Now she is helping transform the lives of South African orphans. Dana is in the process of running 52 marathons in 52 weekends for 52 different South African AIDS orphans (read more here).
Dana is our first runner profile on Run It Fast. We are thankful for her taking the time to sit down and answer our questions about running and her 52 Beginnings. Her story will inspire you.
Have you always been a runner?
Absolutely not! I used to despise running with almost the same intensity that I now love it. I never would have imagined I’d become a runner! I started having weight issues at age 7. I was never involved in sports in school. I was overweight until I was in my early 20’s and it wasn’t until after I gave birth to my second child that I finally decided to get my act together. I’ve lost about 70 pounds and running has totally transformed my life
So what got you into running?
I honestly just wanted to get in shape and lose weight. As the weight came off, I gradually found that I enjoyed running, especially as I built more endurance and could run for longer periods. It was a great outlet, especially for a mom of 3 little kids.
What made you decide to run your first marathon?
After a year of doing half marathons, I did my first marathon in 2007 because I thought it would be really cool to do my first 26.2 while I was 26 years old. Plus I was completely amazed that people could run that far! I wanted to prove to myself that I could too.
What is the toughest challenge of running a marathon every weekend?
I have to say that traveling is honestly the hardest part and trying to keep everything organized with my schedule. I know that if I make it to the start line, I will finish the race, so the real challenge is just getting there.
Do you run or train any during the week between marathons?
I do and the amount of running varies from week to week, but I find that active recovery allows my body to perform better. I keep my runs short (usually 3-4 miles a day) and also do upper body weight training to keep my core and back strong.
What is your favorite marathon to date?
I’ve had so many people ask me this question and I honestly don’t know that I could pick just one marathon. For small marathons, I love the Garden Spot Village Marathon in New Holland, PA. It’s through rolling hills in Amish countryside and it’s challenging, beautiful and peaceful. Leading Ladies in Spearfish, SD offered some of the most beautiful views for a woman’s only marathon event and Mesa Falls in Idaho was breathtaking as well. For you guys (or football fans) you must do the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, IN. You get to start at the College football Hall of Fame and finish on the 50 yard line of the Notre Dame Stadium! The San Francisco Marathon has been one of my favorite big races this year and of course I love the Marine Corps Marathon, that I’ll be running for a 3rd time this year. Sorry, I didn’t do too well with picking just one did I?!
What marathon would you recommend to a fellow runner as a ‘must-do’ marathon?
I would highly suggest the Vermont City Marathon, Akron Marathon and Richmond Marathon along with the one’s listed above. They are all top notch events, with great support.
What is the toughest marathon you’ve done?
As far as physically challenging, I’d have to rank the Enviro-Sports Golden Gate Headlands Marathon up there. It’s 2 loops with some intense hills on trails near San Francisco. I’m not a trail runner by nature, and it was quite a challenge!
What is your hydration and nutrition like before, during, and after a marathon?
I don’t have a set standard for my nutrition habits. I try to eat as healthy as possible, but I don’t always eat pasta the night before a race, or have the same foods for my pre-race breakfast every time. I usually go with what sounds good and try to make sure I get a decent amount of carbs and salt. I drink whatever is offered on the course and will bring either a couple gels or a bag of candies in case I need it. I don’t have a system or plan for my eating, but I am careful to hydrate at every aid station regardless of how I feel. I will say that I’m a big fan of chocolate milk for pre-and post race recovery. I am a firm believer in getting protein as soon as possible once you cross the finish line and I find that’s a easy and quick way to do so.
So what made you decide to run 52 marathons in 52 weekends?
I wanted to be able to use my running to do something positive for others because running has changed my life in so many positive ways. I wanted to challenge myself to a physical height that very few people have accomplished, especially women. I also hoped it would inspire people to do what they are called to do, whatever that may be, to help others through something that they love. We all have something to give, we just need to go out there and do it!
Tell us more about your charity and where we can donate to it?
I’m running these marathons for the Virginia based charity 25:40. Their mission is to help orphans in South Africa, many of whom are orphaned because of the AIDS epidemic. I am trying to raise $26,000 for these children who live in severe poverty. All the money raised goes straight to help these children and will benefit over 1,500 orphans. You can go to my website at www.52beginnings.com to donate and follow along on my journey.
Will you still run marathons after completing your 52 in 52 weeks? If so, how often do you plan to run them?
Most definitely! I’ve already been struggling with the fact that next year I will have to cut down. It will be very bitter sweet to end this year of marathons. I look forward to not having to travel and have all the insanity that this year has been, but I know I’m also going to be doing a lot less. I’m still trying to decide what type of goals I want to set with running next year, and it may lead me in different directions (ultras or even trying to BQ) but I can’t see myself running much less than 12-20 next year.
What advice would you give to someone that is wanting to run their first marathon or half-marathon?
Train for your distance, and listen to your body. Go out and have a good time. If you enjoy it, you will most likely come back to do it again, and regardless of what the clock says you will get a PR! For the first 10 miles of the half, or 20 of the full, run at a pace that you feel like you could do all day. You will finish strong and pass people on your way to the finish line.
Favorite Running Shoes: Asics 20150’s
Photos of Marathon Maniac Dana Casanave