Home town: Chicago Illinois. I was born in St. Louis Missouri but I was raised in Chicago.
BAR: When (and why)did you start running?
SD: I’ve always been a runner. I ran in high school but I wasn’t very fast…and I’m still not fast. I love distance running. I got better at running when I joined the Marine Corps at 17-years-old. I wasn’t and still am not very coordinated. However, I don’t have to be coordinated to run. I don’t need to be on a team in order to run. So running was an easy choice for an activity for me to do.
BAR: Why do you run now? What motivates you?
SD: Running is as much a part of my life/being as breathing. I cannot imagine my life without running. I solve all my problems (at least in my head) when I run. Running is my favorite “me” time activity. I can literally run anywhere, at any time, and in any climate (with the proper gear). Also, I love the health benefits of running. It keeps my weight under control along with everything else (i.e. stress relief, lower blood pressure, phenomenal cardiovascular strength, increased endurance and stamina, etc).
Longest race: Florida Keys 100 miler is my longest run.
Hardest course: The Eugene Curnow trail marathon course in Duluth MN was hardest because I had to use ropes to climb up the hills, had to run down extremely narrow paths with significant drops on either side of the path, traverse rocks and boulders, and cross streams. It took me over 7 hours to complete that marathon. I would never ever run the Eugene Curnow marathon again because I felt that it was too dangerous. There was a point on the course where I wanted to turn around and go back the way that I had come because I was too afraid that I was going to fall off the cliff as I tried to go down an extremely narrow path using too very loose ropes. I prayed to God that I would never return to that race again if he allowed me to finish…..and I plan on keeping my word to God!
Hardest race for you: The North Face Endurance Trail 50K and the Outer Banks 50K were the two hardest races for me. Neither required ropes or had streams to cross but the terrain on both were back breakers. North Face had what felt like 25 significant hills/mountains. It also had rocks to navigate over. It was absolutely grueling. My legs and core were spent. The OBX 50K had 29 miles of soft sand (more like quick sand due to heavy rain) and I was drooling on myself as I used all my energy just to finish the race. I remember having roughly 2 hours to finish 7.5 miles and I honestly thought that I wasn’t going to make it. I would/will definitely run both of these races again.
Favorite race (location / dates in case people would like to try it):
SD: You really don’t want to ask me this question because my favorite races are not favorites of most people because they are difficult. I like challenging races. I also prefer a 50K over a marathon. OBX 50K, is a difficult but beautiful run along the beach. You get the opportunity to watch the sunrise right before your eyes! The race is always around the 1st weekend in May in the Outer Banks North Carolina. http://www.obxultramarathon.com
Favorite course : One of my favorite courses is the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke VA. It is a challenging yet beautiful course. It is “America’s toughest road marathon.” It has 7,430 feet of total elevation change. It goes on 16 Apr which unfortunately is the same weekend as the North Face Endurance trail 50K. http://www.blueridgemarathon.com
Another one of my favorite courses is the Freedom’s Run Marathon in Shepherdstown WV. It is 26.2 miles through 4 National Parks. The historical route and race organization has earned a “Top 25 Half Marathon” by Runner’s World Magazine in February 2013 and is the Highlight Race in October 2013 Runner’s World and a Bucket List Race. It is challenging because of the numerous hills that you run through the battlefields. It goes around the 10th of October. http://www.freedomsrun.org/
BAR: What are your favorite and least favorite distances, and why?
SD: 50K is my favorite distance but the 50 miler is slowly taking its place! LOL! I love running long distances and reading/studying about long distance runs. I am a true ultra-marathoner at heart. Therefore, I don’t care for 5Ks. I’ll run them for charitable events or as part of a race series but that’s about it. Just not long enough for me….it is just a tease.
BAR: You seem sometimes almost driven. You run so many races, so many miles, and always with that big smile. Was there a point where you “turned the corner” and just gave in to the constant racing?
SD: Yes! The more I read about running long distances the more I am intrigued by it. I am not a Dean Karnazes but I relate to him on so many levels. Running is my addiction and the more that I do it, the more that I want…almost need…to do it. Preparing for and completing the KEYS 100 miler was my turning point. I learned that the body is this amazing machine that can be pushed to extraordinary levels. I smile because I am on a runner’s high….ALWAYS! I am just so grateful that I have the ability to run injury free. I’ve also learned that I can run as many races as I want as often as I want as long as I maintain a comfortable pace and have great running shoes.
BAR: You have run a number of ultras, but still show up for the ½ marathons and marathons on a regular basis. What is the difference in mindset when you switch from normal crazy runner to ultra-crazy?
SD: I run halves and full marathons as training for my ultras. All marathons and half marathons are training runs. I want my 50Ks to be training runs too. Also, I am goal oriented and I want to run a half, full, 50K, 50 miler, and trail race in all 50 states. I also want to run a marathon on the 7 continents. So my mindset is to Run Happy no matter what distance that I run. My race, my pace. I race against no one but myself and my goal is always to finish injury free and enjoy the time on my feet.
