Qualify, and complete a 100- mile race.  My goal is to qualify and run Boston every 5 years. I have attempted one 100-mile race and was a DNF. I learned a lot from that DNF and will prepare and run a little differently the next time around. No date yet for that 100 miler… I’m currently on Toddler time.

Q: Who inspires you most?

A: Camille Herron and Dan Bjerke! Yes, you Dan! I hope I continue to be as passionate and healthy as you are! Camille Herron is a world record holder that I had the opportunity to race against. If your wondering… she beat me… but not by a lot… I find her running pursuits and training very interesting.

Q: What advice do you have for new runners?

A:  Remember, the only time you have 26.2 miles to run is at the start line. Once you take the first step, it’s already less than 26.2. (this advice works for any distance!)