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Jul 21, 2017

Employee Spotlight: Toni Howard celebrates 25 years of running

Everyone knows exercising regularly is essential for good health, but many people have trouble incorporating it into their daily lives. As part of White Mountain Community Health Center’s series on its employees’ health successes, Ashley Kerr sat down with billing manager Toni Howard to talk about how she’s kept up running for 25 years, and what she’s learned along the way.

Toni Howard accepts a running jacket as a token to celebrate 30 years of service at the health center.

Pictured: Toni Howard accepts a running jacket as a gift from the health center to celebrate thirty years of service.

When did you start running for sport? August of 1992. It will be 25 years this summer.

What interested you about running? My brother and my sister-in-law ran which got me interested. I thought it would a good way to maintain my weight.  
What type of running do you do?
Regular running. I’m not particularly fast, but I like to run. I’ve done many races, but I mostly run for exercise and my mental health.

How did you begin the process of running? I began by running around my driveway. My daughter was five and my son was nine, and I started running in a circular motion around my driveway since I couldn’t leave the yard. It took me a few months to get to the point where I really liked it and how it made me feel.

How do you set goals for yourself? In the past I’ve set different goals to do half-marathons and different races. My goal is to run five days a week.

How do you motivate yourself when you don’t want to run? I just do it. Once I am running I get into it and am happy with how I feel afterwards. It’s a mental release that clears my head.

How often do you run? My goal is still five days a week. I used to be more obsessed with it but it’s just now part of my life.
Do you have a favorite place to run? I like running around my neighborhood.

Are there certain stretches that you would recommend? You should never stretch before a run, because you can hurt yourself if you stretch when your body is cold. You should stretch after running because your body is warmed up. You can warm up beforehand by running or slightly jogging in place. After running, I usually stretch out my calves, quads and back.

Why do runners have specific running shoes? Everyone’s feet are different and you need to know if you pronate or over-pronate and what your stride is. Pronation is part of the natural movement of the human body and refers to the way your foot rolls inward for impact distribution upon landing. The right sneaker suited to your foot will help prevent stress on your knees. I have a normal gait so I run evenly. New Balance is my favorite brand. They offer a sneaker with a wider toe which helps prevent my toes from being driven into the front of the shoe. This can happen if your sneakers are too lose.

What are the benefits of these shoes?  To prevent injury. If you go too long with bad sneakers you can seriously injure yourself. If I don’t change my shoes, I get pain in the iliotibial band (IT band) in my knee, which is a common overuse injury in runners. The IT band is a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin.

How often should you replace them? Every six months or every five hundred miles.

Have you ever been injured as a result of running? Yes. I ran a half-marathon and I got tendonitis in the top of my foot from overuse. It was very painful.

What are the top three things you do to prevent injury? I make sure I have the right sneakers. I try not to overdo it and listen to when my body says to stop, and I stay aware of my surroundings and pay attention to my running so I don’t trip and fall.
Have you ever run in any races?
I’ve run seven or eight half-marathons. I have also participated in many 5K races, and I did a 10-miler in Maine in the winter. A few years ago I did the Midnight Owl run, which is about 15 miles.

What were those experiences like? It’s a good feeling to finish a race. I try to beat my own best time. It’s just a good feeling when it’s all done and I can rest and reward myself.

What advice would you give to someone just beginning to run? Don’t give up. When you first start running, do the walk/run program to ease into it. Don’t do too much at once. Try to ease in to running and not overdo it. I recommend that you stick with it for three months to give yourself time to really connect to the sport. Eventually you will get addicted to it.

Are there any tools you’d recommend people to use? I used to read running magazines all the time, like Runners World. I used to be a member of White Mountain Milers, which is a local running club. It is a really good local club that offers people a lot of great information about how to start running. 

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