Editor’s note: Runners profiles, to be honest, are always overdue. I never could produce them fast enough nor often enough. But this one has been overdue since, specifically, December 2019. So if you don’t know them, meet Greensboro’s Katarina and Jody Nelson.
Children, Zoe, 12, and Oliver, 8
Katarina: Cardiologist, Cone Health
Jody: Managing director, UL
Why we run
Katarina: “To keep my sanity. Mental health. Stay in shape.”
Jody: “Because of her.”
Katarina: "We lived in Boston (in 2013). And I worked at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Everybody was running. Everybody. But us. And I was eight months pregnant, heavily overweight. My colleagues, one day in January, were waiting, like at 10 a.m., for them to open for the Boston medley (B.A.A. Distance Medley). ... The 5K is special because it's downtown, the day before the marathon. And you get all the crowds, you run through the finish line. You get the feel, but you're just 5K. We were not really runners at the time. And I was kind of nervous about it. You can walk in a worst case, right? I called Jody, and Jody wouldn't answer my phone (in Detroit). If he does it with me, I will do it. Eventually he answered, and he said, 'Are you in labor?' And I said, 'No.' So he hung up again. So I signed us up. He called me later that day and said, 'Do you think I'm fat? Is that why you want me to run?' I'm like, 'No. I want to run, and I want you to do that with me.' So this is how it all started.”
Jody: “It's kind of a drug. Once you get started, you start losing a little bit weight (he weighed 205 pounds at the time), you start going a little bit faster.”
Katarina: “And then Jody just took off. And I think you ran your first first full by December or January?”
Jody: "January or February in Miami, and then I overheated because I told myself not to walk. There's a famous Japanese author (Haruki Murakami, 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running'). His whole goal was never to walk. And I had to walk the last couple miles. It got hot in Miami. And I got so mad that two weeks later, I ran another marathon at Cape Cod during February where I knew it was not going to be too hot. And I finished, and I didn't feel like stopping and I knew at that point I had more to come."
Katarina: "It took me two years to get to a full marathon and I ran maybe five, and then Jody was like at 100 miles."
Our runner's highs
Katarina: "Just the opportunity to run, seriously. I don't remember any time I ran that I was not happy. You get out there, it gives you freedom. You don't have to be involved in a million things that we always do with work. Any run, seriously. …
"Before I was focused on speed and distance, and I kind of burned out from that. And now I just go on a trail, and whatever speed I enjoy, and I usually take our dog (Lucky), he's like the happiest; he gives you a runner's high by himself.”
Jody: "I like new locations, just trying different things. I like the challenge. So running on the same path all the time in the same conditions is boring. If it gets too hot, then your body reacts differently and you have to act differently. I like those challenges. We've gotten into more outdoor (activities), even hiking, it doesn't have to be running. But getting on a trail. A lot of times we'll hike up a mountain and then run down it.”
What we’re doing when we’re not running
Katarina: "I work. We really are in this fastest part of our life. We are probably at the top of our careers and our kids have eight, 10 different things every week.”
Jody: “Work, travel and kids."
Katarina: "We spend an incredible amount of time skiing. Our kids skied 140 days last winter, a lot for Southern kids.”
Katarina: “Thad’s group (McLaurin’s RunnerDude’s Fitness). And then I have a good friend, Candice Campbell, and once or twice a week we go for a run.”
Jody: “Pat Kane, Matt Creech and I are doing the Boogie next week. So we've been running a lot together.”
Katarina: “On Clouds and Nikes.”
Jody: “Mizuno Wave Rider.”
Mornings, afternoons or evenings?
Roads or trails?
Workouts we hate
Katarina: “Speedwork. When I was part of RUNegades, I wouldn't mind to go and run 10 miles, but to do these intervals, I didn't enjoy that."
Jody: “I don't do workouts I don't like. I want to run because I enjoy it. So almost 100 percent of my runs are at a comfortable pace.”
Workouts we love
Katarina: “Relaxing trail running. We started to do snowshoeing and we were running on those."
Jody: “New terrain. New scenery, new mountain, new trail.”
Katarina: "I used to like to have songs or listen to Pandora and put it on super-high so that it would give me that boost. And now I don't need anything. I go there and I want to be with my surroundings. So I just listen to nature."
Jody: "Trails, no music. I've switched over more to podcasts and books, which are in line with my 100 percent of running at a slow pace. The Science of Ultras, The Morning Shakeout, How I Built This, which is amazing on entrepreneurs since I was an entrepreneur and owned my own company. Ryan Hall has one that I listen to from time to time."
Katarina: "For a race, I just have something light like fruits, banana, something like that.”
Jody: “I have the same pre-race meal. It's two packets of maple syrup. Oatmeal. One slice of toast. A banana. And then a glass of Nuun.”
Brushes with greatness
Katarina: "On this first half marathon, I kept up for 6 miles with Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. I was behind Bill Rodgers for 6 miles, and I was overly confident, but then he just took off. And he's like 30 years older than me? ... We got pictures with them. ... I saw Ryan Hall in Boston. We met Shalane Flanagan; it was a kid's race in Boston. We have a picture with her and Zoe."
