Positive running story – Amanda Walton-Lopez

Our positive running story this time is on runner Amanda Walton-Lopez, who lives in Estes Park, CO. (Amanda is in the center in the picture above, support crew for a group of local Estes Park runners at the 2017 St.George marathon.) Amanda ran her first marathon in August in Alaska, and trained really diligently and with great enthusiasm despite the crazy hours and shifts that her role as a flight attendant for a major US airline entails. We caught up with Amanda recently and had the chance to ask her some searching questions. This interview is the result.

Can you share a quick recap of your running history to date?
I started running at about age 23 after watching many strong women in my family run for years. My grandmother ran her 1st marathon (the Houston Marathon) at age 65 in 1997, and one of my earliest memories is being in Folsom Field waiting with my dad and younger sister for my mom and Aunt Andrea to finish the Bolder Boulder. In fact, many of my family have run the Bolder Boulder over the years- my mom’s parents, my mom and stepfather (in fact, I think my stepfather has only missed one year of the 39 the race has been in existence), 3 of my mom’s 4 sisters, and at least 6 of my cousins, as well as my own sister, her husband, and my nephews. The first year I ran it, I couldn’t run the whole way, so that became my goal for the next year. Then I wanted to improve my time, then I wanted to beat an hour (which I just did in 2017!), then I resolved to run a half (the Denver Rock N Roll Half in 2014 was my 1st half), and now this year I’ve run a full marathon! Next year I hope to improve my time when I run my 2nd marathon, the Colfax Marathon. Who knows what will follow that?

You ran your first marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, on August 20. How did your training go for the race, and how did your race experience compare with how you thought it might be?
My training for the Anchorage Humpy’s Marathon this year was challenging, but fun. It was hard to work the training around my schedule, but thank goodness I hired a terrific trainer (YOU!) to help me! I had some races sprinkled through my training schedule to help keep me motivated- the Frost Giant 5k and 10k, the Equinox Spring Half, the Bolder Boulder, and the Estes Park Half Marathon. Training in many different cities during my layovers also made it more interesting, but the best part was the people I got to run with! I trained with my mom; my husband Christian and my dog Ghost; my friend Melissa and her running friends Annie, Dana, and Alicia; my friend Lisa in Seattle; and a couple of times with you! Not to mention my numerous running friends on Facebook who I have met through life, work, etc, who were a great support to me. I did have a couple of setbacks- two illnesses, a 3′ snowstorm, exhaustion- but overall I feel I did pretty well with the training schedule (who knew shoveling could be such great cross training!?)
The Anchorage Humpy’s Marathon couldn’t have been a more perfect choice for me! I flew into Anchorage on Friday and stayed with one of my best friends, Kathy, who lives in Anchorage. Race day (Sunday) was about 55 degrees and partly cloudy for the first 2 miles, then we had a steady drizzle. I would’ve thought that the rain would be horrible for chafing or cold, but it really was a perfect temperature and I had no issues. I ran the first 2 miles with a woman named Allison who I chatted with- she was running her 28th marathon in her 26th state- and I kept a pretty steady pace. I had Huma+ gels and VFuel gels for every hour, and Nuun in my Nathan water belt. I stopped at every aid station for water. At mile 13, my husband Christian and our dear friend Toya jumped in and followed me the rest of the way on bikes. Their support was everything to me! When I “hit the wall” at mile 21, I’m not sure if I could have kept going had they not been there. When I said that, Toya said she was “going to jump off this bike and push (me) to the finish!” They kept me going.

You have the kind of job that is very challenging to include a training schedule that requires consistent training. How did you manage to balance the demands of your job with regular training?
Probably the biggest challenge was balancing the demands of being a full-time flight attendant with my marathon training schedule. In fact, that was the main reason I hired you as my trainer. I had moved back to Colorado in September of 2015 after 11 years living in Houston, TX, and found (to my chagrin) that the elevation and hills were a LOT harder to run in. It seems like that would be common sense, but it hurt my poor l’il ego. I signed up for MORE races as a result, in order to challenge my improvement, but it wasn’t until a year and a month later (as well as 4 half marathons later), that I could even run a full race again without walking. Mind you, the whole time I had my friend Melissa in my ear supporting me. She “knew” I could run a full LONG before I knew I could. Without her support I might not have found the self-esteem to challenge myself to that level. When I ran that first full half since moving back (the Denver Rock N Roll Half 2016), I finally felt that MAYBE I could actually do a full. During the whole 2016 race season, I followed training plans that I found on Pinterest, but I had to adapt them to my flying schedule, and I rather flunked at it. I would get so tired and just skip a run, and then be angry with myself during the race. I figured if I were working with someone who could build a plan based on my specific schedule that I would be more likely to hit my training goals, and I was right (for the most part). I still had days when I just couldn’t get it done, but on the flip side, I was also more likely to push myself to get out there because I had a human being to answer to and not just a training plan on paper.

