Farmers on the Run

More and more people are catching "running" fever these days, and it has even infected rural America. I still cannot get over the number of my farm friends who are running 5Ks, 10Ks, and even competing in IRONMAN competitions. You would think that farming life would give them all the exercise they could ever need.

I asked a couple of my Kentucky farm mom friends to tell me about their running experiences and training regimens, and the sport has become even more fascinating to me.

My favorite quote came from Alison Smith, a cattle farmer in Georgetown (she also works for the Kentucky Beef Council and has two young children): Running and farming go hand and hand – being on the farm there is a lot of open space so naturally if I see an opportunity to sprint or jog to the next place I do. So I get my sprints in real easily. Plus, I don’t have to pay any fees (well there are the farm payments but they don’t count in the running world) to run on the farm. And it is great cross training for getting your body geared up for injuries. You get the shin splints early in your training and then they are out of the way. But you do have to watch out for cow pies, random sticks, slick spots, and wild animals (I have run up on a skunk at night before and quickly changed paths). However, it is nice because I usually have someone to run with as the calves are always interested in what I am doing so they will run along with me – they're my pace cows.

I also talked with Misty Bivens, a farmer (Fresh Start Farms) and high school agriculture teacher in LaRue County. She has two young children as well, and I'm starting to feel I have no place for excuses. I want to thank both Misty and Alison for answering my questions so enthusiastically and motivating me to run more... but I really want one of those "pace cows!"

What got you interested in running? 

Alison: I have always had a passion for running because it was a time for me to be by myself, think, not think, enjoy the scenery, relax, and stay in shape. I ran track in school but never long distances. My first real bug for long distances was when we worked the IRONMAN Louisvillefor the Beef Council – I got really inspired by a lot of everyday people.  Then my mom signed up for Team in Training with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and started training for a half marathon, and I thought if she can do it while going through chemo and battling Leukemia, I surely can do it.

Misty: I started running in elementary school.  I was on the track team from the time I was in the 6th grade and then while in college I still ran just for exercise.  Then when I started teaching I quit running for a long time because I didn’t have time and for a while I didn’t have a very good place to run compounded with the fact that I had terrible shin splints.  Then this summer I decided I was going to try running again because I had been doing a workout video in our living room, and Ryan said that it was like I was trying to tear the house down.  I thought I could get up and run before I went to school because after school I don’t have time because I have the boys and they just aren’t willing to run as far as I do.  I am lucky to have a great place to run at my house.

Where do you train? Treadmill, road, on the farm?

Alison: I train on the farm and the elliptical (when it is colder or rainy). My road is kind of scary so I usually don’t run on it. But when I was training for my last half marathon, Daniel (my better half) and I did our longest distances in subdivisions so we could keep track of our mileage a little better. I have a 3.2 mile path on the farm that I run regularly.

Misty: I run on our gravel driveway.  One trip out and back is 1.3 miles.  I have run on treadmills before and I don’t like looking at the same thing all the time.  I have never liked running on pavement because it made my legs hurt.

How do you juggle training and being a mom, having a job and farming?

Alison: Ha! You have caught me. I am on a little running hiatus right now since I am juggling an extra part of the Beef Council, but every night I keep telling myself that I am going to get back on the train! And I am tomorrow =) It is a lot easier to train when I am signed up for a race because I have a goal ahead of me. I run with KY Team Beef and that is a lot of fun because the other team members motivate me to get going and do more.

The real balance is just making time. I am a night runner because I know that the kids are asleep and they will not be getting up early because they need something etc. I do all my short stuff during the week and my long runs on the weekend. I have invested in a good head lamp and monitor (allows me to run at night and when no one is home and the kids are napping, I can turn the monitor on and run to the end of the driveway and still know that my kids are sleeping). I have a very supportive husband when it comes to everything but especially my running. He knows I will be in a better mood so if I ask him to be home to watch the kids so I can take my long run on Saturday or Sunday he is usually there.

