Athlete Interview: Kim MacKenzie, Part 1




Should I run on this today?  Sidewalk in Halifax, NS
It is a bit of an understatement to say that training this winter for the upcoming Spring race season has been challenging.  Many of us have suffered through one successive snowstorm and/or bitter freeze after another.  The Midwest, New England and Eastern Canada have especially been hit hard and many of us have struggled with our running. This tends to hit us the hardest when we are looking to get in the traditional long runs which are needed in order for us to be ready for distances like the marathon. 

One friend of mine from Halifax, Nova Scotia that I have gotten to know over social media is Kim MacKenzie.  In this first of a two-part interview, we discuss this with her, along with her entry into running and her preparations as she takes on perhaps the most beloved marathon venue in the world at Boston.

Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith: Kim, do you like to be called Kim, Kimmy, Kimberly, or just not late for dinner?

Or how about running on this sidewalk in Halifax? 
Kim MacKenzie:  Hi Brad! I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to be talking to you about Boston. I get called and answer to all the above but I guess in person I would introduce myself as “Kim,” and if you call me late for supper I likely already made other plans! 

Brad:  Good to know!  Kim, tell us about yourself and your entry into running.

Kim:  I have always been fit but have never really pushed myself physically.  I did not run when I was younger, except in sports like baseball or maybe to catch the bus...LOL!  I started running when my brother challenged me in 2012 to run a local 8K race as part of our town’s annual summer festival.  I had no running gear, no sneakers… NOTHING!  In fact I purposely didn’t wear runners as they made my feet look big, which they are!  (It’s hard to believe just 2.5 years later ALL that I have in my closet is running gear!  I love Saucony and Adidas wear!)  

Wow, I never cried so much in my life preparing for that race…who knew running was so hard!   I did my first few Spring runs in Uggs or rubber boots if you can believe it and then broke down and bought some sneakers from Walmart.  By late May I still couldn’t run 3 minutes without stopping and while I would like to blame my asthma, that would be a lie.  I did manage to complete the race and won my age group, but there were only like ten people in the race!  It didn’t matter, I was hooked and loved every minute of that day.

Kim at her first ever 8K where she won her age group!
I then started doing 5 & 10K's and enjoyed everyone in 2012!  The next year, 2013, I focused more on the half and triathlons before setting my sights on my first marathon that Fall.  Due to a foot injury and perhaps a lack of experience I did not meet my goal of getting a qualifying run for Boston in 2013.  I was bummed, but I learned to respect the marathon.  I decided that in 2014 I was getting a Boston qualifier and therefore there was no shifting focus.   It was a busy year training and competing, but in the end I got 2 Boston qualifying runs and completed my first Ironman Triathlon, (3.8k swim/ 180k bike/42.2k run). 

Brad:  Wow!  Kim, some people might be just a bit jealous to hear that you went from no running, to qualifying for Boston in about 2 years, +/-.  That's pretty awesome!  

Now, speaking of Boston, it's a little more than a month away and living way out in Halifax, the weather for training has been pretty rough, just as in the Boston area.  I know from talking with you on Twitter, it's been a bit overwhelming.  How are you handling it?

The finish of Kim's first Ironman in 2014.
Kim:  Well, to be truthful, I haven't felt so discouraged and unmotivated in a long while, especially in regards to something I was so passionate about previously.  To get up every morning and feel that cold, and I mean cold! Cold blowing down your neck, (you know what I mean Brad, you've dealt with it, the -20C to -30C windchill cold) is kinda difficult, but hey, it's winter and I live in Canada, it's to be expected and I am a cold weather runner.  But it was, (is), the running conditions of the roads, paths, and sidewalks that have me so bummed.  It is completely unsafe and downright silly at times to try and run them.  Yes, I know I could be doing the treadmill/indoor track, but when you've lost motivation, when you feel suffocated running on treadmills/tracks with dead air all around you, it's easy to pass them up, which I have most times.  I cannot do distance or speed in those situations, but instead just plod along.  I try not to be a slave to my schedule because of the need for flexibility.  Instead, I try and take just one day, one km at a time.  I still struggle daily with the frustration of not being able to get out and run though.

Brad:  Yeah, I hear you!  We don't have an indoor track in our small farm town and I don't care to run on the treadmill either.  Back to Boston, tell us more about your qualifiers.

Kim:  Like I said earlier, I was determined to succeed at getting a qualifier after my first marathon attempt in November, 2013.  I have never learned so much about myself as in that first marathon over the span of 4 hours and 4 minutes.  Grit, tenacity, perseverance, you name it…not to mention learning to respect the marathon and anyone who attempts to complete one. 

