This series talks to inspiring All-Season Runners from around the world. What's an All-Season Runner? That's what we call runners who don't let the wet, cold, wind or heat stop them from hitting their strides.
Here, we catch up with Dr. Marilyn Simmons Bowe from Georgia, U.S.A.
[Images courtesy @marilynsimmonsb]
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am passionate about learning, teaching and running! I was born in impoverished conditions but education was my way out. I graduated high school at 15, and my career path started at 17 as a chemist, then educator. Now I am social emotional learning researcher, consultant, author and motivational speaker.
You have a very impressive running streak going - over 8 years! Why did you decide to start a streak, and what has been the biggest challenges of keeping it going?
My streak started in Utah in the dead of winter January 1, 2012. I had taken my educational talents out there but I felt very isolated, culturally. I had always been a solo runner since moving to the USA in 1993 but this new circumstance was a big challenge to my running. I didn't want to go out at all except for work. I saw a post on Facebook about a streak for one month in January. I managed to do January, then the entire year, so I kept going. Now I am 8 years, 5 months and 14 days in, as of May 14, 2020, in this my thirtieth year of running.
The biggest challenge has been weather, followed by traveling. For example: when traveling back in January 2012, less then one month into my streak, I was stranded in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport due to weather delays. I went into the restroom, changed into my running clothes, rented a luggage locker for my belongings and ran between concourses for an hour! Weather has been a delightful challenge! I've run in blizzard conditions in Canada, Utah and Maryland; hurricane conditions in Florida and Georgia; knee deep snow in Utah, Maryland, Canada and Georgia; and exhaustive heat everywhere during summer months, like Wyoming and Montana.
What pushes you to get outdoors in any type of weather?
Running outdoors is freedom! Additionally, I love to sing out loud while running so outdoors gives me the opportunity to be as loud as I want to! Above all, I love wintry weather! Some find this odd since I was born in the tropics. However, I just love feeling cool air on my face as I'm cruising through my miles!
"Weather has been a delightful challenge! I've run in blizzard conditions..hurricane conditions... knee deep snow...and exhaustive heat."
What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as a runner?
Socially, it has made me more tolerant of my own human condition and how to use this tolerance to empower others. Emotionally, it has allowed me to laugh and cry as needed in order to get through some dark times, like when my consultant small business failed and I was homeless and living in my SUV! Physically, my greatest achievements have been in daily mileage and races: running the year, or more, in miles, every year since 2015; completing the Amerithon Challenge (a 3521 virtual race from the Golden Gates Bridge to the Washington Monument -- I completed this between July 4, 2016 and June 26, 2017, averaging 10 miles/day); completing 180 marathons in the 48 continuous United States and The Bahamas; completing six 50Ks (I was the first Bahamian-born female to complete and win a 50K in The Bahamas, my country of origin...it was the "Run for Pompey " race put on by a Canadian group!); completing two 50 milers; and completing my first 100 miler August 2019 in 31 hrs between Wisconsin and Illinois.
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You're also a teacher and coach. How does that help your running?
This helps me to build stamina! After a long day at school, teaching in some of America's most challenging schools, my run becomes my carrot to get me through the day! Knowing that I have a chance to unwind out in the elements helps me to push myself and my students to do their best. Additionally, I use running and life stories of my perseverance to help my students and my life coach clients to dig and achieve their goals. For example, my grueling stories of running double and triple marathons are great motivators when my students or clients want to give up or settle for mediocrity!
"As long as we accept "who and how we are" during each step of a run, (and in our daily lives) we will be able to overcome lack of motivation, but, we must take that first step!"
You've done an incredible number of marathons. What motivates you to keep doing them? Which stand out as some favorites, and some challenging ones?
I'm motivated to run marathons because I do not like doing long runs -- I will not run longer than 10 miles on my own! However, I know that I need longer distances so I run marathons to get long runs in! It's hard to pick a favorite marathon, however I am passionate about running small town races. They allow for a better human experience than the big corporate events. Some of my most challenging races have been based on weather and/or elevation. For example, Grandfather Mountain Marathon from Boone, NC - 3333 ft to Grandfather Mountain - 4279 ft, 26.2 miles, one way! It is promoted as "One of America's Toughest Marathons." Next challenging is the Postoak Triple Challenge Trail Series every February in Oklahoma. I always enter the "big" triple: Friday-26.2 miles, Saturday-31.1 miles, Sunday-26.2 miles. The challenge comes from trails that are rated an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the toughest. Additionally, the mud! In 2019 and 2020, they "ultrafied" it to 27.2, 31.1 and 27.2. This year, on the last day, I dropped back to my first ever half marathon on the last day because the mud was terrible. Everyone was dropping back so I would've been the last one out there in the wilderness, potentially, after dark.
Are you training for any upcoming races?
I do not train, I maintain. I've run a minimum of two marathons per month in the past ten years or so. I've completed 6 marathons and one 50K so far in 2020 before the world closed up! I've had 6 cancellations through June so far! I hope to get back out there in July for a triple marathons series in Oregon.
How has COVID-19 changed your outdoor lifestyle?
Thankfully, not really! I prefer to run early and alone so the "shut down" has been ideal. My local county police know me and watch over me as I run during "stay at home" orders. We were allowed to be out for exercise but they look over me out there before sunrise! I was a bit peeved when they closed my trails in the woods but I adjusted by running the "urban" trails along the creek beds. Now, I'm back to the trail system along and about the river that I love.
What advice do you have for runners who are feeling unmotivated or just feeling down during Covid?
My best advice is to take that first step! I love running but I don't neccesarily feel like running each day. When I don't feel like running, I get out anyway! When my first step sucks, I take another! When my first mile sucks, I run another. When my second mile sucks, I visualize my halfway point! I focus on my music! I get lost in my singing! I look at trees, the river and wildlife! The best thing to overcome lack of motivation to run is to think about anything except running once you get out there. Lastly, and scientifically, I have a self designed, quantitative PhD on the effects of emotions on achievement which followed my master's of science degree in biomedical science, with a concentration in brain structure and function. This is the foundation that I use to motivate myself, my students, clients, friends and family. The bottom line is that from my research I formulated a new social emotional learning (SEL) theory that states that we have 96 possible emotional dispositions from which we can get ourselves to achieve our goals. Most of these dispositions are encapsulated in our "negative" emotions. As long as we accept "who and how we are" during each step of a run, (and in our daily lives) we will be able to overcome lack of motivation, but, we must take that first step!
For more on Marilyn, visit her site at drmarilynsimmons.com, or follow her on Instagram.
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More from the series:
All-Season Runner Q&A: Brandon Miller (U.S.A)
All-Season Runner: Elìa Diehl Ruberto (Switzerland)
All-Season Runner Q&A: Lisa Sun (Canada)
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