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July 2019 Instructor of the Month: Sarah Richardson

Sarah Richardson ChiRunning & ChiWalking Certified Master Instructor

Tell us a little about you. Where you live, what your background is. What (if) you do in addition to being a Certified Instructor.

I currently live in Vermont with my awesome husband Mike, who is also a runner and athlete of all kinds. We have a super fluffy cat named Pumpkin and I have the pleasure of being a step-mom to two inspiring women, one here in Vermont and the other over on the West Coast in LA. We have a sprawling piece of property on Lake Champlain where we host a few Summer ChiRunning Camps and wind down our days enjoying the sunsets. I grew up on the south shore of Long Island and although it was within an hour of New York City, it was very rural and nature was easily accessible. Our home was across the street from a 2,500 acre wildlife refuge and a 6 minute boat ride to the ocean. I had easy access to miles of trails, beaches and wide open spaces. My love for the outdoors began there. Horses, beaches and running were my passions during my school years and kept my mind and body sound. I attended the Audubon Expedition Institute, an experiential program for Graduate School, and traveled the country exploring social, educational, and environmental issues. It was an incredible way to see and learn about the US, camping out every night under the stars and hiking a LOT of backcountry. I fell in love with teaching during that time and then attended The College of St. Rose where I received a Masters in Education with a focus on Special Education. That’s when my official teaching career began (2000-ish). Currently, I’m a Special Educator at a local high school, U-32, where I head the Transition Academy. It’s a program for students between the ages of 17-22 with intensive needs and profound disabilities, both physical and intellectual. It is a very rewarding position and has made me an even more compassionate and patient human being. And it compliments my role as a ChiRunning instructor because it is effortless for me to differentiate instruction. I can meet people wherever they are, and break content down to very understandable concepts and deliver it in multi-sensory ways. So if you think you can’t learn how to ChiRun or fall in love running again.. Let me have a try! I can guarantee I’ll figure out a way for it to happen!!!!

How did you start running?
Running has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When we were little, if my brother and I fought, my mom would have us run 5 laps around the house. By the second lap we would be laughing and best friends again. When I was 5 I ran my first race! My friend’s dad was a track coach and he brought us to the Colgate Women’s Games in NYC. I came in dead last! But it was my first experience with the intensity and excitement of the sport and it was awesome! I remember cheering for people all day after I ran. I was hooked!!!!!

When and how did ChiRunning come into your life?
After running for 30 years with very few injuries, I literally stumbled into an acute injury. During an adventure race, I fell in a pothole and twisted my ankle pretty bad. I chose to finish that leg and a third leg afterwards. I rested for a while after that to recover, but for the next 3 years I was plagued by a host of injuries, which were new to my body, and it sucked the fun out of running. Hip issues, hamstring issues, and metatarsal discomfort… In order to figure it out, I went to a ChiRunning clinic with Danny in Boston and before the end of the day, I was “cured.” I knew why my body was responding the way it was and experienced immediate relief and was able to get back to running! By the end of the day I was so happy and asked how I could teach it to other people because it was just BRILLIANT!!!

In what ways has Chi changed your perception of and success in running?
I was never a fast or competitive runner. I always loved the peacefulness and calm it brought to my mind. It was really nice to meet other people who thought of running in the same terms and wanted to take care of their bodies through running rather than use their running as a punishment or a short term goal. Upon meeting Danny and other ChiRunning Instructors/ChiRunners I knew I had met my tribe. They are my people! What changed was I felt validated for my beliefs about running.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?
That you don’t need it or it doesn’t apply to you. There is a misconception from struggling or beginning runners that they aren’t good enough yet to need a running coach or advice on their running. And there is a misconception from highly competitive runners that they already know it all and would not benefit from ChiRunning because it doesn’t promote pushing harder. I hear both of these judgments regularly and I believe they are short sighted because I’ve worked with people who would fit into both groups, and every client I’ve worked with who has gotten through all of the content has said that it’s the best thing they’ve done for their running.

What motivates you to run?
Being outside, feeling good in my body. I love to feel strong, accomplished and clear in my head. I crave the calming effect running has on my mind and body. When I was injured I didn’t know how much running regulated my body, because I had never not run before. But there I was, not able to run and became plagued by anxiety to the point of being medicated. As soon as it I was able to run consistently again I was able to ditch the medication and self-regulate through running.

