interview

Team Spot Check-in: Martin Branch-Shaw

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NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be part of NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved? 

MBS: I moved to Brooklyn four years ago from Manhattan (where I had lived since the ‘80s). Having recently divorced, I sought community. I have been a runner most of my life (with the exception of a decade of decadent and questionably self-destructive, but wildly creative years in the East Village). It seemed a natural decision to seek out other runners. NBR’s visible and enthusiastic presence at local running events made it an easy choice. My next step, being a bit of an introvert, was to actually join. I spent a year waffling! Finally, I came to a Saturday Morning Bridge Run on a cold, grey, late December morning. I remember being a little intimidated – I was clearly older than the group assembled at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. Regardless, I felt welcomed and soon meet other runners who juggled active professional lives, training, travel and in some cases, children. This is where I felt the strongest connection, as I am unapologetic about the bond running has formed between my son and I (and I do go on!). 

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? 

MBS: I believe I am the last recipient of an NBR New York City Marathon Team Spot leaving me roughly 40 days to train and taper by way of preparation! My son, Harry, is transitioning from PSAL to NCAA (Div 3), his mileage had to double so we spent the summer training. Now that he is at college, I typically log over 50 miles a week for no other reason than love of running. I’m comparably slow-ish, but feel prepared nonetheless. My favorite NBR runs over the past three years have been Monday and Wednesday nights – socially, these runs attract fantastic people. My most important night (and I am remiss in not attending lately due to my work schedule), is Thursday night track – it hurts, but if you want to get fast, do it. Thursday nights these days I am running lonely hill repeats in Prospect Park! I ran a Sunday Funday Long Run this past weekend, which was amazing with pace groups ranging from 7s to 10:30s. Like most runners, I am my own worst enemy; running with a large group is great for keeping you out of your own head and calming the voice that is nagging you to stop. This particular run, so close to race day, proved to be cautionary: I became dizzy at mile 18 and realized that my diet the day prior and morning of, compounded by my lack of adequate hydration, spelled possible disaster on race day. I often neglect the obvious and, again, advice and support from the group is awesome. 

NBR: Tell the NBR world a good long run story. 

MBS: A Facebook headline for Outside magazine caught my eye this morning, it read, “every long run should be a micro-adventure” (or something like that). That said, I don’t think I have a single long run story. What I do have is a collection of anecdotes. This is a favorite: I am notorious for tripping over cracks in the sidewalk. This is due, in part, to my shuffling gait and less than perfect eyesight. On an early summer long run, I tripped over a particularly hazardous protruding tree root on Willoughby St. I don’t mean an elegant tumble, I mean backpack spilling, water bottle smashing, knee skinning slide. Locals from the building I fell in front of watched in disbelief. On the return leg of this particular “out and back,” I made a mental note to avoid this hazardous spot but became distracted at the last moment and tripped regardless (I swear, same spot!). This time the locals helped me to collect my belongings and get back on my feet. (I noticed recently that, though not repaired, the sidewalk has been painted with fluorescent paint by way of warning). The upside (apart from new friends to high five as I pass) is I habitually scan the sidewalk or trail looking for potential danger – as a result, I have found $86 and a quite nice Lamy fountain pen over the course of the summer! Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)? I was recently invited to join the Men’s Local Competitive Group. There are so many fast NBRiors and each and every one inspires me. Is it okay not to name names? There are dozens of competitive, encouraging, inspiring athletes. I am especially inspired by the Masters group for obvious reasons, both men and women. Since upping my training and being involved with NBR, I find I am running personal bests over times I had posted 12 or 13 years ago! 

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR Marathon Team Spot?

MBS: Naturally, it means so much. I hadn’t even imagined myself running NY again and was very excited to volunteer at the water table for my third consecutive year. To receive the late team spot email put my office at a temporary standstill until a registration glitch had been resolved. The New York Public Library has many runners on staff! I think what means the most to me is to be recognized by so many folks whose degree of dedication to the group and the sport is unparalleled – the volunteer committee, team captains, race coordinators and tireless run leaders. I’m stoked (and nervous!).