Jody: "I ran into Ryan Hall in the hotel at the New York City Marathon. He's with his two daughters. I said, 'Mr. Hall, congratulations on everything. It's my first time running in New York.' And he started walking me through some of the points, like turns and things like this."
Worst running mistakes
Jody: "My first 10K. I started at 205 pounds; I was still probably 202. We had only done the 5K. It was a warmer day in Boston. I wore a cotton, dark shirt. I wore a dark baseball hat. I hadn't learned how to drink water. And I was thirsty starting the race. And I had a time I wanted to meet; I didn't care. And I just remember looking at my watch, there's a half-mile left, and I ran harder because I was not quite at my time. I don't remember anything until I woke up in an ice tub in an EMS and had a thermometer in my butt.”
Katarina: "He wouldn't answer his phone. It was a big event, like 7,000 people, and I was there with all of my colleagues. Eventually, somebody called me and they said, 'Can you come to the medical tent?' And there was Jody; he didn't recognize me. He was looking at me and they said, 'Is that your husband?' And I said, 'Yes and no.'”
Jody: "I couldn't speak. I didn't know the president. I didn't know what street we were on."
Katarina: "The closest hospital was Massachusetts General Hospital, and I knew the cardiologist. … We sent him a thank you letter at the end because anywhere else, were you not so prepared, it wouldn't have had a good outcome."
The Big Run on Wednesday night by all four Nelsons (pictured at the top of this post).
Katarina: "I don't know. I usually sign up the night before or two days before. I just go for these little races to encourage my kids to run. I might try another like sprint triathlon."
Jody: “Boogie (June 12) will be my next one.”
On being at the 2013 Boston Marathon
Katarina: "Ollie was 2 months old. You have to go at 8 a.m. to get your spot. We lived 3 miles from the finish line. I had him in a carrier; we weren't at the finish line. It was chaotic, everywhere, such a high level of anxiety.
"We lived on one side of that street. And Zoe was in daycare on the other side of the street. And they were supposed to go to cheer. But I didn't know if they went downtown or just went somewhere close to the daycare. So when it happened, it was chaotic. They were sending everybody home, 'Nobody stays here because we don't know how many bombs there are. You should go home.' And I was fighting with the police. I said, 'I need to go on the other side because there's my daughter, I need to get her.' It took us four hours to find out she was OK."
On being at the 2013 Boston Marathon
Katarina: "Ollie was 2 months old. You have to go at 8 a.m. to get your sport. We lived 3 miles from the finish line. I had him in a carrier; we weren't at the finish line. It was chaotic, everywhere, such a high level of anxiety.
"We lived on one side of that street. And Zoe was in daycare on the other side of the street. And they were supposed to go to cheer for the Boston Marathon. But I didn't know if they went downtown or just went somewhere close to the daycare. So when it happened, it was chaotic. They were sending everybody home, 'Nobody stays here because we don't know how many bombs there are. You should go home.' And I was fighting with the police. I said, 'I need to go on the other side because there's my daughter, I need to get her.' It took us four hours to find out she was OK."
What the pandemic took away, what the pandemic gave us
Katarina: “We spent more time at home, so we had more time to run. Last year, we were in the mountains, we ran a lot of trails. ... What it took away, for me, I felt like I lost a sense of our running community. I used to go to Thad, like all the time, and we were a group with RUNegades. We would meet Wednesday nights, Saturday mornings, and that just went away. Run The Boro; I really missed that last year. It’s the social part that we really missed.”
Jody: “The 5000 Mile Run Club was a silver lining. Rich (Swor, Trivium Racing) and that group came up with that idea, which at the time seemed crazy, but actually brought a community together. Like Katarina said, up until then, I didn't feel like there was a running community. We all had this fear to be outside. And like, we all have this fear of anything. Rich found a safe way to get us together.”
What we've learned about ourselves from running
Jody: "The biggest thing is what we tell our kids, is not giving up, that you're going to be challenged, it's going to hurt, there's going to be bad points. And it's easy to turn around and give up. But getting to the finish line. So even (Wednesday) night with Oliver; he was kind of done. That's the first time he ever did a 5K. It was a trail. We could have made it easier for him. 'Ollie, the feeling that you'll have when you complete this is better than any feeling you will ever have.' That's where I like the challenge in the run, because the completion is that much better."
Katarina: "We're not quitters. Whatever we do, we just don't quit. And we try to teach our kids the same thing. It's not so much about talent. It's much more about what are you willing to give and how much you're willing to practice and how much you're willing to give anything you do. We've tried to teach our kids the same thing: Once you start, you have to do that.”
Words to the wise
Katarina: “The hardest part of running is the first step out of bed. And after that, it's awesome.”
Jody: "It's important to learn how to listen to your body appropriately. If you listen to your mind, when it's cold and rainy outside in the morning, you stay in bed. But you listen to your body, you go out and you do those runs. I know now going through that thermal event when to pull back. And I've learned that over time. But every single run you have, you have to learn from it and how your body responds. And the reality is your body changes over time. It's not a fixed point. My body reacts differently than it did when I first started, so you have to learn from that."