A Body Made for Running

I’m so excited to introduce you to Beth today, a Cape Cod Runner in Dennis, MA! Beth and I have known each other since the beginning of Twitter, pretty much. Back when there were about 60 people on Cape Cod using it, and we all quickly knew each other in a fun and quirky way. And yes, for the true power of social media, we also soon met in person and have been friends ever since! Back then, I was more of a casual runner, hitting up maybe a few road races in a good year, and Beth not so much. But what follows is a tremendously inspirational story as Beth found running and running found her – 110 pounds ago!

bank street beach

SO many people think they can’t run BECAUSE they’re overweight, or they think their “body isn’t made for running”. But here Beth shows you that the best place to start is where you are – even with just 20 seconds at a time!

When and why did you start running?
I started running shortly after I got serious about weight loss, which was in June 2012. I was hesitant to start running when I was so overweight (I’ve lost 110 pounds, and am at my goal weight 2 1/2 years later), but I had looked around a lot to see what worked for other people, and the people who got the results I was looking for had all started running, in addition to changing their eating habits. So I joined Weight Watchers in June and started running in July.

I’d also always secretly wanted to be a runner. Some of my most vivid fantasies as a kid involved a future in which I was some fabulous independent adult, living in Boston or New York and running daily. For some reason it was always tied to my image of what a healthy, fit, interesting person did.

So I started very conservatively, with a run-walk program I found on RunKeeper. I think I was doing about 20 seconds jogging with 2 minutes walking for that whole first week. But I slowly built up my fitness. I didn’t start running continuously for something like six months — it was a VERY big deal when I ran my first 20 minutes without a walking break. I felt like a CHAMPION.

And I’ve taken it slow the whole way. That first year I really was just learning how to run. Then I spent a whole year doing 5Ks, getting comfortable with that distance. Then a whole summer just doing 10Ks and 7-milers. And this year I started targeting my first half marathons. It’s been the right cadence for me, especially as somebody who only started running in my 40s, and who started running at about 260 pounds. So much of running is mental, and I’ve tried hard to be mentally and physically prepared for every distance I’ve tackled.

How is your current training going? 
I had been training for the Hyannis Half Marathon as my first half, but it got cancelled in the end. I actually wasn’t all that bummed out — I’d finished the training and felt totally ready. But they made the right call in canceling the race — this winter has been ridiculous enough to train in as a solo runner. I can’t imagine making the logistics of a big race work with the snowbanks and freezing temperatures we’ve been dealing with.

So I still want to make this The Year of The Half Marathon, but right now I’m just focusing on getting through these last few weeks of winter, honestly. Once I stopped training for Hyannis last month, I kind of lost my mojo. I’ve been managing to get in about three quick runs a week, which is really all I’m aiming for right now. Just trying to keep a steady base going, so I don’t lose too much of the fitness I worked so hard to achieve through the winter months. Once spring finally hits, I’ll be training to run a better time in the Provincetown 10K in May — which was my first 10K ever when I ran it last year, and a great race in general. Really small field, gorgeous course, super friendly and happy crowds.

Then I’ll probably target the Harwich Cranberry Harvest Half in October. I’ll tell ya, the idea of running on a crisp, clear day in the fall is sounding really appealing right now.


Provincetown 10K, above left, and Harwich 5K, above right! Love seeing that Cape Cod Runner shirt, Beth!

What’s your favorite Cape Cod running route?
I’m a huge, huge, huge fan of the Cape Cod Rail Trail. I actually think that’s why I’m struggling so much to run more right now — I really miss my bike path! It’s basically just not an option during the snowy winter months, because it doesn’t get plowed or maintained and there are just fallen trees (I mean BIG ONES) all over the place until the seashore can get out there and clear it in the spring. But for ten glorious months out of the year, it is the GREATEST. Every day I can run past cranberry bogs and rivers, under the shelter of trees and in the company of birds, and it’s so quiet and peaceful and really just divine. I love not having to worry about cars or intersections every few hundred feet, and while it’s mainly flat the overpasses where it crosses the highway give me a chance to run hills whenever that’s what I need to do. I also love that the mileage along the trail is clearly marked, so I can pick it up anywhere along the line from Dennis to Wellfleet and I’ll be able to do an out-and-back of the distance I’m aiming for. That said, my usual route is a section of the Rail Trail from Dennis (near my house) to Harwich and into Brewster, and I think it’s one of the most spectacular stretches of the whole trail. It’s just so beautiful — we’re so lucky to have it.

cape cod rail trail running
A much less snowy Rail Trail!

Do you have a local race that you never miss?
The Harwichport 5K has really become a touchstone race for me. It’s close to my house, and I have friends who live along the route and have businesses on Main Street who come out and cheer me on. I work in Cambridge, and I’ve managed to get a few friends down to the Cape each year to run Harwichport with me, which is so fun. It’s kind of become my hometown race, where I get to show off my neighborhood and the local scene to my friends from the city. We make a weekend of it, go out to Bonatt’s for breakfast, walk down to Bank Street Beach, get ice cream at Sundae School, the whole deal.

I really like races that are close to home and along routes that hold strong memories for me. I’m originally from West Dennis, so when I ran the MM5K there a couple of years ago I was literally running down the streets I used to roam around on my bike as a kid. I actually felt like those houses were high-fiving me as I ran by; all of those great old Victorian houses where I used to babysit the kids or sell Girl Scout cookies to the parents or make up ghost stories about when they sat all empty and lonesome all winter long.

What is a favorite running moment that you’re especially proud of?
Crossing the finish line of the Falmouth Road Race last August. That was my first really big, professional race, one with actual elites heading up the field and runners traveling to it from all over as a bucket list sort of race. It’s amazing that we have a prestigious race like that right here on the Cape, and the course is so unbelievably beautiful, too. But the real reason it was such a proud moment was because it was such a hard race for me. I’d trained for the hills, but I was totally unprepared for how hilly and challenging that course really was. And of course it’s hot, and the crowds, if you’re not used to them, can actually take up a lot of your energy. I guess I’m still learning how to get energy from the crowds rather than give it to them. So while I didn’t perform quite as well as I had hoped, I still ended up with a time that I was fairly happy with. And as soon as I crossed the finish line I knew I’d done a really hard thing, and I’d done it well. I was elated.

And now, of course, I have a time to beat for next year.

falmouth road race finish
Done! The Falmouth Road Race

Join Beth around the web and get ready for some serious smiles and inspiration!

Beth Dunn
Beth Dunn on Twitter

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