Laura Skladzinski hasn’t been running long. But what she’s lacked in years of experience she’s made up for with number of races. Laura doesn’t just run races, she runs marathons. She doesn’t just run marathons, she has ran a marathon in all fifty states and broke a world record while doing it.
Laura, who lives and works in NYC broke the record for being the youngest woman to complete a marathon in all fifty states. What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than to get to know Laura a little better.
What was your first marathon (when and where?):
I signed up for the Vermont City Marathon in May 2008, selecting it in large part because it was sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s and promised free ice cream at the finish. My mom and my best friend came, holding signs that said “run to the ice cream, Laura!” Whenever I saw their signs, you can bet that I ran a little faster! I finished the marathon, but instead of wanting to stop there, I decided to keep running them. That feeling of conquering the impossible you get when you cross a finish line… it never gets old, and there’s just nothing like it.
Why did you start running and why did you take on this huge goal?
I started running six years ago, having previously been a total non-jock and the worst student in my grade school gym classes. I began to challenge this idea of myself while doing a college internship in Sarasota, Florida. Finding it difficult to make friends in a strange place, I told myself that I could either be miserable and have a terrible summer, or I could make the best of it and spend the time trying to better myself. I decided that I was going to do two things I had previously thought impossible: learn to cook and learn to run. The cooking was easy; the running was a bit harder for me. I did little loops around my neighborhood, working my way up to longer distances. By the end of the summer, I was able to complete a 5K race. I was so proud of myself, and told everyone I knew – I seriously thought a 5K was like the equivalent of an Ironman! However, I then found myself wondering… if I could push my limits to complete a 5K, how much more could I do? In December 2007, I decided it would be my New Year’s resolution to train for and complete a half marathon by the end of the year. I smashed that resolution before the end of the month! I was shocked that I had been able to do it – I thought for sure I was pushing my limits further than I could go. After that, I didn’t put together a marathon training plan, but I started doing a long run every weekend, increasing it by one mile each time. I figured that I could always add 10 more minutes! By the time I did a 22 mile long run, I knew that I was going as far as most marathon training plans go, so I signed up for one. I had no idea how it would change my life!
Why was this “marathon tour” important to you?
For me, it was just about doing something that I thought was absolutely impossible. I am still so proud of myself for overcoming my high school days, when I couldn’t even run one mile without stopping to walk. I believe that marathoning is something that ANYONE can do, with motivation and training.
Favorite marathon / city?
It’s hard to compare big and small marathons, so I always give two answers to this question. My favorite big marathon was the New York City Marathon. It was my 33rd marathon but my first in my hometown, and I’ll admit that I got teary eyed when “New York, New York” played at the start. The crowds were incredible, and I loved having my friends and family there to cheer me on! My favorite small marathon, on the other hand, was very different – Run With the Horses in Green River, Wyoming. You started at the top of a mesa at sunrise, and all you could see around you were mountains and sky – no buildings, roads, or even farms for miles. It was such a small field for a race that by halfway through the race, I was running all by myself with no other runners even in sight. The course was a dirt trail that was used by wild horses and they would pass the runners at a gallop. It was just incredibly scenic and beautiful.
When / what was your record breaking marathon (the last state)?
I broke the world record as the youngest woman to run a marathon in all 50 states in June 2010, two years and one week after my first marathon. My last marathon was the inaugural Minneapolis Marathon in Minnesota.
Describe the details of your world record.
Before I finished, the youngest woman to run a marathon in all 50 states was 29 years old; I finished one month before my 25th birthday. That led to my blog URL – 50 by 25!
How did your schedule work? You trained and travelled all while working full time?
I work in strategy consulting, typically between 50 and 80 hours per week. The hardest part for me to deal with is not necessarily the long hours, but team dinners/events and other obligations that keep me from eating healthy and working out. I live in a hotel four days a week and then fly home to NYC on weekends, so there is a lot of time where I need to improvise workouts based on time constraints and available equipment. Since I’m often not comfortable going for a solo run as a woman in a strange city, I typically only run on weekends (one long run a week). During the week, I do strength training (huge advocate of finding a free weight routine that works for you) and intervals on either the treadmill or the elliptical. I almost never do more than 3 miles at a time during the week.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone training for their first?
From a training perspective, I’d suggest doing as many long runs (18 miles or more) as you can. There is a lot of new research finding that running more days per week is not going to help you at all; you’ll do better by doing more high-mileage runs and cutting out the shorter “recovery” runs that are often found in older marathon training plans. From personal experience, I can say that the more you can get your body used to running long, the easier the final miles get – I usually don’t even get sore after a marathon now!
Love that you now work as a pacer, why have you decided to take on that job?
A big part of my motivation at first was financial – paying for race registrations gets expensive! However, once I actually paced, I discovered how much I loved it – much more than just running a marathon on my own. I love getting to cheer other people on and share what I’ve learned about running marathons. I especially love pacing first time marathoners – it is SO magical to get to see how excited they are, particularly as they start getting close to the finish line and realize they’re about to reach their goal.
How did you end up coaching Justin Gimelstob?
Justin Gimelstob is a pro tennis player who made a $10,000 bet with his friend, Andy Roddick, that he could run the NYC Marathon. I connected with Justin on Twitter (ah, the power of social media!) and offered to help coach/pace him. The terms of the bet were set so that Justin had to finish under 4:45, and he smashed that goal, finishing in 4:10! We had a lot of fun, and I was so excited to earn that money for our charity. (Read about it here)
And because we’re a t-shirt company – did you have any fun/unique shirts or outfits?
- Ran my first marathon in a shirt that said “Will Run for Ice Cream. When I finish, I can eat 14 scoops!”
- Ran the 2009 Boston Marathon in a shirt that said “48th Marathon, 1st Boston!”
- Ran the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon dressed in a Superwoman costume
- Ran the 2012 Half Sauer Half Kraut Marathon dressed in a German beer girl costume
Wow isn’t she an inspiration?
What impossible dream have you made possible? Are you motivated to start working towards a BIG goal now?