Olympian Summer Sanders’ running tips: “Lube where necessary

Former Olympic swimmer turned marathon runner Summer Sanders shares her best running tips for busy moms.

NYC Marathon down, Boston here she comes

Summer Sanders on cover of Runner's World

Summer Sanders is a mother of two, sports commentator, host, actress, author, spokesperson and now, a woman with five marathons under her belt. On Nov. 3, Sanders crossed the finish line in New York City, completing her fifth marathon with her best time yet.

But running hasn’t always been Sanders claim to fame. The multi-talented athlete started out as a competitive swimmer, taking home four medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Read on as Summer shares her journey from the pool to the pavement, tells us how she inspires her kids and gives her top tips for aspiring runners.

Q&A with Summer Sanders

SheKnows: What advice would you give to someone who wants to run a marathon but has no racing experience whatsoever?

Summer Sanders: Whatever race you decide to do, congratulate yourself on the most difficult part: committing and signing up. When it comes to running a marathon, the hardest part is the training. You need to put in the mileage, to train your legs to be ready for the battle. The battle really begins around mile 18. So be prepared, have fun and without a doubt, lube where necessary! #chafingSucks

Bonus tip: “I hoped my NYC marathon pace would be about 7:50 per mile and so I wanted my first mile to be about 8:30 minutes. That way I could gradually increase and find my steady in the beginning, rather than be gassed and lose momentum.”

SK: Do you have a personal mantra or motivational saying that you repeat to yourself before racing?

SS: My mom used to say to me, “Suck their eyes out!” Yup, that’s my mama! But for me, it’s the past feelings I have had of crossing the finish line that keep me going when the going gets tough. Marathons are never easy, but that finish line is a joy!

SK: How do you fit in training between running your production company and being a full-time mom?

SS: It’s a constant circus. I am much more productive and better at every aspect of my life when I am busy. I have an amazing husband and two wonderful kids who are super-supportive and help me every step of the way! I work out in the cracks of my day. Morning runs in a new city, going from carpool to the trails. I just make the time.

SK: What devices do you use for training? Are there specific products you think are essential?

Summer Sander's favorite products for runningSS: I use the Nike+ app on my iPhone. I use Aquaphor on my feet during long runs and for 20 years I have run in Saucony shoes. I am not very complicated when it comes to sports. I have never been a gadget girl or gear girl. I don’t need the bells and whistles. Just give me a speedo, cap and goggles, and I will make it work. The same goes for my running. There are always hiccups, and if you get too set in your gear, you will freak when something goes wrong. Just remember to hydrate and energize. Enjoy the crowd. Soak it all up. That’s my philosophy.

SK: What things do you bring with you to a marathon on race day?

SS: Aquaphor, a sweatshirt, a plastic bag (to sit on), some magazines or a book, and I always run with my phone. The day before my first marathon (New York, 1999) I told my dad that I was going to run and asked him to call me. He ran track and knew what the marathon was all about. I told him, “Call me and tell me a story. Don’t ask me questions, ’cause I won’t be able to talk.” He called me and the first thing out of his mouth was, “How’s it going?” Hilarious!

SK: What’s the “hat trick”? How do you prepare for that?

SS: I always knew a “hat trick” to be three goals in a match by one person. Then I went to the Runner’s World Festival last weekend in Pennsylvania and learned that if you run a 5K, 10K and a half-marathon over the course of two days, you have officially completed a hat trick! I did it, and it was fabulous — tiring, but fabulous! I prepared for it by training for the New York marathon. It just fell right into my schedule.

SK: Do you hope your children follow in your footsteps and become athletes?

SS: I want my kids to play sports for sure. But I want them to find their own way. The best thing my parents did was follow my lead. They kept me grounded and taught me all those wonderful life lessons through sports, like accountability, learning from failure/success, good sportsmanship and great teamwork. My husband and I are trying to do the same with our kids.

SK: How do you inspire your children to run when they don’t feel like it?

SS: They are at the age where if they don’t want to run, they certainly don’t have to run. But if they started the race and want to quit halfway through, that doesn’t work. It’s about following through on a commitment. You can’t quit. No way. So we walk a bit and chat a bit, and then I will say, “Let’s run to that stop sign.” And then before you know it, the finish line is in sight and they say, “Mom, I’m gonna leave you in the dust!” True story; my son actually did that during the 5K in Pennsylvania!

SK: What has been your biggest challenge as a marathon runner? How did you overcome it?

SS: Staying healthy, both injury-free and general overall health. I don’t sleep as well as I used to, and my body aches a bit more, so I need to tend to myself more than years past. Life is funny that way. I enjoy running so much that I now take the extra time to stretch before moving on to the next item on my list. My biggest injury was a broken rib in late June. It was annoyingly painful. You can’t sleep; you physically can’t even lie down. Everything you do hurts. It took a long time to be able to run. So for the New York marathon, I only started training two months ago. You take what you can get and roll with it.

SK: What are the most common pitfalls for runners and what is your advice to overcoming those?

SS: Injury, no doubt about it. When an injury occurs, runners needs to stop and listen to their bodies, force themselves to take a break from their training schedule and take care of themselves. A large percentage of running injuries need rest from running. So put on your Speedo and get your booty in the pool. Give your body the break it needs to get better and at the same time, take the gift of working other parts of your fitness.

SK: What’s your next big goal?

SS: Honestly, to get great sleep every night for seven consecutive days. I’m going back to the basics with my goals. I am signed up for the Boston marathon. I want to go back for myself and the city of Boston. I want to be there for the love of running and to support the victims. It will be emotional, for sure, but also so inspiring.


Read more about Summer Sanders in her Runner’s World cover story, on newsstands this month.

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