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Elite Runner Sarah Cummings

The dynamic Cummings sister running duo sat down with Urban Wellness Clinic for a candid chat about their shared passion…Running Fast!

Sarah Cummings (SCC) just placed 11th at Chicago Marathon 2014 and has her eyes on the Olympic Trails in LA 2016. Her sister Marisa Cummings (MCC) just placed 2nd at Grete’s Gallop 1/2 Marathon with a time of 1:18:40.  If you have ever wondered how to train hard, stay injury free, live and love NYC, AND hold down a demanding job, these sisters do it all.

MCC: I love hearing you tell this story…how did you first get into running?

SCC: Thanks to you with a supporting role by Dad! Your elementary school (Newport Coast Elementary) was hosting the Newport Coast Adventure Run 5k with all funds raised going to the school. The race was held on Oct 31st, 2004 during my sophomore year of HS. There was a mini training program after school that you participated in during the weeks leading up to the race. Dad was a hobby jogger/weekend warrior at the time so was planning to run the race as well. I wasn’t all that interested until I was challenged! The morning of the race Dad told me he didn’t think I could beat him. That was all I needed to hear! I was SO in! I ended up finishing second in the race, running a time in the low 19s for the 5k distance. One thing led to the next and a few weeks later I was running in the CA State XC meet for Corona del Mar HS. The rest is history!

MCC: So let me get this straight- you went from couch potato to a 19 minute 5k runner overnight?

SCC: Okay- there is more to the story. I started competitive figure skating at age 5. Skating was a passion I was lucky to pursue thanks to the unwavering support of my family. I knew that I could run but had never considered it beyond the mile races run in PE class. I always won, setting elementary and middle school “records” in the process but afterwards thought nothing of it.I was a skater. That was what I did.

A few set backs in my early teens took some of the fun out of the sport for me. When running unexpectedly came into the picture my life was changed, plain and simple. Everything from the objectivity of the sport to the joys of competing for my HS team was so new and refreshing. I continued to balance figure skating and running during my sophomore year of HS but ultimately hung up the skates during my junior year. In terms of my running mentality, the decision to train at an elite level was tied in with the decision to stop skating. I’ve been all in since then.

After I graduated from college and moved to NYC, there was really never any thought given to not continuing to race and train at a high level. I left college with unfinished business and had always felt a bit behind the eight ball given my late start into the sport. I knew it would be a challenge, but was going to do my very best to make it work. I was definitely naïve, it was a rough transition to “real-world” running, but that was probably for the best at the time.

Sarah Cummings, Marathon Runner

MCC: What is one sentence you would tell to beginners at Dr. Kiberd’s practice?

SCC: She is a miracle worker! Listen to everything she says, do everything she says. If she tells you not to run it is serious! She isn’t going to just put a band-aid on your problem(s) so be patient and commit 100% to the process. I know it is sometimes hard to believe that corrective exercises that only utilize body-weight can be more beneficial than pumping iron, but believe it!

MCC: That was more than one sentence!

SCC: Ah I’m sorry. I got excited!

MCC: It is hard enough to keep things together with a job on Wall Street and then you add professional running to the picture. How do you manage to take care of yourself so you can perform to the best of your ability and squeeze in all those “extras” that everyone talks about?

SCC: Well it is definitely a work in progress. I’ve made significant improvements since my freshman year of life (2011) but still have a ways to go. For me the key is getting into a routine and trying to maintain consistency throughout the course of the week and into the weekend. This applies to food, drink, sleep, running… everything really.

I’m in survival mode or on the hamster wheel, whatever you want to call it during the work week. I try to get as much sleep as possible but don’t stress when it doesn’t happen. I’ve accepted that I will always feel tired (physically & mentally) during the workweek, but that I will be able to rest and recover on the weekends.

Making the time for core, stretching (before/after), rolling, icing, corrective exercises on top of everything else often seems impossible, but I have learned (the hard way) that if I don’t all the time spent pounding the pavement is for naught.

On top of the physical constraints my day job presents, the mental ones have also required attention. Both staying in the moment and accepting my current work/life situation have been instrumental for me in continuing to train at a high level. It is frustrating to be constrained by a desk job, but it is what it is. Coming to terms with this and striving to perform to the best of my ability at this point in time have allowed me to continue to cherish and enjoy the moments spent training and racing.

I’ve said this many times and will say it again- I know that I would not still be training at this level if I hadn’t discovered Dr. Kiberd and I have you to thank for that! Her holistic approach to treatment is what keeps me going. Active Release Therapy (ART), ultrasound, deep-tissue massage, and the corrective exercises she assigns are a crucial and essential part of my training regimen.

Sarah Cummings, Marathon Runner

MCC: Inspiration is everywhere, where did it strike you recently?

SCC: At Grete’s Gallop ½ Marathon in Central Park watching you run an awesome debut!! When we decided I would coach you I was scared, so scared! I had never done anything of that sort and still feel like I have no idea what I am doing in this sport! Coaching you during my Chicago Marathon training cycle was so enriching and such an honor. It provided just the motivation I needed to keep grinding when I was starting to waver.

MCC: Take us through a day in your life?

SCC: You have already done that SO well, it starts with a 4am wake up. I give all the juicy details in my blog: Sarah Runs the City

MCC: What mantra do you leave the house with?

SCC: On a day-to-day basis my favorite courtesy of Nike:

“You don’t need a reason, you just need a road. Believe in the run.”

This is the home screen of my iPhone. When things get tough my favorite (courtesy of you):

“Sometimes you must fight and win, just because all the pain and suffering you experienced up to this point would be rendered futile if you were to surrender now.”

MCC: What is your running philosophy?

SCC: I think Nike said it best: Just do it!

MCC: Our teammates (New York Athletic Club) inspire us and push us to make us better at what we do; any particular recent inspirations?

SCC: First and foremost you! SO amazing to be teammates again, wearing the winged foot together. One year at Princeton was not enough. More recently I was inspired by the performances of my teammates (and fellow Kiberd patients) Jeanna Composti & Caitlin Phillips at the Chicago Marathon. While grateful for an incredible race weekend and a small PR, my performance fell a bit short of my goals. One of the highlights of the weekend and race day in particular was learning that both of my awesome teammates had run Olympic Trail Qualifiers!! I am so inspired by them and motivated to get back to training.

MCC: I know all the running doesn’t leave much time for additional exercise or movement but anything else that keeps you going?

SCC: I love yoga classes at Exhale when the schedule allows for it. They are so great for mind, body & spirit. I also love to walk around NYC at dusk either through Central Park or on the UWS. I feel so invigorated by the energy in the city and am reminded of everything I love about living here.

MCC: Who is your go-to guru, and why does their work resonate with you?

SCC: I know this is a bit of an unconventional/unusual response, but my go-to guru is definitely my coach, Terry Shea. Although he is a coach in name, he is so much more to me. In many ways I feel like he knows me better than I know myself. I am so lucky that he is a part of my life and just like distance running itself; it was quite fortuitous that we met and began this coaching relationship in the first place. He is one of the most selfless, detail oriented, conscientious people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming into contact with. I have learned so much about myself under his guidance and have him to thank for so much of the progress I have made towards becoming a better version of myself. Spreading the wealth with others has been truly amazing as many of my teammates now call him coach or advisor. I hope he touches the lives of many more.

Part II of Sarah Runs the City on Friday where she shares her nutrition plan and her morning ritual with Urban Wellness Clinic.

Follow Sarah Cummings:

Instagram: sarahccummings

Twitter: @sarahccummings

Blog: Sarah Runs the City