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

MBS: Pre and post-race diet is a huge topic of discussion in our household. I am a long-time vegetarian so several days before race day I will begin eating carbs (tons of pasta). I find beet pesto (Meb’s recipe from Runners World) and penne tossed with sautéed beet greens and a side of avocado with miso and ginger dressing works for me. It gets boring after a few nights but better than problems mid-race. In the name of full disclosure, I’ll probably drink an IPA of some sort, too! Morning of: bagel with peanut butter, banana and honey. Classic! I dislike gels but will carry 3 salted caramel Gu (pinned to the waistband of my running shorts). GuBrew for hydration and electrolytes pre, during and post. Post-race: I find it hard to eat after a long run/race. Chocolate almond milk with yoghurt and banana is good for recovery. I also like vanilla almond milk, kale and date smoothies. (And more beer!) 

NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why? 

MBS: I love this question! My spirit animal is definitely a dog. A mixed, bully breed. Pit and
boxer mix is very close to my heart. Maybe not the fastest animal but tenacious, gentle
and loyal – and very competitive when challenged.

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Team Spot Check-in: Brinda Ayer

NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be part of  NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved?

BA: Unlike many of our teammates, I've never lived in North Brooklyn and didn't have much geographical reason to get involved with NBR. But I would always see the team roll so deep at NYRR races, each runner looking strong and swift and like he or she was having the time of their life. I'd never been on a sports team of any kind before, but the idea always intrigued me—great support, both on and off the roads, and a pretty sweet singlet. So when was training for the Brooklyn Half by myself this spring, and saw a random Facebook event for a long training run hosted by NBR, I decided to check it out. It took place in April and it was still really cold out and I was so out of shape. I couldn't even make it up the Williamsburg Bridge without stopping! But several amazing people in my pace group high-fived me and encouraged me to keep going anyway, and so I eventually ended up at Urban Rustic afterward, where I met Jessica and Anne and Mary and a bunch of other wonderful people. Y'all haven't been able to get rid of me ever since! 

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? Tell the NBR world a good long run story. 

BA: Marathon training is going really well! As many of you may know, the race I originally planned to run and have been preparing for was the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20—two weeks after NYCM. And now, I've been lucky enough to get a spot for New York, so the plan has changed in a great way! As I tend to suffer from severe FOMO, I ended up starting my training alongside the people getting ready for New York, so fortunately, won't have to adjust my schedule too much to race two weeks earlier than planned. 

As for long runs, I've been running with a pod of trusty Narwhals most weeks, but have gone rogue a few times when my schedule hasn't aligned with the team's; it's, unsurprisingly, much harder to stay motivated when you're by yourself and the miles don't fly by nearly as quickly as in the company of good friends. Memorable long runs for me were of course the hot and humid ones down Summer Streets, and the one I forced myself to do after Fifth Avenue Mile—measuring at about 17.5 miles, it was the longest run I'd ever completed in my life at the time, and, what do you know, I've lived to tell the tale. 

NBR: Which NBR runs are you attending regularly to train? Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)?

BA: I try to go to TNT as much as possible, as well as Just South Wednesday morning runs (JS represent!), Hellkatz track, and, like I said above, Narwhals. It's such a treat to be able to hang out with your friends and get fitter and faster at the same time, all before the sun rises. As for inspirational NBR members, oh man, there are WAY too many to do this list justice. But Jessica, Emma, Nancy, Kalli, and Sophie are just a few of the incredible women from whom I've learned so much and aspire to be more like. 

 

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR Marathon Team Spot?

BA: It's probably one of the biggest honors and coolest opportunities I've ever been afforded, and especially so because this is my first marathon! Since I moved to New York three or so years ago, I've entered the lottery and haven't won a single time. So getting this spot after I had resigned myself to just running it next year, via 9 + 1, was an enormous surprise and delight. I'm more than a little terrified, but I absolutely cannot wait! Thanks a million, NBR!

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

BA: I'll use any excuse I can to eat pasta, so it's convenient that spaghetti is an effective pre-race food. And probably a cookie, because #carbs, if anyone wants to make the trek to Levain with me the night before.

BA: Post-race: I think the better question is, what WON'T I eat? 

NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why?

BA: Just South feral cat for sure! 

