Katherine is my 9th Going the Distance interview. When I started the blog series last January, my goal was to profile runners of all backgrounds and abilities. In almost a year of doing these interviews, I’ve learned that every runner has insight to offer and can provide motivation to help you lace up your running shoes.
I had the honor of sitting down with Katherine to learn more about her and her journey to becoming a phenomenal runner. As I reflect on my time with her, it’s clear that she has much wisdom to share. Katherine reminded me that every day we can head out for a run is a gift—a gift not to be taken for granted.
I always share how I know my runner and Katherine and I go back over thirty years. I went to school with her and her sister, and even back then in our 80’s big hair, poor clothing choices (think leg warmers and paisley), and probably too much make-up days, I was impressed with Katherine’s powerful running legs—and continue to be in awe of her talent today.
It seemed fitting that during our time together UPS dropped off a package —”new running shoes,” she said as we heard a clunk at the doorstep. I smiled when she commented that “UPS knows me well.”
Where do you live and train?
Damascus, Oregon (about 20 miles east of Portland). The area is a little rural, so I have miles of beautiful green space surrounding me. When I head out for a run, I have views of Mt. Hood, and run past several nurseries, and often seeing deer, coyotes, quail—and I’ve heard that we have a neighborhood cougar that hangs around, too.
How did you get interested in running?
I’ve been running for as long as my legs would let me. I grew up with a father who loved the outdoors; he ran everyday and I’d either bike or run behind him. In 2nd grade, I ran my first race, the Starlight run, which became a tradition for us (we also did the Crawfish Crawl 5K together when I was in 6th grade). I have great memories of running cross-country in high school; to this day, Fall has a certain smell that creates an instant excitement for me.
What about running do you love?
I love running because it’s the time when I feel most alive and it has created memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. One of the best parts of running are the friendships I’ve made—runners have a certain quality that sparks connections.
Favorite distance to race?
I’ve always been a sprinter and in junior high and high school I mostly ran the 100 and 200 meters and 4 x 100 relay. I ran a little while at the University of Oregon before transferring to the University of Portland and joining the cross-county team. Since joining the Portland Running Company Race Team in September 2014, my favorite distance has been the 10K—it’s just the right length to keep my speed consistent and go at a faster pace. Last May, I ran the Volcano Half Marathon and was surprised how quickly the miles went by, and although challenging, I enjoyed the distance.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to running?
My biggest challenge is listening to my body and not my heart. I want to run, even if my body is telling me to rest and heal. When I’m injured, I try to overcome the urge to run by giving back—so far this year, I’ve volunteered at three races. This experience has taught me the value of volunteers and that I couldn’t easily do a race without them. It’s because of volunteers and their hard work that I can perform at a level I do.
Another challenge is something that happened to me about two years ago. In December 2013 I was diagnosed with autoimmune disorder and was nearly bedridden with tremendous pain. I quickly learned that doctors weren’t my answer and that it was up to me to do something different, try new approaches to healing my body. So, I set a goal of running one race a month. Being active, having a goal, and just getting out the door to run has helped me more than visits to the doctor, and has saved my life. Running has been a true blessing for me—more than any medicine.
When things get tough for me, I remember a special quote: “I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.” I’m not sure who said this, but it keeps me going.
What’s your best running moment?
My success at the Crawfish Crawl 5K with my teammate, Paula Hawkin from the Portland Running Company Race Team (she is the owner of Run with Paula Events). This year, I placed 2nd overall female with Paula right behind me—we were featured in an Oregon Live article about the race. I was coming off of an injury, so the fact that I finished second was an honor.
What’s your favorite race?
Definitely Bridge of the Goddess, run on the historic Columbia River Highway Trail. It’s an all-women’s race that encourages strength and positivity and sends the message that “Yes I can do this!” Whether you’re a walker, jogger, runner or competitor everyone embraces each other—there’s no judgment. Also, the course is breathtaking.
I also love Bay to Brews Half Marathon & 10K in Newport, OR. I ran the 10K last year and really enjoyed the course. The first mile is flat, then you run uphill for a mile or so on a private gravel road, then it’s all downhill until you cross Hwy 101 and have beautiful beach views. The race ends in South Beach State Park.
What race is top on your bucket list?
Two races are on my list. The Missoula Half Marathon and Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon in California’s Redwood National Forest. Missoula because it’s where my parents are from and Giants Half because I want to see the Redwoods.
Do you have a running mantra to get you through challenging runs or races?
I love the quote by Louis Zamperini “One moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”
What’s the best piece of training or racing advice you’ve been given?
“He who coaches himself has a fool for a coach.” This came from Gene Dykes, one of your previous runner interviews. I definitely need outside help, as I tend to push too hard, don’t really stretch, and don’t know when to take days off—I need a coach!
Who is one person you’d like to run with?
I’d love to run a hilly race with my dad (he passed in 2002).
Besides running, what keeps you busy?
My dog, Seneca—a beautiful 4-year-old Australian shepherd.
What’s one thing that would surprise us about you?
I take care of horses, specifically a 1,000-pound thoroughbred named Gryffin. My job is to let him out in the pasture, clean his stall, get his food and supplements ready, and of course, to love him. Even though I’m allergic to horses and hay, I’ve been taking care of him for five years (I wear a mask and long sleeves). I do this because of my love for animals and to help my friend.
What has running taught you?
Running has taught me to be patient and to choose my races wisely. In the past, if there was a race, I’d run it. Now, I’ve learned the value of slowing down a bit and selecting races that are more meaningful to me—and to be grateful for the experience.
Thank you, Katherine, for your time and for sharing your story. I’m so glad that we reconnected after all of these years. I look forward to hearing more about your running achievements and hope we can head out for a run together soon.
If you would like to be featured in Going the Distance or know someone who should, please drop me a note.