Lora Vaccaro: An Introduction

Lora Vaccaro and her dog Brooklyn Brutus pose after a 5K in Central Park. Photo: Lora Vaccaro

I’m not what you’d call a lifetime athlete. While an active child, I mostly stuck with riding my bike and exploring the woods. Participating in sports never interested me much, a trend that lasted throughout my 20s. It wasn’t until my 30s that running entered my life; but I like to think we found each other at exactly the right moment. Running’s become the outlet through which I’ve weathered many personal changes, and through which I continue to tap into my inner strength.

The moment that ignited my desire to run was quite simple: I cheered for a friend as she ran the New York City Marathon. Seeing her accomplish this made me wonder what was stopping me from doing the same. All I needed to do was … to learn how to run. A few weeks later, I began following a “Couch to 5K” program. By the end, I was comfortably running 3.1 miles. What’s more, it was the first time I realized the importance of training safely and patiently with a plan.

Soon after, I took the leap and started signing up for races. My first was a 4-miler through Central Park. It was also my first taste of the New York City running community, and I was hooked! I kept racing and pushing further, testing out the 10K and building to a half marathon. But I didn’t want to stop there.

Truth is, on day 1 of “Couch to 5K,” I’d set a secret goal to run the 2011 New York City Marathon. All summer and fall, I trained by myself. I crossed that famed Central Park finish line in a proud 4:20:01.

Running my first full marathon was an incredible experience. It’s still my favorite racing memory, to date. It made me realize I could push myself to do more. While I’ve trained for four progressively faster marathons since, I’ve moved from following various training programs in books to working with a coach.

I’ve been training with Kevin Granato since May 2013. We work well together in terms of training philosophy, personality and communication. These allow me to sink my trust into Kevin’s guidance, which makes for a successful partnership. I’ve found working with a coach to eliminate the guesswork, which allows me to focus energy on executing workouts.

It’s this experience that’s inspired me to begin mentoring newer runners and first-time marathoners. While I’m still new at coaching, I’d like to begin returning to the running community what I’ve received. That includes providing guidance, advice and encouragement to help other runners safely achieve their goals. I believe this is part of what defines our running community, a supportive group of people who want others to succeed and experience the unique benefits of running.

My cadet is Bridget Nixdorf. Bridget lives on Long Island, and often races in New York City. While we originally connected through Twitter, the Chicago Marathon has brought us together. Chicago is our goal race for 2014. For Bridget, it will be her first marathon! For me, it’s a second shot at this race after dropping out last year at mile 16 with a stress fracture. I’ll be coaching Bridget virtually, for the most part, with some runs together locally when possible. Since we both have a history of injury, our primary focus is to train smart, stay healthy and line up ready to race to the best of our abilities.

Running continues to be the most beautiful adventure. I look forward to sharing this next stage of the journey with Bridget!

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.

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