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Greensboro's Liz Hittinger ran in the Copperhead 20K relay on Aug. 28 and also won the event's beer mile at Hampstead in Pender County. She is the subject of today's Runners profile.
Three children: Finn, 8; Hudson 6; Everly, 5
Professor, Kinesiology Department, UNCG; teaches exercise physiology (remotely)
Why I run
"My parents signed me up for track when I was 10, and I just really enjoyed it and I was pretty good at it. I was always the fastest kid in my class when we'd do races on the playground. So I started out in the 100 (laughs) and quickly realized I wasn't made for the 100 meters and kept getting longer and longer from there.
"It's just a huge part of my life now. Knock on wood, I'm thankful that I've been able to stay with it this long without having any major injuries and that I can keep going and have that as a stress relief and a way to stay healthy and get my exercise. I feel like I'm back in that same situation when I was in college (running at Miami of Ohio), where I have this great group of girls that we look forward to going to these races for months, and we go there and hang out and have such a great time. The running is almost secondary to the hanging out with all the friends and getting to experience that."
What I'm doing when I'm not running
"Spending time with my kids mostly."
My running tribe
"I have the group of girls that was just at the race: Jen (Goff), Molly (Nunn), Gabby (DeLay), Melanie Brender, Adriana (Piekarewicz) came, Tara (Wommack), Meg Vaslow, Elle Ellender. And then Caitlin (Batten) just joined our group but she was really fun to hang out with this past weekend. ... I have a group that I hang out with at SouthEnd Brewing every week, and some of them were at the race: Amy Ogonowski and Bill Royal were there. And then I don't know if I really count him in running but my boyfriend, Rick (Dutch). Not quite just running (laughs). We met from Jen and Louisa (Raisbeck) setting us up. Then I go to Brown Truck Brewery on Tuesdays, and so I have a great group there. And we actually started doing Sunday track workouts, too, at the beginning of the summer. So Michael Morgensen, Patrick Westervelt, Michelle Lutz, Ryan, Rains. Dustin Easley and Corrie Baglia. Sean Doherty, who's an assistant coach for High Point. We have a lot of fun, and that's a really fast group."
Must-have piece of gear
"I run with an Apple watch. If it doesn't work or I forget to start it, then it bothers me (laughs). It's important to make sure you have good shoes, especially as you get older, to prevent injury. And then if I'm by myself, I usually have my music in but it's like old school; I still have headphones that run all the way up."
On my playlist
"My playlist is probably really old (laughs). So it's a lot of stuff from the '90s and 2000s, just because I haven't updated it. If I'm pushing my kids in the stroller, then sometimes we're listening to Disney music. Just anything upbeat that will keep me moving quicker."
What I'm streaming
"I recently watched 'Yellowstone'; I thought that was pretty good. A lot of my shows were on hiatus. Hopefully some of them come back. I'm a 'Grey's Anatomy' fan. I just watched 'Outer Banks.'"
Workout I hate
"Maybe mile repeats, but I haven't done that in a long time. ... Maybe long runs that you're trying to keep fast-paced; those are tough, especially if you're by yourself."
Workout I love
"I like doing the quarters on the track with friends; that was really fun. And then I like the Tuesday night Brown Truck run, where we start out a little bit moderate for a warmup, maybe low sevens, and then we finish it up as fast as we can."
"If it's early in the morning, I usually have coffee and toast, and that's pretty much it."
"Beer (laughs). On Tuesday night, we usually go out for tacos after the run. After this race we did pizza. So any of those options are great."
"I really enjoy the Greensboro Half Marathon. I do that one every year. This was the first beer mile with this Copperhead race. We did the Copperhead last year, but they didn't have a beer mile with it. And we did it again plus the beer mile, so I think I'll keep doing that every year as well. The other one that I've done here more than once is the Fun Fourth Freedom 10K; I like that one, too."
Greensboro Half Marathon, Nov. 20
My runner's high
"When I'm out by myself and I kind of get lost in thought and then all of a sudden I realize that I'm feeling great and I'm just flying and I don't feel like I'm breathing hard and I don't feel like there's any distractions. Hasn't happened as much lately (laughs); I'm not sure why. But when you do experience it, it's such a great feeling. You just feel like your legs are effortlessly moving and hills don't faze you."
