Interview with a Runner: Lucy Chi


Lucy Chi

Lucy Chi is a social worker by profession, and one of the inspiring athletes I have the amazing opportunity to run with at Forerunners. I’ve always been curious about Lucy’s background, and how she got into running. Lucy has previously written two guest posts for my blog:  sharing her experiences from the L.A. Marathon and the Chicago Marathon. I recently sat down with Lucy at my local Starbucks before one of our Monday night speed clinics to learn more!

This post is the second in a regular series profiling local Vancouver runners and their accomplishments. Stay tuned for more! The interview has been edited for clarity, and slightly condensed for greatest impact!

Lucy Chi
Lucy running Fairhaven, WA in 2014

QUESTION: How did you get into running?

I got into running when I was 12 or 13 – and to be honest I got into running because I wanted to lose weight. Looking back, I wasn’t seriously overweight, but I was a teenage girl and I thought I was a little overweight. So I thought, “What should I do?” and I started running!

I started running in preparation for the mini-Sun Run, about 2k…and I thought I had to train for months and months for it. That was my first race, and ever since then I’ve been trying to run on a regular basis. I ran throughout high school, I did cross-country and track – I was no star athlete but that carried over. I took a break during university because of all the schoolwork, but I got into marathon running around 2010.

Q: Do you remember that first race? How did it go?

Yes, my sister came with me – Vivian – she took me to the race and waited for me at the end. I thought it went by really fast. I remember getting to the end and there was no one there, and there were so many goodies – I stocked up on water bottles – it was my first post-race experience!

Q: What happened in 2010 to change you direction, to get you into marathon running?

I think one of the things was that my friend did a marathon the year before. I was like, “Oh, I should try doing it, but it seems like a different ballgame”. I did a half in 2006, but I didn’t do much between 2006 and 2010 – I don’t think I was running any races. But in 2010 I thought I’d try doing a marathon. I’d been running for a while and I just needed a new goal. So that’s when I joined Forerunners and we had the program working toward the marathon – it was sort of perfect. And that’s how I got started.

I wanted to go somewhere where people showed up consistently, I didn’t want to look around wondering if the run was going to start or not – something about this group made it seem like people were consistently committed to it. And that really turned out to be the case.

Q: Tell me about the training for your first marathon, and your first marathon experience.

I think I just had a goal like, “Oh it would be nice to get under 4 [hours]”. So I ran with the group and I don’t think I had any expectations. I think I ran in the same [pace] group as I do now – I’m pretty consistent. It was fun, it was social – and I was just getting to know people then. People were super-duper nice at the run group. That was 7 years ago and I’m still coming back to the same place. I feel like I’m getting something out of it…

My first marathon was Vancouver and it was a good experience. My sister did it too – we both trained together, she came to the clinic with me. She actually sold me out on the first day, she was supposed to come to the first session and she didn’t show up so I was really mad about that!

We both ran the race and my dad actually came out and watched us which was really neat, because he doesn’t usually come out and do things like that. We saw him along where the Roundhouse is, which is about 2k from the finish line…and I know my sister was all emotional about it. I was OK, but she was all, “Oh, it was so good seeing Dad out there cheering us on!”

About the race itself…I don’t remember it being a terrible experience, I don’t remember suffering or anything. Whenever I say that it makes me think I should be running harder [laughs]…it was good! I knew that you’re never going to have your first time again, so I knew I’d PB so I was going to enjoy the race. I looked around and took it all in.

Q: Did you reach your goal?

I think I got 4:04 – not under four, but I was OK with that…I tend to give myself a lot of leeway. I should probably push myself a little harder!

Q: What has kept you running? What motivates you?

The group is definitely a big part of it, there’s a social aspect to it. More so now than before, especially in the last year. We’ve gone on running related trips.

It’s a health thing as well…I feel like many runners are internally a little bit obsessive in a way – I want to be healthy, keep my same weight, eat what I want…and it’s a good balance to what I do for work…when I ran my first marathon it was a good divider between work and weekend life.

When I came out to the run Thursday night speed work I’d be all stressed, but once I did the run I’d forget all about it because you really couldn’t think about anything else when you’re running, and working out really hard, and breathing really hard. So I think those are the main reasons because the work can get really challenging at times.

Lucy Chi
Lucy and me at a Monday night workout

Q: Can you tell me about your training regimen?

My regimen? I’m trying something new… prior to this year I’ve been doing three or four runs a week, I don’t really do more than that. Speed work, tempo and a long run…Carey’s schedule [ed. Coach Carey Nelson, who manages the Forerunners run clinic].

I just got tested at Peak Performance – threshold testing…what I learned from it, and what they tell a lot of runners, is that you need to do more training at your Zone 1, which is doing your easy runs. What ends up happening is a lot of people end up running at their Zone 2, and they call that ‘junk miles’. You’re running faster than you need to for a training, an easy run. Their advice to me was to do four runs a week, and do three of those runs at a very easy pace – and one tempo run once a week. And that would result in showing improvement.

[Tweet “Lucy’s injury prevention tip: “Definitely roll!” #running @candyaficionado”]

Q: Is it making a difference yet?

I think it’s too early to tell. The first week it felt amazing, I felt super well-rested. The only thing I can attribute it to is running in accordance with that program….I’m hoping it will pay off by May or June. Is it worth it? I’m only going to know when I see the results, but it’s nice to change things up. I’ve been doing the same thing for 3 or 4 years, I feel like I’ve plateaued…just mixing it up has been kind of fun.