What achievements are you most proud of?
I have 7 full marathons, 7 halves and countless 5k/10k’s under my belt and I’m super proud that I’m still running, safely and soundly for the past 5 years! It was awful to be injured and I’m glad I got the help from ChiRunning when I needed it. I actually wish I had done it sooner. Asking for help is a strength and something to be proud of!!!

The publication of my book From Sidelines to Start Lines: The Frustrated Runner’s Guide to Lacing Up for a Lifetime. It’s a self-help book for struggling runners and gives practical strategies to go along with the ChiRunning technique that help you get back into running. My coaching programs are based on it and integrate mindset, lifestyle and form for a well rounded holistic approach to running.

Having a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Running for Good. It just came out in June, 2019 so it’s fresh on my mind!!!

What led you to become an instructor?
The minute I attended my first clinic I was hooked. I KNEW I wasn’t the only runner who was frustrated and going crazy not being able to run because of an injury. I’ve been able to take back my life through the sport of running and want to help others do the same. And it all makes so much sense from a technical standpoint! ChiRunning is a concept/technique that I can wholeheartedly stand behind. Who wouldn’t want to become more efficient and experience fewer injuries???? The teacher in me knew I had to learn it and share it.

Why do you enjoy being an instructor, and how has it affected your life?
I’m a teacher through and through. Runners are super cool and ask great questions. I love helping people and especially love seeing the “lightbulb” go on when they get it. It’s my mission to facilitate as many, “A-ha,” moments as I can! Plus, I always learn so much from each runner I work with, which makes me a better person and a better teacher of the content. Being a ChiRunning instructor has also taken me to different parts of the world. I have assisted Danny at Kripalu in Massachusetts and in NYC, I’ve taught clinics in Dallas, TX, hosted retreats in Vermont, and I’m introducing the ChiRunning concepts at a Women’s Retreat in Fiji in 2020! Super exciting!!!

What does your average week look like, run-wise?
I’m an early riser and enjoy getting my runs in just after dawn (or before dawn during the winter). I like to do “something” every day. My typical week has me running on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. I walk on Tuesdays and Fridays and I reserve Sundays for whatever I feel like! It could be a mountain bike ride, a fun run or just a leisurely hike out in the woods. My typical run is between 40-60 minutes.

What other forms of exercise do you practice to compliment ChiRunning?
I like all things outdoors… Mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, walking, and skate skiing in the winter. I have to say that I do all of these with more efficiency, confidence and strength since becoming a ChiRunner. Many of the form focuses have a positive impact on other activities & sports! Body sensing is a life changer and has kept me sound across the spectrum.

Advice for people new to ChiRunning?
Listen to your body! Learn to love the messages it gives you. Allow yourself to develop a relationship with yourself. When you’re first learning, take it one form focus at a time and continue to work on it until your body begins to automates it. Be open to and feel the shift, then thank your body for adapting. Our bodies are designed to heal. When we set up the conditions for it to do so, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can change! Notice these changes and celebrate!

Short answer! Okay, GO.

Favorite race and why: The Boilermaker, Utica, NY. Saranac rewards the neighborhood that provides the most support to runners with block party, so the crowd of spectators for the whole 15k is incredible. It is awesome to be in the midst of 13,000 runners feeling like each community member is cheering for you. And the ice pops (and beer) at the end are awesome!

Most memorable race: The Honolulu Marathon. It was my first full and I just LOVED it! The training, the race and the vacation changed my life! And I still have the tattoo to prove it!!!

Ideal weather for running: A light rain that starts just after I’m warmed up!

Focus that currently dominates your running: Landing on and maintaining my tripod because I still have a tendency to roll to the outside of my left foot since the pothole incident. And Cadence, always cadence!!!!!

Favorite place to run: The trails on Isle La Motte in Vermont. And I especially love to run while on vacation. Running has allowed me to see so much of the world and in such an intimate way.

Go-to before race food: A Buttered Hard Roll with poppy seeds on top from Stewarts (Upstate New Yorkers will know)

Celebratory food after: It doesn’t matter… Anything!!!!

Upcoming race/goal: Island Vines 10k this September, RaceVermont Fall Half in November. In 2020 my goal is to run the New England Series (6 Half Marathons in 6 Days) and a trail Ultra.

Run with or without phone/music: No music. No earbuds.

Repeat on your playlist: I don’t use a playlist. Just the beeping of a metronome!!!

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