How to win a beer mile
"Lots of drinking at brewery run clubs, I guess (laughs). We did a little bit of chugging practice before last year's race. And here and there, we kind of remembered that it was coming up. Practice chugging. The other girl on our team that ran it (Caitlin Batten) was actually a former national beer mile champion. She was giving us lots of pointers.
"One time from SouthEnd we ran to Gibb's and we chugged a beer and ran back. Little things like that. But at one of the track workouts, I did for a set of four quarters with very little rest and was trying to see how that felt. If I keep doing more beer miles, I may (practice) it with chugging water to try to drink fast while you're out of breath.
"One thing was not to take off super-fast (after downing the first beer) right at the beginning of the race. You're excited, but you don't want to be breathing so hard after that first lap that you can't chug the next beer. You've got to pace yourself. She said to ease into the first part, and then as you're coming up to drink your next beer, slow down as you're coming in so you're not breathing so hard. Burping without throwing up is tough to do, but that's important. So thankfully I was able to accomplish that OK.
"I thought I was going to be drinking IPAs, but right before the start they said there was also a lighter option (a Wicked Weed summer beer) that we could choose.
"During the third lap, I passed the two people that were in front of me. ... So I was just going to go as hard as I could so someone couldn't come up and pass me at the end. I wasn't thinking about any beer in my stomach. I was just thinking about getting to that finish line."
It's the friends you make in running
"Running friends at the breweries have become friends even outside of running. Recently I was bringing my kids to the track workouts on Sunday, and they would have them close to me so that my kids could like ride the bikes. One of my good friends from the Brown Truck run club, Dustin (Easley), looked at my car and realized I didn't have a hitch to put on a bike rack. So he sent me a link and said, 'If you order this hitch, I will install it for you.' So my kids can come with me to more of these things. ... There's such great people that you meet through running. People are so nice and so helpful."
About my profession
"I started running when I was pretty young, and I was a collegiate runner (Miami of Ohio), but I played other sports when I was younger as well. I went to medical school and realized that wasn't for me (laughs). 'All right, Plan B, what can I do now?' This still felt like it was kind of along the same lines a little bit; you still interested in how the body works. So I veered into more of teaching and graduate work instead of the other pathway."
Meeting the challenges of educating remotely
"The flexibility, both for me and for the students, to be able to do a little bit more of your own pace and fit it into your schedule, when you can, that's probably the nice part about it. But you kind of miss getting to know your students really well. You still know the ones that are active and ask questions and request Zoom meetings; you still know them pretty well. But not seeing the whole class multiple times a week in person and having that in-person discussion going on that you get in the classroom, that's been tough. I've been trying to do online discussions, but it's not quite the same."
On running at Miami (Ohio)
"It was very fun. We had a great team and coach. And it was like a built-in friend group. You got to go on your runs every day and keep up with what was going on each other's lives. And you had built-in people to hang out with on the weekends when you didn't have meets. It was rewarding; I improved a lot in college. I only started running cross country my senior year of high school, walked on to the team, and then by my sophomore year I had some scholarship. And then by the end, I had a full ride."
What I've learned about myself through running
"You can overcome anything. I've recently been going through a divorce. And I think running and especially these new groups that I've joined, running groups, it's helped help me figure out that the best is still to come, right?
"More recently with my kids, I look at it as an important thing to be a good role model with running – not really talking about the beer mile per se (laughs). But just the fact that my daughter has said to me, 'Oh, hey, Mom, will you buy me a running stroller when I have kids?' Things like that. And I'm like, 'Yes.'"
Words to the wise
"Just get out there and keep doing it. If you're just starting, you probably are wondering why everybody likes running so much, because it hurts when you first start. But if you keep with it long enough, it won't hurt as much and you'll find your rhythm and hopefully experience that runner's high if you keep going."
"I used to do marathons (seven) a long time ago, too, after college. I was going to do Wilmington in March (2020) when the pandemic started and it ended up getting canceled. So at some point I want to go back and do another marathon, it's on my bucket list, and try to go under three hours. My PR is 3:05 (New York City Marathon)."