BAR: Tell us about the military, the Marines, and running…
SD: The Marine Corps was an awesome experience. I joined when I was 17-years-old and the Corps taught me a lot and made me both mentally and physically tough. The mind is the most powerful thing that we possess! It surpasses the limits of the body because it knows better than the body what the limitations truly are. I have learned to run pass a little bit of discomfort and push where most would quit. That’s how I completed the OBX 50K this year. I had run the North Face Endurance trail 50K and two back-to-back marathons just before I ran the OBX. I ran the North Face first, the next weekend I ran marathons in Kentucky and Ohio, and then the next weekend I ran the OBX. I was tired before I even started the OBX 50K. But where my body was tired my mind was strong. Since I wasn’t injured I decided that I could still complete the run. There’s a difference between discomfort and injury. I can run with discomfort and fatigue as long as I am not injured. I learned that from my 24+ years in the Corps. Interestingly enough I hated running with the Marines. I hated the physical fitness test…especially the running. Remember, I am not fast. The Marines pushed me to run a 20.5 minute 3 mile run. That’s less than a 7 minute mile. That hurts! I actually had to recover after that.
PR 5k / 10k / half / full / more?
PR for 5K is 21 minutes (not including my physical fitness test)
10K….no idea what my PR is. I’ve completed a few but don’t remember my times.
PR for half is 1:45.
PR for Full is 3:59.
PR for 50K is 5:54.
PR for 50 mile is 10:46.
PR for 100 mile (only completed one so far) is 30:19.
BAR: I see you in pictures with other runners all the time. I know you are a member of several running groups. Can you tell us about them? What do they do for you – you for them?
SD: I am a member of several running groups such as Black Girls RUN!, National Black Marathoners Association, Team Badass – Miles and Smiles, Marathon Maniacs, 50 States Marathon Club, Half Fanatics, Tidewater Striders Running Club, Ultra Running, and Red, White, and Blue Virginia Beach chapter. Although the teams are unique in their own way they all share a common theme….runners supporting each other. I love the race support and encouragement that I get when I run races and members of any of the teams are out there cheering while running the race too. Some are just local and provide an opportunity for me to run with someone if I want to. Also, I love the information sharing that goes on between these groups. I learn so much for everyone. I learn which races to run and which ones not to run. I get discount information on races. I learn about nutrition options and I get inspired by stories and testimonies. I’ve met some amazing people (in person and virtually) in these groups and I am grateful for the friendships and bonds that have been made. My hope is that I reciprocate all the good that I have received. I hope to encourage, inspire, or motivate someone. I want to cheer everyone on for achieving their personal accomplishments and sharing their stories. And sometimes I simply want to laugh with you all about all that makes us happy. Life is good.
BAR: What are your bucket-list goals as a runner this year and beyond?
SD: I want to complete my 50 states goals (half, full, 50K, 50 miler) and my marathon on the 7 continents goal. I want to reach Titanium level (highest level) in the Marathon Maniacs. I also want complete 10 JFK 50 mile ultra-marathons in order to get into the JFK 500 mile club. I have already completed 6 JFKs. I want to run more ultras and trail runs. I eventually want to transition to running mostly 50 and 100 milers and on trails for both.
BAR: Do you have a favorite pair of shoes, or brand of shoes? If so, why?
SD: HOKA is my favorite running shoe. I have tried almost every running shoe. Asics Gel Cumulus was my favorite for years but HOKA (Stinson Lite or Stinson Tarmac and Clifton) is the one shoe that allows me to run so many races injury free while saving my legs and core. It is like running on the moon. It is the ultra-marathoner’s shoe of choice.
BAR: Is there any other gear you consider essential? Do you recommend one over another? Are there brands / items you’d like to try?
SD: I am not a big gear person. I only run with the essentials. Less is best. I do like my Orange Mud single and double carrier hydration vest. I sometimes run with my IPOD Nano. Thanks to Sherri Morgan I now run with my RoadID Bracelet.
BAR: What apps / GPS equipment do you use. Are there others you’d like to try?
SD: I run with a Garmin Forerunner 910XT. That’s it. Haven’t found anything else that I am interested in trying.
BAR: Any advice for runners trying to catch up and keep up?
SD: My advice is simple. Run for you. Run from your heart. Don’t dread it, love it. Your race, your pace. Keep up with only yourself. Set your goals and enjoy the journey as you run to complete those goals. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS RUN HAPPY!
BAR: Final question… when are you going to stop playing…?
SD: LMBO! Never. My mom has been trying to get me to sit down and stop playing since I was a kid. I was playing then and I am playing now. Some things never change.