 

Team Spot Check-in: Sue Walsh


Update: It's September 3 and I haven't run in 4 weeks now after a what-should-have-been-nothing bike accident, only two or three hours after I originally wrote my Team check in. I fell after my wheel hit another bike's wheel, tearing my ACL completely and creating what my Doctor says is a "complex tear" in my meniscus. I've been mobile for the past 2.5 weeks, but limping so much that I'm starting to get tendinitis in my hip. So my PT at The Finish Line asked that I try to practice walking, a full gait with my injured leg. Heel, then roll on your forefoot, than push off. Running seems like the furthest thing from my capabilities, like the person who was training for the marathon, who lead Tempo Tuesday and Doves was a different person than who I am now. We never know when our lives change, when nothing can turn into something and that something can turn into unknown. When our expectations deviate in a dramatic way than what we thought would be. Being injured, in a way that limits your mobility and independence, changes the way you experience the world, producing choices in how can handle it. Resisting it is futile: it won't produce a new ACL for me, it won't magically fix my meniscus. All I can do is whatever it takes to care for this awesome knee, who after 37 years has supported me through 19 marathons, tens of thousands of miles, helped my femur recover from a fracture 33 years ago, helped my hip recover from surgery 6 years ago. It is without question that I'm not running the marathon, but you all can wager with confidence that I'll be cheering for everyone who is. See you on the streets...sometime!


NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be part of  NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved?

SW: My first run with Tuesday Tempo AM, about 5.5 years ago. I joined to get back into racing after recovering for a while from hip surgery. I thought, "Hey I'm in pretty good shape, I'll be okay." But got majorly crushed on the Kent Ave Speedway. But I made a commitment to myself, to keep coming back. And I still want to keep coming back. 

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? Tell the NBR world a good long run story. 

SW: Training is going pretty well. Last year, I tore my glute medius and it's still giving me problems. I'm also experiencing pain in the hip that I had surgery on. (If only I could understand why I love doing this activity that sometimes feels like is destroying my body!) I'm feeling a little apprehensive, but getting more info from my doctor this week. This will be my twentieth marathon and sometimes I still feel like such a beginner. Many times, I've felt the best workouts were just long runs with as many miles at marathon pace as possible. A pretty literal workout for the race. But I've also been trying to do easy runs at an honest easy pace, so wondering how that will affect things. And, of course, I'm a devoted Tigerwolves and Doves runner. I've been leading them for 2 years with no intention of stopping. 

Long runs so far this year have not been memorable. But, man, I've had some absurd runs in the past. Including one in Stockholm, where I had no watch, no phone, no map. Was planning on running 12 miles. I thought I was on one island, but had unkowningly crossed a small river and was on another. I had no idea where I was. The sun was setting. It was February. I had my Nike Free's on. There were increasing amounts of ice, so sometimes running was like not even an option. Just sliding. No one was around, it was wilderness. (An awesome part of Stockholm is it's partly urban and partly wild.) I found myself in a pet cemetery, dating back to the 1800s. I kept running / walking / sliding in what ended up being circles, trying to just keep it mentally together and came across a gentleman with a cane and an old fisherman's sweater. It was a moment of cinema. There was no option except to ask him where to go, and in true kindness, he gave me clear instruction. I found my way off the island and sprinted like 5 miles back to the city center. Another memory is last summer, running with Matt Schenker, breaking down and crying on Flushing Ave after 16 miles in 85/90 degrees with maybe 90% humidity. I just stopped, with my head in my hands, tears uncontrollably running down my face, and was like 'why are we doing this to ourselves??' So he still makes fun of me for that. 

NBR: Which NBR runs are you attending regularly to train? Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)?

SW: I normally go to Tigerwolves, Doves, sometimes Hellkatz, sometimes Narwhals. Inspiration is not hard to come by on this team. Any workout I've come to, there's always people who inspire me. If I had to choose some names, Marie Barnett is always an awesome source of optimism and energy and she happens to be a beast on the roads. And has probably one of the toughest jobs I can imagine. My fellow Doves ... Rebecca, Emma, Miriam. Matt Schenker, who I run with a lot, is super inspiring. We trained for Chicago last year together, but now every race he does he's further ahead of me! Now we can only do easy runs together and I tell him he only does it out of pity for me. :) It's a pity run. Then you see Ben Leese on Strava running something insane, like over 100 miles a week with easy runs at like 6:30 pace or something equally outrageous, knowing he has a family and an intense job. And you're just like WTF. So, so many awesome people to witness and to know. 

