By day, Michele Gonzalez is a financial analyst. But by night — or, technically, early morning — she’s a runner.
The Staten Island native has completed some 15 or so marathons (plus countless halfs, 10-milers and more). She chronicles her training on her Instagram, NYC Running Mamma (@nycrunningmama), which has attracted more than 60,000 followers, one sweaty selfie and inspirational quote at a time.
Next up on her race schedule is the NYC Half Marathon on March 19, followed by the Boston Marathon next month.
amNewYork spoke with Gonzalez, an army veteran and mother of two, about her training.
When do you run?
It’s early morning. I have two young boys and work full-time in the city. So I really don’t have any other option except running early. I try to leave my house around 7 in the morning for work, I am usually finished running by about 6, so I’m usually on the road by 5, if not a little earlier. It just depends on how far I’m running and if I have a workout that day, it might be a bit earlier. During the summer it’s light out, and it’s starting to get light out which is really nice. But for half the year it’s usually pretty dark when I’m running.
Do you wear reflective gear?
I do. I’m pretty well lit. I wear a headlamp. The road I run on has street lights, but there are sections that are a bit darker. I always try to have some type of reflective gear on. A lot more running companies are making reflective jackets now which is really nice. Even some of my pants have reflective gear built into them.
How did you become the NYC Running Mama?
It was mostly unintentional. I ran the New York City Marathon in 2011. I was picked to participate in the Foot Locker Five Borough Challenge — it’s basically a race within the marathon. Something that the Foot Locker committee asked us to do was to join social media and start a blog and document the training. I found that I liked keeping track of my training and sharing the ups and downs.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from social media that keeps you at it?
Meeting people, that has become one aspect that I love. I feel like it widens your world. Before I came back to work, I was a stay-at-home mom, that can be pretty isolating. I loved being able to connect with other people. There are plenty of parents or people that are trying to work on their careers while trying to train, I guess that’s what I try to make my Instagram about now — trying to juggle it all, knowing that you can’t really juggle a lot of it at the same time. I think from the feedback I’ve gotten, other people can relate to that.
What was your first race?
It was a marathon — I don’t know if I would recommend it as the best course of action. I had run most of my life. I wasn’t a runner, that wasn’t the sport I participated in, but I played basketball, I played softball, running is a part of those sports. When I was at West Point, there were unit runs, and there was a lot of running as a requirement. I was running 5, 6, 7 miles at a time a couple days a week. I decided my senior year in college I wanted to train for something, so I signed up for a marathon. That was my first race.
How does your training change based on what race you have?
As a marathon gets closer, the mileage will definitely pick up. And then after a marathon, I do take quite a bit of time to recover. It’s definitely starting to pick up since Boston is just over six weeks away. The next four weeks or so will probably be my highest mileage over the last eight months. I usually run about six days a week. I try and take a rest day every week, or every seven to 10 days, where there’s no running, nothing. Just a complete rest day to sleep in and rest the body. And then usually there’s one mid-week workout. The weekend is usually where my long run happens. Now in the ramp-up I’ll get into the low 20s for my long run. It cycles. It’s all based on what my goal race is. For the last few years I’ve really focused on two marathons a year. I’ll do one in the spring and one in the fall.
Where do you do your longer runs?
Most of them will be on Staten Island. I’ll just walk outside my house, there’s a main road by my house, I’ll just run on that road. A couple times I’ll try and come into the city to run in Central Park. Both Boston and New York [marathons] — those are pretty hilly courses. I try and do some long runs that have quite a bit of hills in them, just to get my body ready for them.
And you do treadmill running too?
My husband travels for work — when he’s gone, I obviously can’t run outside. Those days I’m on the treadmill. If it’s inclement weather and the pace is important for the workout, then I’ll probably do it indoors. Otherwise, even if it’s bad weather, I try to do it on the road.
Do you devise your own training schedule?
I used to do my own. What I found for myself was, I was pushing myself too hard on a regular basis. A good friend of mine coaches me now, she makes my training plans. I found that I really like it, she forces me to go easy on the easy days, the days I should be recovering and just not running too hard. It takes all the guesswork out for me.
How do you get up early and fit in everything you need to do in a day?
I like having a goal race — that keeps me focused and driving to train. Because for me at least, I enjoy the training and the work that goes into training for a race more than saying that I did the race. I love the whole process — training for an event, and then on that day, just leaving it all out there and seeing what I can do. There are plenty of days where I don’t want to get up, and there are some days I don’t, and I think that’s fine — that’s a normal aspect of training. It might be your body’s way of saying you need a day of rest. I love that feeling after, that feeling of success, and feeling like you’ve already accomplished something for the day, even at 6 a.m.
How else is your lifestyle, like diet, impacted?
What you eat definitely impacts the way that you run. As I’m ramping up for a race, my diet naturally will improve. If I know I have to run 20 miles the next day, there’s no way I will let myself have a meal that’s awful for me, where I know I’ll wake up and feel bloated. But I will definitely give in to that the night after a long run. When I’m not training for a race, like after the marathon, that’s my time to enjoy all the things that I maybe passed on during the training cycle. I certainly don’t restrict myself completely — I drink wine every night. But I won’t sit down and have a Big Mac and fries if I have a long run the next day.
How do you fuel for long runs?
I use this product called Generation UCAN — it’s an energy electrolyte product that’s supposed to give you sustained energy over a long period of time.
Are there other ways you stay healthy?
I take vitamins on a daily basis. I hadn’t been this time last year, and I had a pretty bad race in Boston last year. I’m trying to stay healthy in that regard. My sons are super active. They love running with me. Definitely anything I do, they want to emulate. I wear Garmin watches throughout the day and when I run. Garmin came out with a kid’s version of a watch, and so we got those for the boys and they love it. Similarly I wear sunglasses whenever the sun, or even the wind, is pretty bad. Oakley has a youth line, so we got them a pair of Oakleys to wear, and they love it. They see my husband and I staying active, and they want to, too.