Amy Williamson: "Mind over Tummy" in the Austin Marathon

Amy Williamson started running to lose weight, and has since adopted a healthy lifestyle that has inspired her whole family. She just completed the Austin Marathon, after getting physically sick on the course more than once. She proves that “mind over body,” or tummy, in her case, is what it really takes to cross the finish line.

Congrats to Amy for her courageous race, and for inspiring her little ones to follow in her footsteps. For race day coverage, visit her blog, A Family Story.

It sounds like you started running to lose weight then adopted the exercise routine as part of a healthy lifestyle. Tell us more!

I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in May 2006 five months after my second child was born. I was overweight and my new doctor told me my blood pressure was high. I immediately bought a treadmill and watched my diet and lost 70 pounds from August 2006 – February 2007. I joined a gym and continued to run, though sporadically. A friend and I decided we wanted to do a half marathon, and I ran my first race in October 2009, the OBX (Outer Banks) Half Marathon. I was hooked! Running became a lifestyle choice. It’s easy to do – just lace up shoes and hit the road. I have two kids in multiple activities, so I run at night or I hit the trails at lunch at work. And I like how my kids know Mommy runs, so they want to run as well. My oldest, who is now seven, has run multiple one-mile races, has competed in two duathalons and is registered for a triathalon in May. Our lifestyle is always busy and we are always on the go, but exercise is a very important part of our everyday lives.

When did running a marathon enter the picture?

I ran two half marathons within a few months of each other. While I thought the half was a challenge, I was ready to see if I could really do a full. One of my best friends (and running buddy) was moving back to her home state of Texas, and she really wanted to run the Livestrong Austin Marathon. It was easy to convince me. I could combine running, seeing a new town, and visiting a friend all into one extended weekend.

You work full-time and have two young children. How did you manage to juggle all this with training?

Flexibility and scheduling are key. I look at my training plan at the beginning of the week as well as everyone’s schedules. My kids are in multiple activities, and my husband owns his own business, so taking all this into account often makes for interesting times to run. I have been known to run while my kids are in activities (my oldest takes cheerleading in the fall and it is right next to a park) or I run at lunch at work. Nothing like a lunchtime run to make you more productive for the rest of the day! I also belong to a gym, so when all else fails, I hit the gym after the kids are in bed. I try to make the most of my time with my family first, then fit in my training after that.

What were some of your greatest ups/downs in training?

My biggest ups in my training were the elation I felt when I finished every new distance mileage. I was excited to run 16, 18 and 20 milers. The greatest downs were doing all this alone. Since this race was in Texas and I live in North Carolina, I had no one to train with me. I did find a few friends here and there to run with, but for the most part I did it alone.

Tell us about the Austin Marathon (course, temperature, etc). Would you recommend it to others?

I originally said I would not recommend the Austin Marathon to anyone, but I really shouldn’t be that negative. The course is hilly – really hilly – and as a first marathon, that was hard. It is in February, so the temperature could be in the 30’s or in the 80’s like it was for me. I trained in 30 – 40 degree weather the last few months of my training, so to run a race where at the start it was 65 degrees with 75% humidity was a huge change. I would not recommend it as a first marathon, but the support on the course as well as the entire experience as a whole from the expo to the race finish was a positive one.

What was your race day experience like? Sounds like you had a few stomach issues that got in the way. How did you manage to find the strength to finish despite these problems?

I wasn’t feeling 100% leading up to the race. I was fighting off a head cold and was trying to hydrate as much as possible, but in the end, I am guessing it wasn’t enough. By mile 8, I was in trouble. After taking an orange Gu, I got physically sick on the course and did so again around mile 12. My stomach was cramping and in the later miles I was running when I could and walking when my stomach protested. But I never had thoughts of not finishing. I guess I just never saw that as an option. I was determined to finish the race, even if that meant I crawled across the finish line. I have the line “Today is the Day” on my road ID, and I just kept repeating that over and over again. Do you plan to run another? I am absolutely going to run another. I can’t let my stomach issues I had with my first marathon define my marathon experience. I already have two marathons I want to do in 2012 – Wrightsville Beach and Marine Corp.

What advice would you give others who are training for their first marathon?

My first advice is to find a race that is close by so that you will be running in the same climate you train. It was too much to travel to a marathon for my first one. And I would absolutely take in the full experience. Even with all the stomach issues on the course, I still made sure I was taking in my surroundings and relishing in the fact I was running a marathon, something a very low percentage of Americans do.

Melinda Hinson