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News 2018 Runner of the Year balances races, training with parenthood

Kelsey Gratien isn’t unusual in that she tends to post her best times in competitive running races, not training runs.

“It's all of these people out there trying to push their body to the limits and other people out there cheering,” said the 32-year-old mother of three who lives in Amherst. “It's really cool to see that, and be part of it.”

Gratien stands out because she often is among the top five women finishers in a regional race field. It propelled her to become The Buffalo News Runner of the Year among women in 2018, two years after her husband, Pete, won the honor among men.

The couple met at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, when each was on the school cross-country team. Their children haven’t quite caught the running bug. Still, Ruth, 5, Molly, 3, and Ryan, almost 2, cheer on one of their parents in person as the other competes in races across the region.

Mom, a research analyst with Univera Healthcare, finished second among women early last month in the 8K Corporate Challenge and first three weeks ago in the Loughran’s 5K near the family home, and aims to repeat her win in the Run 716 15K race Aug. 4 in Larkinville.

She’s reduced her race schedule this year so her husband, the track and cross-country coach at Daemen College, gets the chance to compete more often this running season. She does, however, plan to run her first marathon Sept. 8 in, Pennsylvania, in hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon next year.

Q: What interested you in running?

It’s something you can do where if you really want to be good at it, and you have the motivation, most people with hard work can become pretty good. I really like that aspect and I'm just a competitive person. You have a competition where you want to win races in your age group, but you also have a set time that is your best and if you can beat that, it’s awesome, too.

Q: What sort of competition is there between you and your husband?

He's always faster than me in an all-out race, but we sort of compete in terms of who can be the best among men or women. If I win among the women, and he doesn't for the men, there's a little competition there. Not too much, though. We support each other. I think there's more competition in terms of who gets to run at night and who has to watch the kids.

Q: What is running like for you and your husband?

When we had our first daughter, we had the running stroller. And then once you have two kids, it gets a little harder. And then we had three, so it's nearly impossible to take all the kids on a run. Sometimes that will mean going to the YMCA and they can watch the kids in Child Watch, and we can both either be on the treadmill or one person stays at the Y and one can go running. But usually every day, we both will just try to get in our runs at different times.

Q: Are any of your kids interested in running already?

They have a kids program with Checkers Running Club that meets on Tuesdays. Adults can get their workout in while the kids are in the program. But at this age, my kids are more social, especially my oldest daughter. She's a talker. I don't know how competitive she'll be when it comes to running, and we won’t push it on her, but she enjoys being out there.

Q: What keeps you running now?

It reduces stress. At least for me, prior to having kids … you could kind of run at any time. You didn't appreciate it quite as much; at least I didn’t. Now that I have such a short amount of free time, I don't procrastinate to go out for my run, and I feel like I need it more, I appreciate it more. It can give both my husband and me a little bit of free time to be alone or just be out doing something for ourselves.

Q: What is your training regimen like?

I'm usually trying to run at least six days a week, about 40 to 50 miles a week.

Q: You’ve fared well in some of your most recent races.

Varying your training regimen and strategies based on race distance is key to competitiveness, Kelsey Gratien says.

I find it matters who shows up to the race. Last year, I really put everything into being runner of the year. I've taken it back a little bit this year to where I'm just trying to enjoy it a little bit more, but when I get into a race, I want to win. I did win Loughran's and I just finished the (15K) Boilermaker in Utica. About 15,000 people run that race. I think I was about the 50th woman to finish but they have professionals and there’s big money there for the winners. I finished second in the Corporate Challenge. That’s one I want to win but every year, I’m second.

Q: What distance do you like best?

I'm probably better at the shorter distances.

Q: Run 716 is coming up and that’s another 15K. How different is it to train for a 15K or a half or a full marathon?

If you are naturally quick, and a train a decent amount, you can do pretty well at shorter distances. Five K, you can train by running three or five miles a day. But if you're doing a half marathon or even a 15K, and you don't run a good amount of miles, you probably won't do all that well. A lot of people can run it but to do comparatively well to what you run in a short distance requires more training.

Q: What else do you do training-wise to get in shape and build the muscle you need to be competitive?

There's definitely cross-training, swimming and some weightlifting involved. It's a majority of running but also doing different types of running workouts. It's not always just going for a run. Sometimes it's going for a tempo run: running slowly for a few miles and then running five miles at a faster pace than you usually do, and then a slow mile. Or there are track workouts to get faster, especially at the 5Ks and below in distance. There, you want to do one lap as hard as you can, take a short rest, do another lap as hard as you can. My husband is probably the one that gives me the most advice on that because he's a coach.

Q: Is there anything you do in terms of sleep? Diet?

I’ve tried to get as much sleep as possible. I think that is really crucial for recovery … but I don't get all the sleep that I want; it’s something that parents sometimes just have to deal with.

I don't know how much of a diet that I follow. Lately, I've been trying to cut as much sugar as possible, so no soda. That for me to helps with recovery. Sugar can cause inflammation and that isn’t good for a recovery model.

email: sscanlon@buffnews.com

Twitter: @BNrefresh@ScottBScanlon

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