Q&A with Ultra Runner Amanda Tichacek

Amanda Tichacek
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New Balance and RootsRated have teamed up to profile runners making a difference in their communities. We asked each of our runners a series of questions to learn a little more about what running means to them, where they like to run and what are some of their running goals.

Amanda Tichacek, 40, started trail running when she lived in Atlanta. But a move to the Chicago area just made her enjoy the sport even more. The Skokie, IL resident offers some thoughts on why she’s so committed to the sport.

What about the sport appeals to you?
I love nature. I like to bird watch and see wildlife. I will stop mid-stride if I catch a glimpse of a scarlet tanager or a red-headed woodpecker. I’m the one who stops to check out what made a movement in the woods… I also love the community. I think that once you get involved, you just want to keep racing.

After the move from Atlanta, you were able to find a new group of training partners and trail-running friends rather quickly. Tell us about that.
The sport is growing, but it’s still a very close-knit group. I moved up here and found a very strong community of runners. But I think it’s like that all over. It’s amazing that whenever you do a race, you meet someone who’s a friend of a friend. It doesn’t take long to get to know people. And everyone is friendly. You get a good group of people that are drawn to the sport.

What’s a typical training week for you?
I run 50-70 miles per week, 15-20 of those with my dog Roxie. During the week I run on the North Branch Trail or along the Lakefront, and on the weekend my boyfriend and I will go to Palos or Deer Grove or even Kettle Moraine to do some long miles with hills. I've been working with an online running coach for two years in the hopes of becoming just a little bit faster even as I cross into my 40s. I ran my first 100-mile race in June, and I can’t wait to run the next one.

You also preach the benefits that the flat trails of Chicago can have for trail runners?
I have discovered that flat trails make you faster and are great mental training for long races. Every race has its long monotonous stretches, and I used to hate those. But I’ve become a better runner here. I’m comfortable with pacing myself and doing long stretches of flat ground.

What are your PRs?
I’ve run 5:36:40 for a trail 50K, 10:01:16 for a 50 miler, and 26:27:42 for the 100 miler. I did run one road 50K in 5:04:23.

Do you find it difficult to avoid injury with ultra running?
I really haven’t had an injury since I started trail running. I take good care of myself and get regular massages. I also don’t do too much. I have lots of friends ask me to do this or that race, but I stick to my coach’s plan. I think that’s a big key. All these races sound a like so much fun, but you don’t want to overdo it.

How would you encourage other runners to get started trail running?
Don’t be intimidated by people just because they’ve done a 50 or 100 mile run. Everyone started at some point. I’d say find a group and just join them for a run. The Flatlanders meet every Saturday at Palos, and nearly every week there’s at least one new person there. You never have to worry about running alone. There will always be someone there to show you the ropes and make sure you can follow the trail. It’s a very friendly group.

What are your goals in the sport?
I just want do be doing this as long as I’m able. I love the mountains, and my long-term plan is to retire out west where I can spend my days running, gardening, bird-watching, and volunteering my time not only to races and trail maintenance, but also to other social programs.

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