VS: How long have you been a runner?
VH: When I was in college, I ran as a way to relieve stress. I stopped in my mid-20s and picked it up again a few years ago.
VS: When did you do your first marathon?
VH: I started with some 5ks and a 10k, and then I did a half-marathon in the fall of 2007. My first marathon was the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon (VCM) in the spring of 2008, and I’ve done it every year since. In 2010, I also did the Green Mountain Marathon, which takes place in the Champlain Islands.
VS: What was your inspiration?
VH: My mother died of cancer at the age 54 in 2003, when I was pregnant with my son. She had battled her whole life with obesity and died from uterine cancer, which is obesity related. I vowed I would try my best to live a long and healthy life, and I started running a few years later. At that time, I was carrying more weight than I should have. I was 32 years old, but I felt tired every day, and finally reached the point where I decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I wanted to be active, to be able to keep up with my kids, and to feel good again. I started taking my health and fitness a little more seriously. I joined a gym and started running again. Initially, I thought that perhaps running was no longer for me. I’d run a bit and my ankle would hurt, or my hip would hurt, but then I started doing core strengthening exercises at the gym and the aches and pains went away.
We were always aware that my mother was overweight. Don’t get me wrong: My mom was fantastic. You couldn’t ask for a better mom. She was a wonderful person, but by the time I got to college, I realized that obesity is a serious health problem.
VS: Your mother’s death wasn’t your only family tragedy, was it?
VH: My uncle, who I was very close to, died a year ago of colon cancer, at 48. When he was diagnosed, I took on the challenge of running the marathon to raise money for his family. I was able to raise $5,000 for them with some of the money coming from my business.
VS: What was your most memorable marathon?
VH: Definitely my first one. It was very inspiring, and the VCM has so much support. There are people everywhere. There were a few times I cried thinking about my mom. My uncle was going through chemotherapy at the time, and when I got tired, I just told myself that if Uncle Marcel can go through chemo and take care of his three sons, I can put one foot in front of the other.
VS: Do you have a goal for the 2011 VCM?
VH: I’m chasing the four-hour mark. Four hours and nine minutes was my best time. You know, the marathon is really two different races. There’s the first 20, and then the last 6.2. Sometimes that last 0.2 is the worst.
VS: Why do you like training for marathons?
VH: For the challenge of it. My running time is time in my own head. I get to run in beautiful Vermont by myself with my music. It’s a great stress reliever. Although I’m just a midpacker, I really like the challenge of doing a full marathon. I just plod along, but the challenge of it keeps me motivated.
VS: What do you do in the off season?
VH: I run all year, although sometimes, it’s indoors on a treadmill. Even in winter, I try to get out once a week, but the temperature has to be above 15. The big challenge is the ice and the daylight. I’ve always been pretty active, and I used to play a lot of soccer.
VS: Why did you become a physical therapist?
VH: I’ve always been interested in medicine and science. When I was 14, I tore my ACL playing soccer, and that got me interested in the human body. My older sister went to the University of Vermont to become a physical therapist, and I swore I wouldn’t follow her, but I did the same thing, and now she works for me. That’s the other piece of getting healthier. There I was giving people advice and not following it myself. I wanted to be a better example for my patients.
VS: Tell us about your training program.
VH: I definitely need a strict training regimen. The first year I did the marathon, a friend who is a personal trainer wrote a training program for me. I’d look at it in the morning and think, “I don’t want to do this,” but then I’d see her face, and I knew I had to. Ironically, my friend believes that anyone who runs more than 5 miles at a time is insane.
VS: Do your kids follow in your footsteps?
VH: My daughter was in the Girls on the Run program and she completed one 5k. We’re doing a race together in Danville in May for Autism Speaks.
VS: Do you have any advice for others who want to get back into shape?
VH: The biggest thing is that your health is in your hands. If you want to feel better, your body gives you what you put into it. If you eat healthy foods and exercise, you’ll feel so much better. If you want to move, move, and your body will follow you.