Hollie's passion for running gives me runner's high. I asked Hollie what she does if she has to miss a run because, well, life happens. She said: "I never have." Fact, Hollie ran 2,394.4 miles in 2017.
"I'll run till the day I die."
What does being a runner mean to you and where might you be in life without running?
Aside from my family and close friends, being a runner is everything and all-encompassing in my life. Running is not an activity or sport for me. It is the singular embodiment of everything that is good about me – it showcases my determination, organization, heart, focus, feistiness, and perseverance. It is not what I do, it’s who I am.
I’ve always been a driven person, but I cannot imagine where I would be without running. By some extension, running has given me every important person in my life, my support system who constantly sacrifice their time to help me achieve my dreams. So, I would be a far less happy person and feel caged. Running makes me feel free and gives me a sense of purpose and belonging.
Where did your nickname, "The Great White Shark" originate?
I have always been fascinated by Great White sharks. They are fearless, ferocious, and instinctual. They are an unignorable entity. The nickname grew out of my ability to visualize chasing down the person in front of me while using that single-minded ferocity to stay focused on my end game. The nickname is hilarious if you know me because I am physically tiny. However, don’t let my size fool you, housed inside of this little body is the heart of a Great White.
Can you share with us a bit of your running and coaching history?
I think my unofficial running history began when I was able to stand! I participated in several sports when I was younger, but I did not become an official runner until I was a freshman in high school when I joined the cross country team in order to build endurance for basketball. I fell in love with the sport and left all other sports. My path after that is a bit unconventional in that I went from being a sprinter to a competitive middle distance runner and eventually landed on the marathon in my adult life. Once I found the marathon, I was smitten. It’s where my heart is. I have done 7 marathons so far.
My coaching history began more as a way to help my friends rather than anything official. I would make training plans for free for different friends here and there. I put myself out there a bit more when I began to coach my adult track team a few years ago by leading the distance workouts. Eventually, I became an official co-captain of the team. Coaching my teammates has brought me a lot of joy and essentially reignited the fire within me after I had my children.
Who are #HolliesHomies and how has this running group enhanced your running career?
To understand who we are you have to know our roots. I call my friends my homies. The group name, Hollie’s Homies, was coined by my friend Hans after a long cold winter run with some of the homies about a year ago. We are a group of like-minded friends of all ages who love running, enjoy watching each other compete and achieve goals, and have become sounding boards and rocks to lean on during anything we go through in our lives. The homies (as I call them) have enhanced my running career in a major way. I do not mind running solo for most of my runs in a week, but the time I spend running with the homies is special. We talk the entire time for hours about anything and everything nearly every single weekend year round. We have crazy amounts of fun which make the miles tick by fast. Plus, there is so much Maine running history in our group that if you do not learn something from them, you haven’t been listening.
What is one challenge and lesson learned from your experience in training and coaching?
The largest challenge I’ve encountered in my training/running gave birth to the largest lesson I’ve learned thus far in my career. I had a very disappointing 2nd Boston Marathon in 2016. I ran in the heat that fateful day (rain and 50's is my jam), and my entire race plan went sideways quickly. I threw up several times and nearly passed out a couple of times as well. Everyone has a race experience that becomes “the” race, the one that changes you. This was it for me, the race that brought me to my knees but ended up being the best thing to happen to my running. At this point in my career, I operated under the assumption that if I worked hard, then I would achieve what I wanted. I learned the hard way that running does not work like that.
I had to partially let go of my rigid nature and become fluid and therein laid the challenge for me. I enlisted the help of a coach for the first time via Rob Gomez and tried a new way to train while simultaneously not letting one race define me. I leaned on my family and close friends to help get my mind right. All of this made me realize that this one experience was merely a single chapter in my running career, not the entire book. I grew so much as a runner from that one experience.
Speaking from my own experience, running a marathon is A LOT of hard work. Training is time-consuming, a commitment and it hurts! Why do you think we continue to run despite all the pain?
