It’s so fitting that I’m writing about today’s Rockstar Runner on April 20th, 2015 – the second running of the Boston Marathon since the tragic bombing in 2013 – because Angela Westhoff ran her first 5K just one week later, in honor of the victims. Her spirit, dedication and sense of fun is completely infectious too – and I know you’re going to love her!
Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Angela Westhoff and I’m relatively new to running. I work in health care as the Executive Director of the Maine Osteopathic Association. I’m current training for a triathlon sprint in July and a marathon in October.
How/why did you start running?
I started running in 2013. My brother was getting rid of his treadmill and I decided to take it. I figured it would end up like all the other pieces of work out equipment that I had purchased– it would end up being a clothes rack! Well something was different this time. I found a Couch to 5K program and followed it. At the beginning I couldn’t run much at all and wasn’t really sure I would stick with it very long, but eventually my jogging times got longer and the walking shorter. I built strength and confidence with every step. I knew I could do this and I wanted to improve my health and fitness. My 7-year old daughter, Caroline, was a key motivator for me! I wanted to be a positive role model for her.
What do you love about running – what keeps you coming back time after time?
I love running. Three years ago I would have told anyone that I was too heavy, too tired, too out of shape to run. I never thought it was possible! Now 4 half marathons later, I’m training for my first ever Triathlon in July and my first marathon in October. Having goals keeps me motivated. I run for me. I compete only with myself and I have really enjoyed the journey. Plus you get to meet some really incredible people along the way! Runners are a remarkably giving and supportive bunch!
How do you get yourself out the door on days when you’re just not ‘feeling it’?
I tell myself I’ll just go for a short run… if I can get myself out the door it generally gets better! Something magical happens when I get out there. I have a very busy home and work life but when I’m running that all just melts away. It’s my time. I enjoy the cathartic nature of running… the stress of the day melts away and I leave all the negative self talk out there on the road.
Do you have an inspirational and/or funny running story (or stories!) to share with us?
I ran my first ever 5K the weekend after the Boston marathon bombing. I had been on the fence about signing up for the race. I had been running for just 5 months and I hadn’t participated in any kind of organized race. I was nervous and wasn’t sure if I could run the whole thing, how I would look, was I really a ‘real’ runner, you know… all that negative self talk that rattles around in our brains. Then the bombings happened. I was so angry and frustrated at the senseless act of violence. I decided then that I had to do that race, as a tribute to those who had been killed and injured at the Boston Marathon. It was a really emotional day, for a lot of reasons. My husband and my daughter came and cheered me on. I wore my Boston Red Sox hat (I’m a faithful Sox fan) and a Bruins t-shirt and pounded out those 3.1 miles. It was an exhilarating feeling to run down the chute. My daughter was so proud of me. And with that one race I was hooked. I run about 20 races a year– from fun runs, to mud obstacle course races and half marathons!
How has running changed your life?
Running has made me a better person… not just physically (though I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds) but I’m a more grounded person. It’s given me a healthy way to deal with stress, to decompress, to build self-confidence and to help motivate and inspire others. I’ve had several friends and colleagues that run and we all motivate each other– but when someone comes up to me and asks how I got started or what advice I have for a fellow ‘curvy’ runner I tell them all, “If I can do it, so can you.”
What words of wisdom do you have for brand new runners?
My advice would be to start out slow. Give yourself time. Find a program that works for you and schedule your runs…just like an appointment. I think so many working mothers put everyone else first that it’s hard to find time for yourself. But do it. Just do it. No guilt. You deserve it! And surround yourself with people who will support you! There are a lot of critics out there– particularly if you are an overweight runner. Ignore them…. their comments have way more to do with their own insecurities.
What are your favorite inspirational blogs to follow?
I enjoy the on-line Facebook running communities… like Running With Curves and Back of the Pack. I find the stories funny, inspirational and the spirit with which fellow runners tackle their goals very motivational.
Have you ever been injured running, and how did you recover?
I follow a training plan intentionally to minimize injuries. I did have a period where I was dealing with plantar fasciitis. I cut back on mileage and wore a compression sock, which helped. Proper fitting running shoes is also a must.
What running gear do you think you can’t live without?
For me it’s all about footwear. I’ve tried a lot of different brands and I can’t live without my Saucony sneakers! I even get a little weirded out when they upgrade a model. I’ve been known to buy 3 or 4 pairs at once and stockpile them in the closet!
I know your favorite race distance is the half marathon – how many have you run to date?
I’ve run 4 half marathons, improving my time by over 40 minutes from the first one to the last one. That distance is really a great endurance test and there’s a lot of time to think out there. I ran a small local half marathon and this other woman and I were by far the slowest runners on the course. It was a crazy hot day and my husband followed us around in the car making sure we had water and gatorade as the water stations were pretty sparse and not to mention they were closing up by the time we reached the end. It was a very hilly course and I really thought about dropping out a couple of times. But this other gal and I, we kept each other motivated and talked to each other the whole way! It was like we were friends for years and we had just met out there on the course. Those are the incredible moments in running when two strangers bond and get each other to the finish line!
What was your favorite race?
My favorite race to date was probably the Disney Princess race… you gotta love a Disney race! It’s one of those “Go big or go home experiences”… over the top and fun! But what made it special was it was something I got to share with my daughter. She keeps me motivated and is becoming quite an accomplished little runner herself! She’s way more talented of an athlete than I’ll ever be, but I love sharing this with her!
What are your top 3 songs to listen to when you run?
That’s an awesome question! How telling to reveal the music you love to run to…. okay so here goes:
•All About that Bass by Meghan Trainor (because it makes me chuckle)
•Country Girl (Shake it For Me) by Luke Bryan (That’s an inside joke with one of my biggest fitness supporters… and there’s a lot that’s shaking when you’re a curvy runner)
•I Hate Myself for Loving You by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (literally I swear a pizza delivery car is always driving by and I burst out laughing thinking if I didn’t love pizza I wouldn’t have to run so much!)
Treadmill or outdoors?
I live in Maine so in the winter I’m forced to run on the treadmill sometimes, but I run outside all year round when the roads are clear!
Anything else we need to know?
I’m turning 40 this year and I’ve never felt better, stronger or more alive! I’m going to run a marathon this fall as my birthday gift to me!
How can we find/follow you on social media?
I’m on Facebook– Angela Cole Westhoff
Thank you Angela for sharing your story!
If you’d like to read about other Rockstar Runners, click HERE.