Inside The Green Room With Elizabeth Licorish

the only picture that works
Sebastian Cummings

I was forced to run a mile for the first time in the fourth grade, when I transferred to Robert E. Lee elementary school in Virginia (my fifth school at this point in my academic career). It took me 15 minutes (I can walk a mile in less than 15 minutes these days). I had just come from California where we flew kites and played tether ball during gym class, TF did I know about running a mile?. Eight more years of physical fitness in the public school system of The South, and running a mile was as easy as making a gallon of sweet tea.
When I started college and joined the theatre program, I spent the majority of my time in the theater, running lines, rehearsing, or just watching. I still ran, but maybe… only once a week. At the end of my sophomore year, I experienced my first break-up and it was the most anxiety inducing experience of my life. Did it help that this break up was with someone from the same program as me? I’m glad you ask that. No. It did not. I was on campus all summer, with the 4 other students willing to sacrifice their summer for some credits, and I wanted nothing to do with the theater. Everything reminded me of my ex… Everything. But, theatre was is my life! I was feeling it and I was feeling it bad. One day, on my way back to the dorms, I passed the gym and saw one of the only other students on campus running… Not a bad idea. It was better than sitting in my dorm room typing a million different emails to my ex about what a liar he was, while listening to The All American Rejects, and eating my weight in Ramen. When I got on the treadmill, I ran and I ran, until it didn’t hurt anymore, until I was so distracted by the moment, that my inner voice of doubt could barley be heard. When I looked down at the monitor, I saw that I had run 4 miles and for the first time all summer, I smiled.
I continue to run as a way to stay healthy and centered, and am more than happy to meet other runners. Of all my friends on social media, only one runner has been allowed through to my newsfeed by the algorithms that be; Elizabeth Licorish. Ms. Licorish is a writer, author, and avid runner. I read an article she wrote for Huffington Post, Get Fit: Ditch the Fancy Pants, in which she discusses her journey from figure skater, to inactive college student, and her introduction to the world of road races. After liking every post she made about running for a year or so, I decided I should ask her some questions about her experiences. Why weren’t all these connections made when we were both studying at Rutgers? Welp, that’s what the green room is for.

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Whenever i mention, to a non-runner, that I’m a runner, I get the inevitable, “I don’t see a point in running more than a mile or two. I think you’re just wasting your time.” Have you been on the receiving end of such comments? How do you respond?
I think a lot of non-runners really can’t fathom running more than a mile or two, and I completely understand, because I used to feel the same way. When non-runners hear I run 50 miles a week (even in the 0-degree dead of winter), they usually say I’m crazy. I almost always joke back that I’d be crazier if I didn’t run. I truly believe most people would feel a lot less stressed and overwhelmed by everyday life if they had a regular exercise routine.

I think a lot of people who want to start running, find themselves overwhelmed with the idea of consistently doing something that can be, initially, rather difficult. After a week or two, they often find themselves slowly reducing the amount of running they take on, until they are running no more. What advice would you give these people?
Start slow and with low expectations. It’s one thing to burn out emotionally if you take on too much too soon, but you’re more likely to physically burn out or injure yourself if you go from 0-100 right away. When I first started running, I only ran once or twice a week and cross-trained on the elliptical machine at the gym every day I didn’t run. It took me 6 years of running to work up from 5/10 miles a week to 40/50 miles a week.

When I’m running, I spend my mental energy imagining how I would create a performance around the music I am listening to, and when I am really focused, the time flies by. What’s running through your mind as you are running your route?
This is such a great question. I love music and I almost always listen to Spotify when I’m training. I let my mood and my pace dictate what I listen to. I don’t skate anymore, but sometimes I’ll sort of skate in my head when I’m running. I’m the kind of person whose mind is always racing, so most of the time I run to “feel” and not so much to “think.”

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Running outdoors vs. the treadmill, thoughts?
I never run on treadmills, but I know a lot of runners who do. There’s this weird stigma attached to treadmills; a lot of runners who run exclusively outside think it’s wimpy to run on a treadmill, but I disagree. Running is running. I do, however, think it’s healthier and more challenging to run outside. You can access a more natural stride when running on solid ground, which leaves you much less susceptible to overuse injuries. Running outside in different weather conditions also teaches you how to go with the flow. Sometimes, there will be two feet of snow on the ground, and you may have to slow down or find an alternative route. Learning how to be flexible with your running is a good way to practice being flexible with your life.

Are there specific foods or supplements you consume before or after a run to aid in performance/recovery?
I don’t like to fuss about food too much. I think stressing about food can be just as (if not more) unhealthy than eating unhealthy food. I do try to eat healthfully, though. I pay attention to getting enough iron, calcium, and B vitamins. I believe carbohydrates are a runner’s best friend. I love a strong cup of coffee and simple carbs before I run, and I drink chocolate milk or a protein shake after a particularly long or hard run. Otherwise, I’ll just refuel with a normal meal.

I often hear people describing feelings and moods they are experiencing that I associate with inactivity, for myself. Can you talk about a period in your life when you were much less active and what it did to you mentally and physically?
I think being sedentary can completely distort your true personality. When you’re low on food, you get “hangry,” right? Being low on exercise can affect your mood the same way. We’re all meant to be physically active, so I don’t think you can truly tap into your talents and creativity if you’re not moving your body. When I was in college, I was so focused on school and work that I didn’t even think about exercise. A lot of people believe exercise is a luxury if you’re not a professional athlete or trainer. But exercise is not a luxury. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and your work colleagues to take care of your health, so you can be the very best version of yourself. The time you invest in exercise will pay huge dividends in terms of your productivity and your overall contribution to the world.

Do you use any apps to track your performance?
I was a huge fan of RunKeeper when I first started running. It’s a great motivator to see how far you’ve traveled and to track the improvements in your pace over time. Now I use the Garmin 220 GPS watch. A watch is simpler and more accessible, plus it looks cool. My watch also syncs with a heart rate monitor, which I occasionally use to gauge how my body responds to different paces and conditions.

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What advice would you give someone thinking of taking on running and maybe road races?
Do it! The first time I ever ran 5K was during a 5K race. People new to running might think even local 5K races are super competitive. They can be competitive, but they don’t have to be. All skill levels are welcome, and it’s totally okay if you have to stop and walk, or even if you have to walk the whole thing. The running community is full of the most welcoming, encouraging, nonjudgemental people. There are really comprehensive online race databases, such as runningintheusa.com, that can help you locate a fun charity race near you almost every weekend of the year. Just remember not to push yourself too hard at first. Running is about baby steps. Over time, all those baby steps add up to a lot of miles. And all those miles add up to major positive life changes.

Yes! Positive life changes! I’m positive a great life change for all you reading out there would be to follow Elizabeth on Twitter. Who knows, maybe you’ll get inspired!

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