Monumental Runner – Nikki Pisha

Name: Nikki Pisha

Self-described age group: 30-34

Residence: Washington, D.C.

Occupation: Art Curator

Volunteer roles in the running world: I’ve coached several friends and my husband to their first marathon starting lines. It is incredibly rewarding to watch them put in the work and hit their goals.

How has your running changed in the last few months: Honestly, not really. I’ve always enjoyed running solo, so I’ve been doing even more of that. Even though I love racing, I don’t run for the racing. I run to compete against myself and push myself. I usually go out around 5 a.m., so it’s been nice to keep that up and enjoy all the empty trails without having to dodge other runners too. I’m so thankful to have my running to lean on right now.

Why you run: I am an only child, and I need time for myself. Running gives me that. It allows me to push myself in ways that I never thought imaginable and work really hard which is extremely rewarding. It also gives me the best outlet to just be me and get lost in my thoughts. I’ve run in this area for over a decade now, and there is nothing better than running a route I know well and getting so lost in thought that I come back to reality several miles later and realize I’m almost home.

When did you get started running: I started running in first grade. My parents signed me up for a summer running camp. It was an hour in the evening twice a week. I’ll never forget my first evening at camp: we had mac and cheese for dinner, and then I went to run. It was summer in South Carolina, so the heat and humidity were a lot! I ran the “workout” (we were first graders, so you know how that went), and I got back and completely lost my dinner all over the grass. I kept coming back though, so I think that was probably the first time I realized I could push through uncomfortable things.

Have you taken a break from running: Gosh, yes. Multiple breaks. And I haven’t loved any of them. I have had a lot of injury because of this sport, but it’s par for the course. Every single time I’ve had to take time away, it’s helped me realize that running is really a part of who I am, and I just that much more anxious to get back to it.

Training shoe: Right now – Hoka Rincon for long runs and workouts and Hoka Mach and Clifton for easier days.

Coach or training group: Following plans I’ve written these days.

The hardest race you’ve ever run: Boston 2018. Boston 2018. Boston 2018. I questioned everything that day!

Running mentors: Michael Wardian. He used to be my coach, and now I call him a friend. I need to get this Mike story out there because he’s such an incredible person. Several years ago, I was too injured to run Boston. The morning of the race, I received an email from Mike with a picture of his hand with my name written on it. He said that he was taking me through Boston with him that day. I cried. It meant so much to know I was out there on that course with him, and he was thinking of me on HIS race day.

My favorite place to run in the D.C. area is: I’d run the C&O Canal every day if I could. If I am up for a bit of a drive, easy loops around Burke Lake are always fun.

Favorite local trail: Can the Delaware beaches be considered local? I could run forever on the Gordon’s Pond/Junction Breakwater Trail loop in Rehoboth/Lewes.

My best race was: My mind went to my “best time” but that’s really not my best race. I’d say my best was any of the times I’ve run the Rehoboth Marathon. The mix of surfaces are great, and of course I get to run my favorite trail!

Favorite local race: DC Half Marathon before it got taken over by Rock ‘n’ Roll. Since that is no more, I’ll go with Parks Half Marathon.

Ideal post-run meal: Anything on the pescatarian menu at Ellé in Mount Pleasant, and their current whiskey cocktail.

Favorite flavor of gel, gu, etc: Café mocha Huuma gel.

Pet peeve: Runners criticizing other runners. We are all out there doing our own thing that’s best for our body, time, life, fitness, etc.

Goals: Keep building strength and fitness, so I can run healthy.

Your advice for a new runner:  Keep going. Don’t pay attention to pace. It’s going to be hard at first, but before you know it, those once seemingly unattainable paces will feel easy.

Favorite running book: Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor

Song in your head during a run: It’s summer, and I grew-up in the south: Cruise by Florida Georgia Line

Have you dealt with a major injury: I have a misshapen hip bone. It’s caused all kinds of injuries and issues, and I will one day need a major surgery to reshape it and replace all the lost cartilage. I see a surgeon every 6 months for an MRI and check-in. Basically, I’m running now until my body decides it’s time for me to stop. I go to physical therapy every week, and I am incredibly diligent about my strength work. Four years ago, a surgeon told me I wouldn’t be able to walk within a year if he didn’t operate on my hip. Well, I’ve run a whole lot of miles since then, and I credit that to my amazing PT and her guidance to building strength where I needed it.

Running quote: “Keep going.”

Why is the D.C. area a great place to be a runner: We have access to so many amazing places to run! We also have all the hills and all the humidity, so we can be prepared for different kinds of courses and weather potentials on race day. I also love the running community here. With people wearing face coverings, we don’t see each other’s smiles as much, but the head nods and waves let us know we are all in this together – heat, humidity, pandemic, and all.

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