Today’s Rockstar Runner is a woman who finishes every single race with a smile! Meet Nora Haefele, an avid runner and adventurer who is addicted to half marathons. I had the pleasure of meeting Nora in person at the Philly half marathon last year, and she is such a kind, generous and fun spirit that we instantly bonded. Keep an eye out for her at your next race and say hi!
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am 57 and I live in Stowe, PA with my two dogs. I have a daughter who lives in York County with my granddaughter, who was born in July of 2014. I work as a tax accountant in corporate. I have always loved the outdoors and have a bit of a sense of adventure.
How/why did you start running?
My journey to the running lifestyle started with walking back in 1999. I had started walking on the treadmill at work at lunchtime and decided to learn more about it. I bought a book about walking and there was a reference in there to Volkssporting. Volkssporting consists of non-competitive 10K walks, as well as swim and bike events. I did quite a few of these events over the following decade. In 2010 I decided that the walks were not increasing my fitness as much as I would like, and thought that adding a speed element would help. I started entering 5K races and walking them as fast as I could. By the end of 2012 I had entered so many races that many of my friends were runners. They encouraged me to add a little running to my race. I read Running With Curves at some point during 2013, and decided to try C25K. Since then I have been incorporating more and more running into my races, but always while listening to my body. I walk when I have to, run when I can.
What do you love about running – what keeps you coming back time after time?
I love first and foremost the runners. I have met so many amazing and inspiring people who have opened their hearts and lives to me. Running has allowed me to be part of a community of happy, goal-oriented people. I also love the feeling of accomplishment that I get when I finish another race. No matter the distance, they are all difficult for me because of the arthritis in my knees. So each finish line is a thrill for me and proof to me that I can overcome anything. I love rising to the challenges I set for myself. My first real challenge was to finish a half marathon in 2012. In 2014 I decided to finish 12. In 2015, I am going to try to complete a sprint triathlon. Who knows what 2016 will bring?
How do you get yourself out the door on days when you’re just not ‘feeling it’?
It really helps me to have something scheduled, preferably with other people. I enter a race pretty much every weekend during the winter, and in the summer I have at least 3 or 4 weeknight race series that I do in addition to weekends. I also belong to a running group called the Sly Fox Track Club. They meet for group runs on a regular basis. I also keep repeating C25K. For some reason, a plain training run is uninspiring to me, but completing another week of C25K is motivating. I don’t see it as going backwards at all; since I can up the pace in the “jog” intervals if they are too easy for me.
Do you have an inspirational and/or funny running story to share with us?
I was once sitting at the award ceremony after a hot and hilly race in Collegeville. The elderly gentleman next to me kept helpfully pointing out to me that what all the first place winners had in common was that they were thin. Imagine his surprise when my name was called for first place in my age group. I waggled that medal right in his face. It was my first and only first place medal and it could not have come at a better time.
How has running changed your life?
Running has changed my life in that it has pretty much become my life. Most of my social life revolves around athletic events now. I have a sense of pride and accomplishment that I never dreamed possible for me. I am more confident and more willing to take on new challenges. Most of all, the people that I have met through running have enriched my life in ways I could not have imagined before. I can no longer envision my life without running.
What words of wisdom do you have for brand new runners?
When I signed up for my first 5K I was terrified that I would find a group of 6 foot tall 20 year olds who would look at me and wonder, “what is this fat old lady doing here?” But it wasn’t like that at all. I saw all types of people, from beanpoles in singlets to ladies with fanny packs and sweaters tied around their waists. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming. I have never gone to a race and felt like I didn’t belong there. So don’t let fear of looking awkward or being different stop you. Many people avoid running races because they are afraid of coming in last. I have come in last so many times I have gotten sort of popular for it. The timers all know me now and know to wait for me. I have met marvelous people at the back of the pack, too. I have also found that often, last place gets the loudest applause. People will applaud the effort, no matter what level. The other thing I would say to anyone starting this is don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Run your own pace. Some people run a 6 minute mile; some people run a 22 minute mile. It’s all wonderful.
What are your favorite inspirational blogs to follow?
I don’t really read any running blogs. I do follow some Facebook groups such as Half Fanatics, Running with Curves Online Running Club, Women Who Run the World, Back of the Pack Endurance, Slow Runners United, Rehoboth Seashore Marathon, Delaware Marathon, For the Love of Running and Coffee, and more.
Have you ever been injured running, and how did you recover?
I have had plantar fasciitis, inflamed SI joint, inflamed meniscus, shin splints and of course chronic arthritis. For the first three, the best remedy for me was rest. I also got fitted professionally for shoes and that seemed to help a lot to prevent recurrence. For the arthritis, I have been getting orthovisc injections and that provides a good deal of relief for me.
What running gear do you think you can’t live without?
I use arch wraps and neoprene knee sleeves to prevent pain and would not want to race without them. As far as electronic gear, I love my Garmin. I love downloading my stats and tracking my pace, and knowing my splits.
I know your favorite race distance is the half marathon – how many have you run to date?
I ran 2 in 2012; 2 in 2013; and 12 in 2014 for a total of 16. I have 8 scheduled so far for 2015.
What was your favorite race?
This is such a hard question because there have been so many wonderful races. My favorite local race is Bird In Hand for the unique quality of it, the unusual medal, the community involvement, and the number of friends that do it as well. My favorite destination race was BMO Vancouver (Vancouver BC) because of the breathtaking scenery.
Can you tell us a little more about the Half Fanatics, and what level you’ve reached?
Half Fanatics is a group of runners who are, well, fanatics about the half marathon distance. To qualify for an official Half Fanatic number (mine is #8357) you have to meet a minimum requirement of 3 half marathons in 90 days or 2 in 16 days. These have to be official races, the criteria for which is outlined on the website.(halffanatics.com). Once you meet the initial requirement, you submit your information and pay dues and are issued a number, and you land on Neptune. I discovered only after joining that there are also discounts on races and at Runner’s Wearhouse, but that wouldn’t have been a reason to join, for me. I joined for the sheer pride of being able to say I did it. At first I thought the initial requirement was daunting; but then I started thinking that if I could manage to do 6 half marathons in 6 months, I could “moon up” to Uranus. So, I did. At that point, the idea of doing 4 half marathons in 37 days didn’t seem so impossible. So I did that and in December I mooned up to Saturn. That’s where I am now; but now I am starting to think that doing 4 half marathons in 23 days isn’t so unattainable and I plan to moon up to Jupiter by doing this in April. Will I ever moon up all the way to the Sun? Highly doubtful; but then, all of this seemed impossible when I started. So I will not make any predictions. I have surprised myself again and again.
What are your top 3 songs to listen to when you run?
“Bon Bon” Pitbull
“Us Amazonians” Kirsty MacColl
Treadmill or outdoors?
I do not like the dreadmill. If I cannot run outside, I run on the indoor track at the Y.
Anything else we need to know?
As passionate as I am about running, I am as passionate about paddling. I bought a kayak last year and have paddled with the Take It Outdoors Adventure Group as much as I can. I have done the Schuylkill River Sojourn twice. The Sojourn is a 112 mile, 7 day paddle trip from Schuylkill Haven to Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. I plan on doing it again this year. I have also done Chiques Challenge, which is a run/kayak duathlon, twice, and plan on doing it this year. I also plan to enter my first kayak race this year. I have also entered a “clothing optional” 7k trail race. Life is good!
How can we find/follow you on social media?
I am on Facebook.
Thanks so much Nora for sharing your story!
If you’d like to read about more Rockstar Runners, click HERE.