Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Runner in the Spotlight: Jamaar Valentine

Jamaar Valentine is a fairly new member to the Charlotte Running Club who has taken his passion of running to new heights by finishing the Frosty 50k in Winston-Salem in 5:19:24. A Tar Heel graduate, he shares his reasons for joining the Charlotte Running Club and how he caught the running bug again once he moved back to Charlotte. Best of luck to Jamaar in his next race!

What brought you to Charlotte?
Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I've always been drawn to the "opportunities" Charlotte has to offer in different facets of life. Since I started specializing in hospitality, I decided that Charlotte would be a fantastic avenue for lateral movement then moving up in the industry. Most of my friends from college lived here and my sister moved here after high school, so no matter what, I had a great pool of people for whom I cared here in the Queen City.

When and why did you start running?
As a soccer player in middle school, I always appreciated the endurance our sport required. My soccer coach in high school was also a track coach, so running became very key. I was big on athletics year round in high school, but when I found track & field, I couldn't settle on a single event. 300IM hurdles were the single event that took me to states, but not a good enough quality effort to carry me to college.

At UNC, I continued to run off and on fairly casually with multiple 5K sprinkled throughout my five-year plan. While my priorities started to change, I didn't realize how much less effort I was putting into running. As I moved to Wilmington from Chapel Hill, my running further decreased and my lifestyle became much less active. The town's running community simply doesn't compare to what I've found in Chapel Hill, Charlotte, or Asheville. Now it's pretty sad to consider how much I let this once great passion slip, but a year before moving to Charlotte, I caught my decline and haven't looked back since.

What are some things you love most about running?
Running allows me a clear head to focus on my spirituality more than any time I have spent in a church or temple. Running became my reason to enjoy mornings again. It's one thing to experience sunrise, but having seven miles under your belt before sunrise brings me to a position of true appreciation for the moment. A lot of the cares of the world tend to get the volume turned down on days with double-digit mileage.

Favorite Place you’ve traveled and loved for running?
Growing up in the mountains, I always thought anywhere on the Appalachian Trail had to be the perfect setting for a run. Maybe it was the single-track technical trails, or maybe it was all the rolling golf courses, but eventually I discovered life on the coast. Wow! It hardly matters what time of day, very little compares to salt water splashing me as a I trot along a sandy beach. With regards to individual experiences logged in recent memory, it's still a toss up between Salem Lake and Wrightsville Beach.

What is your most memorable race and why?
Different races for different reasons:
Salisbury Run for the Greenway -- I learned a lot about crashing & burning in the summer heat, but still took first place age group. If you ever have the chance, you should do a race put on by the Salisbury Rowan Runners.

Thunder Road Marathon -- I found so many familiar faces and so much time to converse with them for the "hometown" marathon. It may have been my most social race to date.

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50K -- I could write a small book on the lessons learned and the people I encountered for my first ultra, but the experience itself was really enhanced by the snow falling all around at Salem Lake. The Twin Cities Track Club puts on unique events at great prices.

Where is your favorite place to run in Charlotte?
McAlpine Creek is my best option any day of the week. The Greenway is only a few miles from my place, and the trail has always been much kinder to my joints than other greenways in the city. Still, I find some great runs with buds up at Mallard Creek Greenway Saturday mornings and from the Dowd Y Thursday mornings.

What motivates you to run in the cold winter months? Did you run in the snow over Christmas?
For all the reasons I love running, I can't sacrifice that on account of a few snowflakes, ice on greenways, or numb fingers. Like my buddy Allen Strickland said, "Just ran in the freezing rain and sleet on Christmas day. Hope my rivals are enjoying their egg nog." I have to train in the cold so that I may be prepared to race in the cold. Seriously though, it's not always that serious. I did get to spend a few hours running in the snow over Christmas weekend. I was fairly proud to be responsible for the first footsteps in the snow at McAlpine last month. I think I can at least say I'm less likely to pass out from heat exhaustion in this wintry weather than I was in July. Counting my many blessings, I'll take the temps in the twenties.

Favorite Charlotte area race?
Since I've only raced in Charlotte for nine months, it may come as a surprise to some that my favorite was LungStrong 15K. Since it's the last race in Run For Your Life's Grand Prix series, everyone seemed to take time to enjoy the post-race festivities a little more. It's also a distance most Charlotte area runners rarely have the opportunity to race, with 5K's almost every weekend throughout the year. As a cause, I think the LUNGevity foundation is key. It can be tough to draw attention to a race for the leading cause of cancer deaths in America the same month as Komen's Race for the Cure, but running along Jetton Village, I certainly felt inspired.

What’s your favorite distance and your PRs for that distance?
I found I get the most enjoyment out of the half marathon / pikermi... whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. 13.1 miles seems to be just a long enough race for me to soak up the experience and push through multiple surges. So far my PR is 1:38:19 via the Dowd Y half, but a little more hard work and training should see that time drop before the summer.

You are planning on running a 100 Mile race. Can you tell us what inspired you to make the jump to ultra distances?
The obvious answer is that I have to be a big idiot or just insane to want to do a 100 Miler. Really, I just keep discovering every distance milestone I cross, I find out a little more about myself. Eventually my body won't even be able to finish a marathon, so I might as well find out what extremes it can handle before it's too late. I think that's a great way to show my appreciation for the working body I've been given.

What’s your next race?
Since I haven't run an 8K yet, Winter Flight in Salisbury is looking very tempting. I'm still deciding on a spring marathon, but I think it would be nice to return to the coast for an easy marathon PR.

What compelled you to join the Charlotte Running Club?
All the cool kids are here. As far as my training goes, the people in my age group who beat me most often in races, are all in CRC. You have to respect that. By being in a position to run with all these speedsters, I am giving my training an extra push.

What do you love most about the Charlotte Running Club?
Did I mention the cool kids yet? As CRC has become the most dominant club in town, there's a wealth of experience and exposure. I can almost always find someone from the club to do a run in any part of town and give me feedback on races, training, and gear.

1 comment:

  1. very cool! nice to 'meet' you jamaar!