Positive running story – Patrice Swan

Our positive running story this time is on Patrice Swan, a runner from Minnesota. She found running after turning 50, ran her first race in 2009, and hasn’t looked back since. We connected when she registered for our Positive Race mindset Program for the Glacier half marathon from Vacation Races. I was so impressed with Patrice’s experience at Glacier that I asked if I could interview her for our positive running story series. Here is the result of our interview:

Can you share your brief running history up to the present day?
I didn’t start running until 2008 (very late bloomer!).  My husband and I joined a gym after we turned 50 and decided we needed to get in better shape.  A trainer gave us some workouts to do on a treadmill 3 times a week.  I started doing the workouts and found that I really enjoyed exercise (which I never thought I would) and followed them pretty religiously, but never ran outside.  I signed up for my first road race April 5, 2009; it was a 2 mile race and I didn’t sleep the entire night before – I was so nervous!  After that I was hooked, and I’ve been racing/running ever since.

What is that you enjoy most about running, and why?
Oh, it’s so hard to pick just one!  I really love being outside in all types of weather.  I also love the peace running brings me – I have a fairly busy and stressful job and it really helps to ground me. I also love the feeling of accomplishment I get after completing a really difficult run.

You recently completed the Glacier half marathon from Vacation Races. Was this your first half marathon, and what was it that made you choose this particular race to run? 
This was not my first half;  I try and run a few halves every year.  I ran my first half in 2011, and a full in 2013.  I started traveling to different places to run halves (it’s a good excuse to go on vacation with friends).  I’ve gone to Chicago, Notre Dame University, Fargo ND, Key West, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada to run.  One of my friends was talking about going to Glacier for this race and I signed up to run it with her.  I’ve never been to that area of the country and it looked amazing.  I also knew this would be more of a challenge than any of my other races.

For anyone that may not have run a Vacation Races half marathon before, what were the factors that you enjoyed most about the race experience they provide? 
The scenery at Glacier National Park was amazing!! I loved being in Montana.  I also felt a true sense of accomplishment when I finished this race; it was way outside my comfort zone.  However, I truly believe that you never improve or grow if you don’t stretch your limits from time to time.  The people at VR and the Blackfeet Indian people were so welcoming and friendly.  This was probably one of the best vacations and races I have ever gone on; I can’t wait to do another Vacation Race. I also loved that it was a smaller race;  I have run some large races ( 20,000+ people) that were congested the entire time; this was perfect.  Enough runners so that you were never alone, but plenty of room on the course.

You registered for our Positive Race Mindset Program for the Glacier race. What decided you to register for our program, and was your experience using it anything like you thought it would be? (I will share a short intro on the program as well).
I signed up for your program because frankly, I felt I needed all the help I could get.  I live in the upper Midwest where the altitude is 830’ – quite a bit different from Montana!  It’s also fairly flat where I live, so training for the first 5 miles of uphill was not going to be easy.  The cost for the program was very modest, and I have certainly spent more money on stupider things!  I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was so worthwhile.  It forced me to slow down and relax for at least 15 minutes every day and to focus on myself.  I saw the benefits of this program spilling into my everyday life as well.

You shared that 4 of the sessions in particular worked effectively for you? Can you share which sessions these were and how they impacted your race experience?
The first one that really impacted me was the one about Altitude.  My biggest fear was coping with the altitude – I had an altitude training mask that I was using ( but not religiously because it bugged me to have something on my face) and I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with that A few years ago, I tried hiking to Pikes Peak and had to turn around when I got to about 9,000 feet.  Your tip that I should think back to my last long run and duplicate the same breathing on the 5 miles uphill was game changing.  I now had a strategy to cope with a truly unknown factor.  The goal setting session was also good for me.  I am a very goal oriented person and I set 2 goals for myself- a realistic goal and a stretch goal (per the PMP suggestion).  As it turned out, I crushed both of them…  I also felt the Race Strategy session was good.  I actually had a strategy mapped out for the first 5 miles (using a run/walk technique) and I pretty much followed it.  Because I had my strategy already in my mind, it didn’t phase me to walk, because it was part of my plan.  I also didn’t worry about faster runners passing me, because I was working my plan and running my race, not running theirs.

The last session was very helpful to me as well.  Every time I passed a mile marker, I smiled and said out loud to myself “oh yes you can finish this”.  I have to admit, at mile 3, I was not quite believing it, but I thought to myself; positive thinking can’t hurt at this point; negative thoughts aren’t going to get me anywhere.  I was also running into the wind and I thought “this wind is really a tailwind that is pushing me up the hill” (another one of your strategies) and I’ll be darned, but the wind didn’t bother me as much- it actually helped!.  When I reached the top and mile 5, I was able to truly smile and say “Oh yes, I will finish this” because I knew I had made it through the worst part of the race (for me).  I was able to fly down the hills (and I love running downhills; some people don’t, but I do!) but I was cognizant of my pace as well, so that I could leave something for the last few miles.  Really, it’s hard to pick just 4 sessions; they were all really good and I took something away from all of them

You said that during the race you started smiling at every mile marker and told yourself you were going to finish, and that after mile 5 you started to believe it! Have you ever used positive psychology and words when running before, and what impact will this have on your future running?
I used positive psychology when I ran my first (and only) marathon;  I knew once I made it to the halfway point and still felt really strong that I would make it.  However, I’ve never used it to this extent before.

Can you share one thing that is uniquely Patrice that non one would know by looking at you? 
I am more of an introvert than an extrovert; I struggle with meeting new people ( but running has really helped me with that – they are the friendliest group of people I have ever met and everyone always loves to talk about every their last runs or upcoming races!).

If we could share a message on your behalf to the World, what would you say? 
It’s never too late to try something new to challenge yourself!  Since I took up running, I have had so many new experiences (Ragnar road and Trail, triathlon, camping, winter trail races) that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Even less than optimal experiences are better than sitting on the sidelines.

What are your running and life goals for 2019 and beyond?
My biggest running goal in 2019 was running Glacier, so I have completed that.  I am running Ragnar Trail Wisconsin in September, the Fall 50 relay in Door County, WI in October and I’ll probably sign up for some more local 5K’s and 10K’s.

A life goal for me is to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and keep trying new things! I am not going to grow old; I am only going to get more experienced!  My dad lived a great life and passed away 2 years ago at the age of 92- he was still golfing until a month before he died.  He never saw his advancing age as a burden; he truly lived each day to the fullest- definitely the eternal optimist.  To be honest, if anyone was going to live forever, I thought it was it was my dad – he was forever young and always willing to try something new (including tequila shots when he was 90 years old, lol – he made us promise not to tell my mom!).  I feel like a learned a great life lesson from him. You can choose to live your life to the fullest and that is definitely a choice I am making.

Patrice, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, and we hope that you continue to make the choice to live your life to the fullest! We wish you every success with your upcoming races, and your goal for trying new things.

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