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR Marathon Team Spot?

SW: I feel 100% grateful. Truly. Thank you! When I joined this team, I only wanted to come out and run, get faster, hopefully qualify for the Boston Marathon. It was very much just about 'me'. But now, I love being a part of this larger team. I love leading Tuesday Tempo and Doves. I would say I love the 'community' of NBR, but that's such an annoying word full of baggage and cliche. Instead, I just perceive it as a huge group of friends who help each other through running, get faster, feel better, whatever. Now, maybe it's not as important to be obsessed with my own performance, as we all are naturally programmed to be, but instead be obsessed with everyone else's. Maybe age changes you in this way. And the friendships I've made on this team, I hope they will last the entirety of my life.

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

SW: Post marathon? Depends how the race goes, if I feel like celebrating. :) But if it's good or if it's bad, I'll definitely have some brews. 

Before? Probably something simple. Rice / pasta / veg. Nothing complicated. 

NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why?

SW: TigerDove. For obvious reasons. 

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Team Spot Check-in: Aldo Ceresa

NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a part of NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved?

AC: My first NBR run was in April, 2015. I’d started running in 2013, and remembered dodging herds of NBR bridge runners on several Saturday mornings while running with my girlfriend at the time. After we broke up, I was looking for some motivation to increase my running game, as well as a way to reintroduce some social aspect into running. NBR has provided both of these in spades.

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? Tell the NBR world a good long run story.

AC: I only started doing races late last year, and have never run a marathon, so I’ve nothing to compare it to, really. However, I just posted my first week of 50+ miles, and logged my first 20-miler while visiting family in Michigan. It was great to survey neighborhoods I’ve known since childhood and to revisit my old high school grounds, though sadly the track was fenced off. Having grown up as a not particularly athletic kid, it felt triumphant, somehow. Anyway, temps were in the 80s, and I had to stop for Gatorade three times, but I didn’t feel completely destroyed afterwards. Hooray! Besides adding some longer runs, I’ve also been mixing in cycling and strength training a good bit. Monday night plyo has been an essential ingredient in this. More skipping and squatting and lunging and conga lines, please!

NBR: Which NBR runs are you attending regularly to train? Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)?

AC: I’ve been a regular on Monday nights and Saturday bridge runs since I first started running with the team, but often add Doves, Tuesday night tempo, Thursday night track workouts, and weekend long runs as my schedule allows. NBR has no shortage of talented, hardworking people. Some folks who’ve been particularly helpful and inspiring to me include Tom Virzi, Russell Wight, Quang Ton, Drew Reynolds, Jeff Skaar, Jessica Boucher, and Nancy Lin. Of course there are many others as well.

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR marathon team spot?

AC: As a relative NBR newcomer with no marathon experience, I was surprised when I got the word from Logan that I’d been awarded a team spot. I’m honored to have been given the opportunity, and appreciate all the work that goes into all the great things the club does. I look forward to running with friends and teammates, and to greeting the NBR cheer squad at Mile 12. Volunteering at the water table last year was a great experience, and the spirit of camaraderie that pervaded throughout the day’s events cemented my own relationship with the group, I think. It will be fun to see the table from the other side this time around!

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

AC: I’m sure I’ll do some serious carb-loading the day before. Salt bagels. Maybe some cinnamon cranberry walnut bread from the Northside Bakery while I’m at it. I expect I’ll have to wait a bit before I begin to replenish afterward, but hope to be ready for pizza and beer by the time the party kicks in on Sunday night.


NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why?

AC: Hmm…What animal is it that gets a late start, but once it gets going, revels in in its newfound ability, and can’t imagine how it managed even to breathe before this discovery was made? Some kind of formerly pent up horse, or maybe an antelope set loose upon an open prairie after a comfortable but unfulfilled life at a petting zoo? Yeah, one of those…

Team Spot Check-in: Russell Wight

NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be part of  NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved?