Life, in general, has ample pain, but we keep living despite the pain, right? Running with all the lovely pain we endure really is no different for a marathoner. We are stubborn, driven people. Marathon training requires so much of ourselves that it has to become an investment even in the pain. We all invest a ridiculous amount of hours in the actual training/running and necessary extras (PT, weight training, stretching, foam rolling, nutrition, sleep, hydration, etc.) all for that one glorious day. I truly believe that marathons are personal for each runner. We all have a reason and a backstory; we all sacrifice for that one end if you will. I am always cognizant of this fact every single time I toe the line at a marathon when I look at the other marathoners. In the end, pain is merely just one aspect of the whole process for us. For me, the reward of knowing that I accomplished something that I put my heart and soul into far outweighs any pain when it comes to a marathon.
How important is having a daily routine and setting goals?
Routines and goals are incredibly important to me. I am a major creature of habit. My routines have routines! I find something beautiful about efficiency, working hard, and staying the course toward something you really want in life. As my running has progressed, I’ve realized that the only limits I have are the ones I impose on myself. Routines are one solid path to follow to achieve anything and everything you want in life not just in regards to running.
What is your next big race on the horizon?
My next big race is the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018. Boston 2018 will be my 3rd Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon is the pinnacle race for me, it’s my Olympics. It is unlike any race, it is the Monday of all Mondays. I wish every runner could experience it because words do not do it justice. I am very excited for this particular Boston because it will be the first time one of my best friends and I run it at the same time, 2 of my other closest friends (one of which is my Physical Therapist and has saved me on many occasions) will be there to cheer for the very first time, and I have big plans that hopefully lead to obtaining the one large dream I have with my running.
A Message From Rob Gomez, Hollie's Running Coach
“Hollie is one of my most determined clients. The drive she has to get in every training run and hit all the paces she needs to hit during her workouts is second to none. She has a friendly and fiery disposition that can be infectious as is evidenced by the ever-larger group of “Hollie’s Homies” that tags along with her for her longer training runs. I’m pretty sure Hollie is the only person who has asked me to swear at them during a race for added motivation! I’ve found myself using Hollie as an example to find motivation for some of my own training runs. Things may not have come together perfectly for her last marathon effort, but I know Hollie will set herself up well for a great race in Boston this April with a whole lot of hard work and a few curse words along the way!” -Rob Gomez
What is your proudest personal achievement?
My proudest running achievement is not a personal one per se. I am proudest of all the achievements my City of South Portland adult track team in the Maine Corporate Track Association/MECTA has achieved. Our team is comprised of all ages (18-70+) and running backgrounds (including those who have never ran before). I have seen so many of them step out of their comfort zones to do what is best for the team. Watching them grow as athletes has been far more rewarding than any of my personal achievements. The fact that I get the opportunity to coach/co-captain them is a whole other level of pride for me. I always tell them that I will never ask more of them than what I am willing to give myself. They just give and give again. Seeing the smiles on their faces when they do something they never thought they could to when we win state championships is amazing. It is an incredibly fun and special thing to be a part of.
What is your favorite running app?
Strava. My favoritism is three-fold in that I am a stats nerd (I love seeing my own stats and anecdotal information), I really like connecting with other runners from around the world, and I find Strava’s layout visually appealing.
Who is your idol runner and why?
My favorite professional runner is Bernard Lagat. I love the way he races, smart in the beginning and then he hammers down near the end. Plus, he appears very gracious and kind. I would love to meet him someday.
However, my true running idol is one of my best friends, Jess Laurent. She knew from the jump that she wanted to be a marathoner. Jess is one of the strongest, most dedicated and passionate people I know which translates directly to her running. I am in awe of her running ability and conviction, especially since she is super petite like me. I can remember in my pre-marathon days how I would be in admiration of her because she ran through all weather, woke up early to get her miles in, loved running hills, and had no quit in her body. When I really started focusing on running again after my children were born, I distinctly remember saying to myself “what would Jess do?” She’s been an inspiration for me for years. I idolize every aspect of her not only as a runner but as a person.