Find Your Strong Project: Week 10 Spotlight

Week 10 of the Find Your Strong Project asked the community to share a picture of our finish line. Michele G. shared this exuberant moment at the finish line at the 2011 NYC Marathon as she was greeted by her husband and son. She joins us for a Q&A below to talk about finishing strong and running through pregnancy:

"My husband and son waiting for me at the finish line of the 2011 NYC Marathon"

Now that’s a finish line! What emotions were strongest in that picture?
Happiness, surprise and excitement from seeing my son and husband at the finish line of the 2011 NYC Marathon.  I participated in the 2011 Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge (as part of the NYC Marathon) and had no idea that the representatives from Foot Locker and NYRR were going to arrange to have family members waiting at the finish line. My son was the only thing on my mind the last few miles of the race and I found myself searching the crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of him in the stands as I approached the end of the race.  After finishing Mile 26, I looked up to the finish line…and saw my husband, son, and mom.  They were actually there – just steps past the finish line of the largest marathon in the world!  It was the best way to finish what was an already amazing race experience!

Did your husband and son have a chance to cheer for you on the sidelines?
One of the perks of participating in the Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge was that my family was treated like VIPs from start to finish of the NYC Marathon.  They were able to stand behind me as I started the race, watched the elite female, elite male and Wave 1 start, were bused directly to the finish line and were given awesome seats to view the last hundred meters of the race.

How did the race go?
It was the most amazing running experience of my life. As a participant in the Foot Locker 5 Borough Challenge, the other four participants and I started the marathon almost an hour before the rest of the field and we got to experience what it was like to be an elite runner – we had a motorcade, photographers, bike escorts, and millions of spectators cheering for us.  Per the rules of the challenge, the five participants had to run the first half of the marathon together.  The last 13.1 miles were a race to the finish.  The first half was slow and I was happy to finally be on my own to run at my own pace at the halfway point.  The Brooklyn representative and myself ran together for a few miles but I took advantage of a slight lead on the Queensboro Bridge to pull ahead to a comfortable lead just after we entered Manhattan.  I was able to maintain the lead through the end and brought home a victory for my home borough (Staten Island) for the first time.

29 weeks pregnant!

Your most recent post says you’re 36 weeks pregnant and still running 6+ miles! What’s your secret?
I had a great first pregnancy and managed to run 20-30 miles a week until the very end of pregnancy (I ran 5 miles straight the day before I went into labor).  Unfortunately, due to some back pain this time around, I had to take about 6 weeks off from running.  I am slowly building my mileage back up (I ran 3 miles on Saturday @ 35 weeks pregnant) and hope to be able to run until the end again.  There really is no secret!  I think the biggest misperception is that it will be easy and comfortable the whole 40 weeks you are pregnant.  There are definitely some days when I feel good, but for the most part, I’m at the point in pregnancy where running is no longer totally enjoyable.  I get out there and run because it’s good for me and great for the baby.  I’m uncomfortable about 90% of the time, but running prevents me from gaining excess weight, swelling, or being grumpy or moody (which I become when I don’t run).

What’s the best resource out there for women who would like to run through pregnancy?
I think the best resource is other females that have run through pregnancies.  Books and other published material are helpful, but I have found that speaking to those that have experienced it is the best informative and helpful.  During my first pregnancy, I really didn’t know any females that had run through pregnancy and found it hard to find answers when I had specific questions about things.  I have been fortunate enough during pregnancy #2 to have some amazing females who are also running through pregnancy (we are all due around the same time) and am able to share experiences and stories with them.

2010 Staten Island Half Marathon - 2:00 finish time (first pregnancy)

How has your training changed since first becoming a mother last year? 
Without question, I have learned how to better manage my time and training.  Prior to my son being born, I had the luxury of lots of free time so I often ran however far I wanted to each day with no real training plan.  I’d set out on a run with no idea how far I would run – often turning what I expected to be a short run into 10, 12, 14 miles.  Now that my free time is limited, I can no longer waste my time running “empty” miles.  Each run, each mile, each minute I run these days has a purpose – some are “quality” workouts (speed, tempo, long), others are easy/recovery runs.  I am logging less mileage (about 20-30%) than I was a few years ago, but am in better shape and am actually running faster than I was back then.

Have you already planned your next race?
There is a small chance that I will attempt to run the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon in November.  It is only 8 weeks after my due date, so a lot depends on when Baby #2 is born, how the rest of pregnancy goes, how Labor and Delivery is, and how well I am able to train given a newborn and toddler at home.  I have already signed up for the 2013 New Jersey Marathon as my target spring marathon and may register for the 2013 NYC Ironman (if there is a race).

You’re a certified running coach and offer coaching on your blog. How is that going?
It’s amazing.  I’m training a number of runners for fall marathons (many are running the NYC Marathon) as well as a handful of others who are running half marathons and 5ks in the upcoming months.  Coaching other runners reach their goals and dreams is an amazing opportunity and I’m grateful to be involved with so many wonderful runners.

How did you first get in to coaching? 
The first race I ever ran signed up for was the Philadelphia marathon (when I was 21).  I didn’t know much about running long distance but managed to “coach” myself to a 3:54 finish time.  Over the next 10 years, I informally helped friends and family train for various events – ranging from couch to 5k, half marathons, and marathons.  I decided to become certified earlier this year so I could formally do what has always been enjoyable and rewarding for me.

The #FindYourStrong prize for week 10 was your choice of Saucony trail, track or road shoes. Have you chosen a model?
Yes!  I have received the Saucony Wave Ride 5’s.  I am waiting until after pregnancy to try them out (I don’t want to change my shoe during the last few weeks of pregnancy) and will keep everyone posted on how they hold up on my runs!

Thanks again to Michele for her time, and congratulations to all of the other week 10 winners! You can find all other submissions at

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