Emily Taft - Athlete of the Month

What is your age, occupation, background, hobbies, and other sports?

I am 33 years old, and I am a middle school math teacher. Outside of running, I love staying active and spending time outdoors with family and friends. I enjoy traveling and hiking/trail running with my husband, Pete, and our golden retriever, Frankie - especially hikes with good swimming spots for Frankie! I used to play volleyball, and although I don’t play often anymore, I will always hop in a game when given the chance.

When and why did you start running?

I started running sometime around middle school – my dad raced in a lot of local 5ks and I started tagging along to a few. I was never on the track team though, my main sport was volleyball, but I was the “weird” volleyball player that would be seen running 2-3 miles a few days a week just for fun! I always enjoyed running, but didn’t get serious about it until after I graduated college. I ran my first half marathon when I was 24, and my first full marathon when I was 25. At the time, I was just focused on crossing the finish line no matter my pace or time, but I quickly grew to love the process of training for races and seeing my paces quicken as I put in more work. I am now running paces that I would never have imagined I could back when I was 25, and I can’t wait to keep putting in the work to see how fast I can get. I love running not only for my physical health, but also for my mental health. It's always been a way for me to stay balanced, and it helps me feel more like myself. Another bonus is the running community - I have made some awesome friends through our local running community, and rarely have a solo run these days!

What’s your favorite race to date, and why?

Tough for me to only pick one race! I love the Cardiac Classic 5k in Schenectady on Thanksgiving morning. It was my first ever 5k that my Dad brought me to, and I’ve run it every year since I was 14 or so. (My husband, Pete, and his dad have also run it just as much!) I always see family and friends at the race, and it's a hometown tradition for many of us.

I also love running the Rt. 50 Mile in Burnt Hills since it's right before the Flag Day Parade, and the entire race is lined with people cheering! The free Stewart's ice cream at the end is also a major perk.

I have to include Stockadeathon 15k and Freihofer’s Run for Women 5k on my list as well. I always look forward to these local races!

What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan, or do you work with a coach and if so, who?

I am lucky to have my husband, Pete Rowell, as my coach. He has figured out a perfect husband/coach balance. A lot of my training is loosely based on the Jack Daniels running formula. A typical week of training includes two speed workouts and two lift sessions during the week, a longer run on the weekend, and easy runs in between.

What is your weekly mileage in peak racing/marathon training season? What is your approach to the off season?

This past spring I was focused on shorter races so my weekly mileage was mostly in the 40s-50s. For marathon training, I bump up my weekly mileage to the 60s-70s range, peaking around 80 miles a week. After a season of racing, I think it's important to have some downtime and take a few days completely off from running. After a few days off, I will ease back into it by just running easy miles, and only as much as I feel like without worrying about mileage.

    Emily with her husband, Pete Rowell, who is also an elite runner

During our cold winter days, do you brave poor weather conditions or stick indoors on the treadmill? If you do run outside, what safety measures do you take?

I mostly run outside during the winter; if you bundle up properly it isn’t too bad. I hate the cold, though, so every now and then on a particularly cold day I might opt for the treadmill just to give myself a break (and enjoy wearing shorts again). If I’m running in the dark in the wintertime, I usually wear a reflective vest and sometimes a headlamp to be safe.

List your PRs: Race, time, year:

1 mile - 5:10 at Rt. 50 Mile, 2023
5k - 17:49 at Oktoberfest 5k, 2022
15k - 57:49 at Stockadeathon, 2022
Half marathon - 1:22:08 at Mohawk Hudson Half, 2022

(Marathon - 3:17 at Miles on the Mohawk, 2021… I haven’t run a solid marathon in a while, so my marathon PR doesn’t fit in with the others - definitely planning on a huge improvement with this time soon!)

What is your favorite distance?

Currently I’d probably pick the 5k - I am enjoying shorter, faster running right now. But, ask me in the fall, and maybe I’ll have a different answer… :)

Your favorite shoe for training and racing

I train in Adidas Bostons for normal runs and Saucony Endorphin Speeds for longer runs or workouts. For races, I always go for the Nike Vaporflys.

Ever run in a costume?

Nope, not a costume. I did “run” (a few strides) in my wedding dress for some fun photos!

What are your favorite pre-race and post-race meals?

Pre-race dinner the night before is usually pasta and meat sauce, or pasta and chicken and veggies. My pre-race breakfast is typically peanut butter and jelly toast. After a race, I listen to my body and eat whatever I am craving, which often tends to be a burger or a sandwich and a beer!

What challenges / races / adventures are you planning for the coming year?

This fall I am looking to set new PRs in the 5k and half marathon for sure. I am still undecided on when my next marathon will be, but I’m definitely starting to think about tackling that distance again sometime soon.

What is the greatest piece of advice you've ever received in the sport?

Two things come to mind - Keep easy days easy (pace doesn’t matter!) so that hard days can be a true hard effort. And, consistency is key. You may not see results after just a week or a month of running, but if you keep at it, you will improve in time.

All pictures taken by Emily and Pete Rowell

Runner Questionnaire – Pete Rowell

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