Q: What’s the most unique race you’ve ever run?

The Hood to Coast Relay! We’re doing it again this year – we did it for the first time in August 2013 and basically it’s 200 miles [ed: it’s 198 miles!], from the top of Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon. You’re with a team of 12, and you basically alternate legs that range from 7 to 10 kilometres, continuously, until you reach Seaside. So that means running during the day, running at night…you run three legs, and you’re stuck in the van with 5 other people so it made for an interesting experience overall.

Lucy Chi
Lucy at the Hood to Coast Start Line

One of my legs last time was running at 1 o’clock in the morning, and I think we fell behind because we missed one of our exchanges….so I was essentially running alone in the middle of Oregon…it was kind of scary, but looking back now that I’ve survived it it was kind of neat, it’s that layer of nostalgia that happens when you look back on things. The person who put the team together in 2013 is putting the team together again this year, so I want to take another stab at it. I would recommend that!

Q: What’s your favourite race ever?

We did the Big Sur in 2012, and that was really fun. Since then, it’s been impossible to get into that race… It’s a marathon in California that takes place in April and you don’t do it for time. It’s a point-to-point along the Central California Coast from Big Sur to Carmel – you run along the Pacific Coast Highway. You reach Hurricane Point and there’s a piano player on the top – it’s super scenic, really hilly, rolling hills, but super amazing in terms of the scenery when you get to the halfway point…the piano player playing Chariots of Fire or whatever inspirational song he’s chosen. And that was really cool because my sister came and we had a lot of fun.

Lucy Chi
Big Sur Marathon – amazing scenery!
Lucy Chi
Lucy and her sister, Vivian – Big Sur finish line!

Q: Would you do it again?

Ya, if i can get in!

Q: Do you have a bucket list race?

It’s going to sound kind of cliché, but probably New York or Boston because, like with Boston, you want what you can’t have. It’s not easy to get into…and plus I’ve been to Boston and it’s a nice city and I’d like to go back, and I’d know that I’ve earned a spot in the race, which I haven’t yet. New York would just be kind of cool – I haven’t been there in over 10 years so I’d like to make a trip out of it with my husband. It would be nice to see the city from the perspective of a runner, through the five boroughs!

Q: Do you have tips for when you travel for a race?

I think the biggest thing is making sure you bring your food with you…I try to make sure we’re situated by a supermarket so we’re not eating out, we can find healthier food. It saves money, and ensures you’re getting good, nutritious food beforehand. I try not to walk around too much, but it’s hard because you want to sightsee. And I try not to arrive on the Saturday, but arrive on the Friday so I don’t feel like I have to rush.

A hard thing to get down is the bathroom routine…is this OK for an interview? [laughs]…you go at a certain time and when you travel it kind of throws it off. There’s been times in races where I’m like, “What do I do?” but…mind over matter! I try to make sure I go beforehand…it happened to me in Chicago and a bit in L.A. but…what do you do, right? I can’t be slowed down by a porta-potty! It’s a real distraction…

Lucy Chi
Don’t let this slow you down!

Q: Have you ever experienced injury?

I’ve been pretty lucky. In the first couple of years I had runner’s knee, and I’d have to stop during a training run. I used to pack Advil in my hydration belt, but I don’t have to anymore. But one thing is that I make sure I roll on a regular basis, use trigger point rollers – I’m pretty religious about that because when I had runners knee I’d literally have to stop. And it really seems to help….that’s my tip, definitely roll!

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve had from another runner?

Probably just making sure the runs are about quality, not about running fast all the time for all the runs, because that doesn’t necessarily translate into faster times or great race results. That’s just recent advice…it’s a hard thing to wrap your head around…but being disciplined pays off.

[Tweet “Lucy on #running: “Make it a habit – a healthy obsession!” @candyaficionado “]

Q: What’s advice you’d give to a runner just getting started?

Don’t miss your workouts. Go for a run even if you don’t want to. You have to make it a habit – if you make it a habit, you don’t even have to think about it. That’s what the Saturday run has become for me. It feels weird not going on a  Saturday morning. You feel guilty not going. You have to go when you don’t want to go…you can’t think about it, you just have to go. It’s easier said than done, but it can be done! Make it a habit, even if it means being a bit obsessed…a healthy obsession!

Q: Looking back, what advice would you give to a younger Lucy?

I should have tackled doing the marathon much earlier. I was put off because I thought I’d be training 5 or 6 times a week, “Oh I can’t do it I’m so busy,” like I’m so special. Doing it now, it’s like a habit…it’s not earth-shattering difficult, you just have to make time for it. I would like to tell me to tackle the marathon earlier so I could have had a longer time to qualify for Boston! I’d like to qualify before I make it into the next [age] category…but if I don’t get it this year, I’ll aim for it when I’m older.

Q: What’s your marathon PB?

3:38 – in Skagit. And the qualifying time [for Boston, for Lucy’s age category] is 3:35.

Q: What races are you looking forward to in 2016?

A few of us from the clinic are going to Berlin, that’s in September. Maybe I’ll try to qualify then!

Thank you for asking me to do the interview – I feel very honoured – and hopefully some of the information I shared will be helpful to somebody out there!

Lucy Chi
Lucy and me – West Van Run 2016!

You can follow Lucy on Twitter: @candyaficionado


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