RW: My first NBR run was back in January 2012. It was a Wednesday night run. I was fairly off and on for the first two years, however. I only really started getting serious when I did the 9+1 in 2014 and doing races and stuff. I became a Monday night run leader in October 2014. 

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? Tell the NBR world a good long run story.


RW: I’ve been doing a lot of strength training the last month or so. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to transition into more running. I’ve followed the Hanson’s training plans for my last few big races. My favorite workouts are the long tempo runs. I really feel that those runs help to get you focused on running a steady pace for a long time. 

NBR: Which NBR runs are you attending regularly to train? Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)?


RW: I lead the Monday night run, so that’s my jam. I also do Tom’s Plyo workout Monday nights. Aside from that, I bounce around a lot, doing the Saturday or Sunday long run, Wednesday night run, and Thursday track

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR Marathon Team Spot?

RW: It’s pretty awesome. I know there’s a lot of people who have worked really hard to contribute to NBR over these years, and it’s really wonderful to be chosen to represent NBR in the greatest race ever! My goal this year is to run under 4 hours.. I’ve run two marathons already, and in both races I hit the wall pretty hard. I’m hoping to use the lessons from those races to put together a great race and give everything I’ve got. 

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

RW: I’m a fan of barbecue - you may see at Mable’s smokehouse right after the race. As for the night before - I’ve done Thai Curry the last few big races, and surprisingly it’s worked well. And I’m pretty sure that I do Peter Pan donuts both before and after the race. (It’s carbs, right?) 

NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why?

RW: Hmmm, not entirely sure. 

Team Spot Check-in: Jeffrey Skaar

photo by Vincent Wai Him Hui

photo by Vincent Wai Him Hui

NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be part of NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved?

JS: The story of my running origins in general and with NBR are part of the ongoing TNT series, for anyone to find on the Google group. My first run was a Wednesday Night Road Run in 2013, when I discovered what I now consider the first rule of NBR: subtract at least 15 seconds from the pace that anyone says they are going to run. I have been a regular with WNRR ever since, and I became a run leader in 2015.

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? Tell the NBR world a good long run story.

JS: Um…. can I plead the 5th? Those of you that know me know that I’m not so good with training plans. I will get mileage in, but I won’t track or plan it incessantly. I have never keep a training log, and I don’t plan on starting. Also, I’m not so good at varying paces. Is this limiting my ceiling? Definitely. However, for me, running is a release. If I tracked it incessantly, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much. With that in mind, what workouts really help? Anything with hills. All my favorite routes have them, and I know I’m in shape when I feel good running a route that includes something like Union St. Even better - trails, although they are in short supply. So far this year, my best training run was a race (Finger Lakes 25K). As far as my overall training, the spring season was a painful slog, but lately some bounce has been returning to my step. Apart from the oppressive heat, I’m feeling pretty good.

NBR: Which NBR runs are you attending regularly to train? Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)?

JS: Since I’m not a morning person and I work from home, I run screaming from the house every night. WNRR, TNT…sometimes plyo or track. If it is a night NBR workout, I’ve been there. I try to get my distance in with Narwhals or SFR. If I can couple a Narwhals workout with the Bridge Run, even better. Inspiring NBR members? Where to start. There are too many to list, but it starts with anyone volunteering in any position (even if it isn’t training specific). It’s also great to watch everyone throw themselves into a goal - whether it’s the new runner that goes from a first NBR run at the back of the pack to throwing down fast times in races or established runners seeking bulletproof BQs. Finally, we have our fair share of speed merchants that seem so agonizingly close at the start of a run/race and end up being specks in the distance, way ahead.

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR Marathon Team Spot?

JS: There are so many people in NBR that give so much of their time to the team. I’m extremely honored to have been chosen for an NBR team spot. I hope to contribute to returning the favor by working the water table again next year.

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

JS: I can’t eat immediately after long runs, so I’ll do my best to choke down a protein bar after finishing. After that, I likely won’t be able to eat for a few hours. However, by the after party, I’ll be eating anything and everything in sight. Also, beer and whisky. The night(s) before will probably be some simple pasta.

NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why?

JS: Mountain Goat. Quick, but not the fastest. Likes hills and trails. Stubborn as hell.