Like many runners, Joanna Reuland fell short more than once in her quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon. After one particularly disappointing attempt – a race in which she “felt nauseous and sick, and totally blew up, the worst kind of race experience you can have”, Reuland knew she needed to tweak her strategy.
The trick, as it turned out, was a combination of relaxing a rigorous training schedule, listening to her body and turning to the trails.
A longtime outdoor enthusiast who grew up exploring the mountains in the Pacific Northwest with her father, Reuland, 27, switched her focus from the road to trail running, fell in love with it and soon signed up for her first 50K. While training for that race, she decided to take on a marathon as a way to get in some miles and ended up qualifying for Boston – without even really trying.
“That was a major turning point for me in terms of my running – learning that you don’t have to train completely by the books,” Reuland, whose nickname is Jojo, says. “Staying out of training mode and just listening to each day’s calling to the trails keeps me uninjured and happier with my fitness. It’s an oddly zen approach, but it works for me.”
It works so well, in fact, that when Reuland, originally from Seattle, does feel the itch to race, she pulls out some of her best performances. At the Lake Natoma Marathon in California in March, for example – a race she signed up for just a few days in advance – Reuland finished in an impressive 3:24.58 for eighth overall, setting a PR.
“I put duct tape over my Garmin so I couldn't see my splits,” she says. “I just knew my body and I knew I was in better shape than usual, so I just wanted to see what I could do. I was second place in the women's event in that race.”
Though the hardware and new PR were nice rewards for that effort, Reuland says she gets the most enjoyment from the discovery and exploration of the great outdoors that running allows. During the past six months while living in Portland , Reuland has likely seen more of the city – and the state – than many people who have lived there all of their lives. She’s logged hundreds of miles on urban trails like those at Portland's Forest Park (at 5,157 acres, it's the country's largest urban park) and throughout some of the Pacific Northwest’s most spectacular outdoor landmarks, including the Cascades, Mount Rainier, the Columbia River Gorge and Mount St. Helens.
Reuland’s mission was to see as much of Oregon as possible during her limited time in Portland, which was just six months while she and her boyfriend, Andris Roze, were deciding on their next destination. (In late September, they made the move back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Reuland previously worked as the marketing director for the San Francisco Marathon.) Many weekends, she and Roze would pack up their car and along with Reuland’s dog, a cavalier named Cooper, head out for a long immersion in the great outdoors, full of trail running, hiking and camping.
"I felt like I had like a fire lit under me to see Oregon in six months," Reuland says. "I mapped out a bucket list of all the places I wanted to see in that time that would be too hard to come back and explore."
Reuland documented her Oregon journey on her blog, Wandirtlust , and her Instagram feed , both of which highlight the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty so well she should be paid by Oregon’s tourism board. “I take a ton of photos while I’m running because when I’m too old to climb up mountains, I want to look back and see all the adventures I went on,” she says.
In addition to exploring, Reuland also savors the easy socializing that comes with sharing the trail with like-minded running enthusiasts. In Portland, her favorite group runs were those organized by Animal Athletics, which specializes in endurance training, trail running trips and other outdoor-centric pursuits.
“It’s so cool to get to meet people like Joanna, who was put in touch with us via a mutual friend, while she was in Portland,” says Animal Athletics co-founder Willie McBride. “The group runs are special because we get a total range of paces and backgrounds and experience levels but it all melds together well because everyone is so down-to-earth, welcoming, and just plain friendly.”
Reuland is bittersweet about leaving such a strong running community in Portland, as well the mountain terrain of Oregon that she’s spent the last six months exploring. But she’s excited about the prospect of returning to a close group of running girlfriends in the Bay Area.
Reuland and Roze made the drive down separately, with Roze making the approximately 10-hour trip from Portland in one shot. Reuland, however, took the scenic route – no surprise there.