I had trained through an extremely cold winter that year as well and got my first qualifier in Fredericton, New Brunswick in May with a time of 3:50:05.  I had trained so hard that the event itself went very smooth.  I loved every second and it was by far the “easiest” run I had done to that date.  I didn’t push myself as I knew that I didn't have much experience and was still a novice and unsure of the risks I’d be taking if I altered my plan.  I stayed the course of my marathon pace consistently and raced a "safe" race ensuring a qualifying time.  I ran another marathon in the fall hoping to test and push my limits since I already had my Boston qualifier and "what did I have to lose."  I mean you don’t know your limits until you push beyond them right?!?  However at the end of the day, my mind won out and I ran another "safe" race and qualified again with a 3:50:06 on Prince Edward Island.  I guess you can’t say I’m not consistent! 


Kim after the PEI marathon with her daughter Tiffany.
Brad:  Isn't that a double negative Kim? :)  What's training looking like these days? What's your weekly mileage up to, your long run?  

Kim:  I have a training schedule which I used to be a slave too but I can say I’ve had to make serious adjustments over this winter.   I’ve missed many recovery and medium runs as it was just so unsafe outside.  I have tried to substitute with other forms of cross training, obviously not the same, but better than nothing I figure.   I’m not near as fit as I want to be or should be this far into the training season but I am working hard on accepting that this is where I am and I need to deal with it!  Mileage has been anywhere between 50-70km a week these last few weeks.  I am heading out for my 30km long run tomorrow morning, (Februaray 28).  I finally have sole spikes in my runners and will try them for the first time! Excited!!!

I did have a great tempo run yesterday morning at 5am doing repeats across our harbor bridge here in Halifax.  This was the only ice free place I could find to run.  It was WONDERFUL and helped me find some motivation, focus, and drive.

Brad:  Awesome!  Besides crazy winter weather, what other difficulties are you facing?  How are you handling them?

Kim:  Crazy weather aside, I have been dealing with a personal loss which saddens me and sometimes shifts my focus off Boston but I am managing...trying to regroup.  I find great support in family, friends and my on-line Twitter running group...love them all!  I also think I am feeling a bit burnt out from last year’s training. I felt like I never stopped with training for the marathon/Ironman/marathon stretch.

Brad:  I am honoured to be part of that Twitter running group Kim!  What else motivates you, encourages you, and/or focuses you?

Kim:  My motivation comes from friends and family that believe in me.  If they only knew how far that goes in helping me!  I grow from their push and belief.  Call me crazy but I also watch motivational clips on YouTube ALL THE TIME, love them – that inspires me!  Finally I’m feeling a bit of a positive change after that great tempo run yesterday, just need a couple more good runs to keep it going! 

Brad:  Yes, YouTube clips of trail and ultra running definitely inspire me as well.  As you get closer to Boston, you must have thought about what may happen that day.  What are your goals for Boston? What's your perfect day goal, stinky day goal, and average day goal?

Kim:  Ohhhh, Boston’s goal!  Well, I have not told anyone these goals except Kenzie and Tracey, who are both dear friends.  For me to say them aloud frightens me a bit, not sure why…fear of failure to meet them I suppose.
  • Stinky Goal – longer than 4:30
  • Average Goal – 4 hours’ish
  • Perfect Goal – 3:50:04!
Keep in mind I have not been to Boston or the course so this may all be completely ridiculous as far as the goals…chat me up later and I’ll fill you in!  :)

Brad:  That's exactly what we are going to do in part 2, a post-race Boston Marathon interview!  But, before then, any more races before Boston?

Kim:  I was going to do the "Moose Race" here in Nova Scotia in March.  I was told this was a race that was originally held to prepare runners heading to Boston. Unfortunately, I will be away that weekend so I will miss it---so no more races before Boston.

Brad:  Anything else to add Kim before we close off part 1?

Kim:  The biggest thing about Boston is that I want to enjoy the experience.  I hear it is electric!  I don’t want to be so caught up and focused that I miss it.   I am extremely hard and critical on myself and have sometimes missed a moment that I should have been appreciating.  I want to enjoy the pre-race day events/fun and just be excited about finishing and not get to caught up on whether my time is perfect or not.

If I can go and finish the day being thankful to have had the opportunity to do something some can only dream of (that I have dreamed of), to laugh often, smile and tap hands along the course-then I will consider it a success.  Thank you so much Brad for taking the time to chat with me!

Kim excited as she races and hoping to be expressing the same joy at Boston in April!
Brad:  Thank you too Kim.  I'll certainly be praying and cheering for you that day!  Hope it's a great run and one you always remember with great joy!

Stay tuned in April, and we will have part 2 with Kim and find out how everything went for her in Boston.