Misty: I get up at 5:10 during the week and then on the weekends I try to run early, but not as early.  If I didn’t get up early I couldn’t make it all work.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that I have to manage my time more closely or I can’t do some things just for me.  By running in the morning it is quiet and a good chance to reflect on the day before and plan the day ahead.  In the summer even before this year I take the boys out our drive in the afternoon on days when we have time.  I think getting them involved is important to me.

What races have you run, and what are your long term goals if any?

Alison: 5Ks, 10Ks,  Halfs – Derby Festival, Columbus Half, Capital City Half, Bluegrass 10K, Beef Festival Stampede 5K, Steps for Pets 5K, etc.

Goals – well it is on my bucket list to run in a half or full Ironman but I have to get over the fact that I might get slapped in the head while I am swimming first. But a more realistic goal is to continue doing at least two halfs a year, hopefully a full and as many 5K and 10ks here and there as I can.

Misty: I’ve been running in the 1 mile Railsplitter Run for probably 6 years, with the exception of the year I was very pregnant with Avery.  Cyrus and I have run in it 3 times and it is a great way to motivate him to be active.  I ran my very first 5K this year at our Lincoln Days Festival.  I ran cross country as a senior in high school but the girls only ran 2.6 miles instead of the 3.1 so it was an accomplishment for me to make it to the 5K distance.  I looked into running in some other races but as a farmer’s wife, a mother to two small children and an Ag teacher it is hard to find races I can fit in my schedule.  There is a 5K on New Year’s Day that I am looking at running, but I’m not sure yet.  I was amazed at how freaked out I was at first at the 5K with all the people around.  At 5 a.m. I only have 2 dogs as running buddies.  I would like to try and run a half marathon because I think I could train for that realistically, but if I ever run a marathon it would probably have to be when my boys were much older. 

What advice do you have for someone wanting to start?

Alison: Go to the library and get a Playaway – Mp3 book because it will keep your mind off of running but listen to your body. The first time don’t plan to run a 5K to warm up. It’s not a race – pace yourself and if you have a partner get someone that is your speed. Don’t get someone that will take off and discourage you when you first start. Then build up again, as you are training you will get faster, so run with faster people. Pick a person you want to stay with during the race and draft them all the way until the end and then beat them. (I can’t tell you how many times I have finished a race and someone said thanks as they ran past me at the finish). Do a mile and then build up. If you are training for a half, I got a great simple training schedule by going to Marathon Rookie.  If you are not a runner – walk – no excuses. If it hurts, take a little break and make sure you right it down so you can keep track of your ailments.

Misty: If you want to start you should have a goal in mind.  No matter if it is to get fit, lose weight, run a certain race, or run a certain distance in a certain time.  Running is not for those who are in it halfhearted.  No matter if you are running just for fun or because you need the physical activity, it is something that you can easily cut out.  Finding a consistent time to run is a good idea too.  I like to run in the morning because I can fit it in my schedule then, but some people might want to after dinner or at lunch.  I like to start my day with a fresh mind and that 5:10 alarm lets me know that it is time to get moving. 

Also, you can’t get discouraged.  I like to run 5K/3.1 miles in the morning, but if I go 2 miles or 2.6 miles or 5 miles, it is dependent on the amount of time I have.  I have tried to keep track of the amount of time I run and not the distance.  Some days I am SLOW and some days I beat the day before.  You can’t worry about comparing your time to those of other people or even the day before because if you are running for yourself then you need to just remember that and just keep going.

And we could not possibly end this post without mentioning food, now could we. Alison says, "And of course eat beef. It is loaded with protein and iron, which are necessary for running. The protein helps repair the muscles that I am working as I run. I carry beef jerky with me for mile 7. It has protein for energy and replaces the salt I loose in running. I try to have beef or other protein (milk) about 2 hrs before or after running. 

Alison also says they are forming their Kentucky Team Beef for 2013. If you are interested, check out