Paulina and Ginger

1. What do you like best in running and what is your pet peeve?

Most of all I like two things: 1) possibility to spend more time with my dog and to work on our relationship and 2) clearing my mind. After a stressful day/week  it’s good to go for a run. Running helps me take it easy, as unhelpful thoughts go away, endorphins flow in and help me distance from the unpleasant situations so that the problem itself becomes easier to tackle with. The only thing I’m not fond of in running is the colour of my face afterwards: it’s usually purple :)

2. What would ideal running/racing conditions look like to you?

 For me the perfect running conditions are those I feel comfortable in. Because I have a few health issues, I need to carefully plan my life around them. I monitor my diet as I have insulin resistance. In addition to this, I have to take medicine for my exercise urticaria. If I forget about one of these things, I may not even have the energy to start my run, let alone finish it. Also, I don’t like to rush and think about the time limit (for example, that I need to get back home before the dark), as I value each kilometer I can run.

3. What running dream do you have? If you had everything you needed, what would be the wildest, most impossible dream?

My running dream? I’d love to get a second dog to train with, I’d also be happy to run together with my significant other :) As for greater dreams, I’d really like to be able to run a marathon, but because of my health it’s next to impossible. But who said you can’t dream of that, right?

4. Tell about the toughest training you had. What was the outcome? And what was the most valuable takeaway?

The hardest training session I had… Probably it was the first time Ginger and I took part in a race. It wasn’t long distance, as we just wanted to try it out and see how we would do. Ginger really got into the spirit and raced so fast that I could barely keep up! To make matters worse, it rained the day before, so the ground was still wet and slippery. I need to say a few words about Ginger’s past: she’s a rescue dog, and she had a very unfortunate puppyhood, because she was treated very badly by the previous owner before being put in the shelter. It’s only thanks to months of intense training this dog can trust people again and feel more or less safe in social situations. But on the race day I was still worried about how she would take the whole situation: I was afraid that she’d be scared of hundreds of people and other dogs. Well, we didn’t win a golden medal that day, but I was overwhelmed and extremely proud of my dog, as she behaved outstandingly well. And this was the greatest prize.

5. What body part would you name that would be the most important when it comes to running? What body part you're most thankful to?

I guess, legs are the most important body part for me. I have had a strained ankle and know how challenging it can be to recover from such an injury, both physically and mentally. I remember how I feared that the injury would come back once I resumed my training, and it was hard to actually start over again because of this fear. And as I’m not a very experienced runner yet, I don’t think I can be thankful to any body part yet :)

6. Did you do sports when you were a child? Was running among the activities you were fond of? If not, why did you eventually decide to start running and when did that happen?

As most children, I had physical training lessons in pre-school, but, to be honest, running wasn’t amongst my favourite activities. Later, when I was a student, running gained popularity. I decided to try it once more, to see if my attitude towards it has changed in any way. Well, by the end of the first training, my face was bright purple, my legs ached, I was out of breath, but in addition to all this I got a horribly itchy rash. I consulted many specialists, and all of them said that I had to forget about cardio and that running was definitely not for me. So I concentrated on weight training and didn’t do any running at all, however it all changed when I adopted a 3-month old bitch, a crossbreed between a malamute and a german shepherd. It soon became clear as day that this doggie was extremely active (she probably has a secret battery hidden somewhere inside her, no other way to explain it!), and therefore the 'usual' activities like walking or jogging just wouldn't wear her out. Once again I went to the doctor, but this time I was determined to find answers. I went from one doctor to another, until, finally, I found a specialist who didn’t look at me as if I was crazy. I showed him photos of my skin rash after a run/walk training and told that it was very important for me to get this sorted. I was diagnosed with exercise urticaria and started to take medication. I could finally begin the training activities with my dog. Now we do canicross together.

7. What do you feel when you're at the start line and when you've just crossed the finish line? What is essential for you to have when you're about to run a race and what do you usually do after you've run it?

I’m very stressed right before the start, but I try to control this because I don’t want to transfer my nervousness to the dog. The very second we start running, the adrenaline rushes in, we speed up and I feel like I have wings behind my back. Once we cross the finish line, I feel like crying: I want to let out all the emotions I’ve been keeping inside before the start and just cry tears of joy :) After the race I always praise Ginger, as she’s the one who did best of all. I think so because this dog has to overcome her fear of strangers and other dogs, therefore each race is not only a way to check the physical condition, but, more importantly, an opportunity to see how she’s adapting and socializing.

8. Was there something that changed in your views on running since you started?

I guess I now have even more respect for other runners. I know how hard it is to conquer each kilometer, to work with one’s weaknesses and illnesses, and all of this is done to achieve a goal or just to have fun while running. I’m fascinated by those who run hundreds of kilometers a week. And it’s not only their stamina that amazes me, but also the ability to organize one’s life. Those runners need to be very organized to juggle sports, work and other activities in life (or they just hire a cook, a cleaning team, a nanny etc. :) ).

9. What goal that you set to achieve in the beginning of your running journey now seems to be something that's too ambitious or maybe even impossible to do?

As I have already mentioned, long-distance running is not for people with insulin resistance. I was devastated when I first learnt about it and understood that I would probably never be able to run a marathon or an ultra-marathon. Nevertheless, I’m quite happy that I can run at all: before I got diagnosed with exercise urticaria, running was a no-no. So, maybe in the future I’ll find a doctor who will give me a magic pill for my insulin resistance. Who knows? :)

10. What goal do you have now?

I have only one goal: to be stronger than Ginger. I still have to figure out how to “charge my batteries” to Ginger’s level, but I'll keep trying, and maybe eventually I'll find a solution!

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@2020 Anna Shilonosova