You had a tough time at the beginning of August, and in the midst of that found a way to remind yourself that you do like running, and you do it because it’s fun! Can you share how this magic happened?

One of Amanda’s training companions, her dog Ghost

I had a big challenge at the end of July and beginning of August, when I re-discovered my hypoglycemia and passed out in front of a restaurant of people. I had failed to account for the boost in my metabolism adequately and thus found myself on the ground, surrounded by concerned faces. I was supposed to be HEALTHY! After all, I was training for a MARATHON! I had missed a couple of long runs because I was feeling a burning sensation in my chest, which also turns out to be a side effect of hypoglycemia. I started to panic, feeling afraid not only that I couldn’t run the full marathon, but that I might be one of those people who actually has a cardiac event and DIES on the course. I was so grateful to have the support of my trainer (you), and my acupuncturist (my friend Melissa, also a marathoner). I learned about some of the training chemistry of the body that I was unaware of, and that helped me get past the panic. But I also was able to take a step back from the technicalities and assignments, and remember that I signed up for a marathon because I actually have a passion for running. I went for my next long run with my heart open to enjoying the experience, and found a whole bunch of signs that I was out there for the right reasons. I was running in Kona, HI, and on the Ironman course. I felt so lucky to be strong enough to even run a part of that course. I saw beautiful vistas, flowers, and even had a crab spectator to encourage me on my way. Yes, the marathon was the goal, but the journey was just as enjoyable and I was so grateful to be reminded of that fact at the end of my training when I was beginning to panic.

You have shared a number of your training runs with some local women runners from here in Estes Park. How important has their support and friendship over the miles been to your preparation?
The people who have inspired me along my running career have been everything to me. My mom, Grandmother, aunts, my friend Shelly who has run the trails of Nederland since I met her 26 years ago. My best friend Dove who has been running her neighborhood of Ojo Caliente, NM, barefoot, with her husband John. My many flight attendant friends who got me out running during a layover when I would have rather put on my pj’s and crashed in my hotel room. My fellow Fairview High School classmates who have run, hiked, biked, etc, and shared their joys… But lately, mostly, my friend Melissa who took me under her wing and brought me out running (usually at ungodly hours, haha) in Estes Park. She showed me that I CAN overcome the hills that I found so challenging, and she has introduced me to other EP runners (Annie, Dana, Alicia, Amy) who have abided my slowness and taken me in as a fellow runner to help me improve. Through them I found a new depth in myself and fortitude that I didn’t know I had, and I am so grateful. Also my poor husband Christian, who lifted me up during emotional moments when I didn’t feel that I had the strength to continue. He always knew I could finish.

You followed a training program for your marathon based on Lydiard training principles. How different was this from previous training you had done, and what were the key benefits the Lydiard program gave you?
I found the Lydiard method of training extremely beneficial. Training for 28 weeks rather than the average 16 week training plan gave me more of a base to rely on when the going got tough. I don’t think I would have even gotten to the starting line after missing my last couple of long runs if I had been doing a traditional plan, but with the confidence of 8 months of training (plus my trainer, acupuncturist, mother, and husband supporting me!) I not only got to the starting line, but through the finish line! I look forward to my next 28 weeks of training and hope to improve my marathon time with my new experience to bolster my training plan.

Can you share something that is uniquely Amanda that no one else would know by looking at you?
What comes to mind about something people wouldn’t know about me is my caffeine addiction- haha. Although if a person talked to me for any length of time, that would immediately become obvious. My husband responded: “your generosity,” and I AM willing to go out of my way to help others- maybe to my own detriment. The second thing that comes to my mind is that I absolutely believe in the benefits of holistic healing and naturopathy- in fact I only seek a western doctor under a requirement for a doctor’s note from my workplace or an immediate emergency situation. The benefits of traditional healing methods can far outshine the western doctor’s methods, in my experience.

What are your goals for the rest of 2018 and beyond?
My future goals include the immediate: supporting my friends at the St George Marathon in Utah next weekend! I will be running the Denver Rock N Roll Half on October 15th, although my trainer told me to “take a break,” and so I haven’t really “trained” for it. I will be running it for the fun of it. I have recently been trying to complete one of my resolutions for 2017 to hike 12 hikes I’ve never done before- I’m on #7, which will be to climb Mt. Elbert on Thursday Oct 5th with my great friend Toya (who rode on a bicycle behind me during my marathon with my husband). I will be running the Colder Bolder on Dec 2nd with my nephew Taylor, who I also ran with during the Equinox Spring Half and for the Broncos 7k this year. And I will start training in November for my 2nd marathon, the Colfax Marathon on May 20th 2018. My long-term goals include hopefully running the Houston Marathon like my grandmother did, and anything else that comes up and seems fun! (Chicago? New York? Boston? Berlin?) Because if you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?

We wish Amanda every success with her life and running, and know that she will continue on the upward trend and bring her zest for running to all around her!

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