Melissa Roberts is an Estes Park native, and has helped hundreds of people overcome chronic health issues as a acupuncturist in Estes since 2001. In her free time, Melissa is an endurance athlete, and uses Rocky Mountain National Park as her playground for training for marathons and triathlons. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and her two children.
I have had the huge pleasure to coach Melissa for two marathons now, helping her prepare both physically and mentally. I recently had the opportunity to interview Melissa, and here are the results.
Can you share a little about your running history before you started running marathons?
I’ve always been an active person, but I never liked running until about 5 years ago. I started running to lose baby weight after the birth of my second child, but it didn’t stop there. I discovered a way to get out of the house for some self-care, a way to get some peace and quiet and reconnect with myself. A friend convinced me to run the Bolder Boulder and after that race, I was hooked. If I could run a 10K, I could run a half marathon; if I could run a half marathon, I could run a marathon, and so it went as my self-confidence and love of the sport started to take off.
Your running has really taken off in the last year plus. What factors have had the biggest impact on this for you?
As my running continued, I was blessed with connecting with a group of women runners and I started running with them on a regular basis. I chased these women up mountains, on unknown trails, in the dark, sharing not just our footsteps, but our stories, strength and inspiration. These women were all accomplished runners, having reached goals and still striving in the sport. It was both contagious and inspiring. Overtime my confidence grew and I wanted to see what was possible with my own running, so I started believing and striving too.
You took over 30 minutes off your marathon PR at Chicago in 2015. What did you do differently that enabled you to smash your previous best time?
In my training for Chicago, I used you, my trusted friend and coach to develop my training plan. In the past, I had followed training plans from books or magazines, put my own twist on them, and ended up sick or injured. My motto was run fast, push hard, but it wasn’t working. I think I trained for three marathons this way before I ever saw a start line. Using the Lydiard program was counter intuitive at first, as speed didn’t come into play until much later in the program. Rather, I spent 10 weeks running long and slow to build a strong base. I watched as my energy and endurance grew, my metabolism changed and became much more efficient, and I stayed healthy.This program really allowed me to learn about my pace and build incredible endurance. My motto has become train smart, race fast. Training this way has really helped me to improve as a runner and has forever changed the way I think about training.
You recently wrote about why you love running. Can you share what you wrote, and what this means to you?
I recently wrote about my love of running so that I don’t lose sight of or forget why I fell in love with this sport in the first place. Briefly, running allows me to feel free, alive, and safe in my body. For me, running is a journey compiled of many miles, runs, preparations, tapers, and races. Running is not about one run, or one race, it is a way of life, a practice, a discipline. It is a way that I come to know myself, nurture myself and my friendships. I have come to understand that I am not my race times, but the path of my foot falls on the road, the echo of my laughter on the trails. Running reminds me that my life is a gift, and I never want to lose sight of that.
At your most recent marathon, Colorado, in May this year, you were aiming for a BQ. What happened in your race, and how did you come to terms with this?
At the CO Marathon, I started way too fast, starting faster than my BQ pace. I lined up with the 3:45 pacer and vowed to keep him behind, though I heard him warn his group about starting very slowly. By mile 16, I watched him run by, with no hope of hanging on. At that point, I knew a BQ was out of reach for this race, but I made peace quickly, as I realized my mistake of going out too fast. Lesson learned, now let’s run, because I live for this, the wind in my hair, the road beneath my feet, the strength in my legs and the joy in my heart!
You have been using activacuity, and we have worked on personal positive guided imagery sessions as well. Can you share what you have enjoyed about using the positive power of your imagination, and what difference this has made to your running?
I had trained for six months for this race and I did not want to end disappointed, so I quickly began my positive visualizations that I had practiced in training. Though I didn’t get a BQ this time, I had an amazing race, and I never hit “the wall”, my visualizations kept me positive, relaxed, and running as fast as I could until the end. This was my strongest race to date, and I ended knowing that there are more marathons in my future!
You often train with a group of women runners who used to be faster than you. Now you’re in the lead pack – how does it feel to have jumped up in the “pecking order”, and how did you manage this process mentally?
Training with this group of women has been one of my greatest gifts. Recently, one of the women gave me a medal for “most improved” runner of the group and I cherish it, as I know I couldn’t have improved this much, this fast on my own. As I have gotten faster, I have come to need a balance of running with the group and running by myself, particularly during training. I am so grateful to have the support and friendships of these women, as that is what often pushed me forward.
What is next in store for you, and can you share your dreams for your running future?
My goal is a BQ in the next three years, so I will keep running and believing until I get there. For now, the mountains are calling, so I plan to enjoy the trails and mountains of RMNP, finding joy in the freedom and comraderie of running. My next race… I haven’t settled on one yet, but I know I will soon.
What would you say to someone who has recently started a running career, and has an idea that maybe they have talent there waiting to be connected with, and released?
To someone who is new at running… Have patience, it takes time to develop as a runner, both physically and mentally. Your body is a gift, listen when it speaks, treat it well, and it will give you more than you can imagine. Always, always believe in yourself, self-belief can carry you many more miles than your legs alone.
Here is Melissa’s testimonial for activacuity: “Listening to activacuity is like a vitamin for my running; it relaxed me, it fortifies me, and it prepares me to run as my best self. It clears the mental cobwebs, so that when I start a run, I am immediately focused on my enjoyment of running, and I’m not wasting energy trying to get there. I’m already there, I’m prepared, I’m relaxed, I’m a champion.”