Sunday, November 11, 2007


This edition of Running Minnesota takes us across two state lines to Illinois. Unfortunately, a year ago Heather Giesen ended up in Aurora, IL after leaving Minnesota. Luckily, the 32-year old still comes back “home” a couple of times a year to help her GEAR teammates on the team circuit. This year they finished second to the squad from Run N Fun. Like some of the other women I’ve interview recently, Heather always seems to compete at a consistent level. In addition to the marathons mentioned in the interview, she ran 36:57 at the Get in Gear 10K and 18:07 at the Brian Kraft 5K, good enough for 9th and 7th, respectively. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Kryduba)

When and how did you get involved with running?
Growing up, I remember watching my dad go for a run and my mom go for a walk. We lived on a farm so the only routes were “out and backs”. I guess I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, and I always wanted to go with them. They only let me go about ¼ of a mile away from home. I guess that’s how it started.

In 6th grade our Physical Ed teacher asked if anyone wanted to run the mile for “extra credit”. I don’t know what possessed me to this day to run it, but I did. It was me and three boys from my class. I beat one of them and came in third. That started the competitive bug.

Then in high school I started running track and cross county. I loved it. We had such a fun time. I continued running through college. That’s where the enjoyment of running on a team began.

You moved to Illinois about a year ago and you just got married (sorry guys). Any chance of moving back to Minnesota?
I’m so glad to have the opportunity to live in different places, and experience different things. For now, Chicago is home for Greg and I. The plan is to return to Minnesota again soon. I can’t believe I actually miss those Minnesota winters, but I do!

How is the running scene in the Chicago area? Did you join another race team?
It’s tough to compare my Minnesota running to Chicago running. Having the lakes in Minnesota and of course the GEAR team is such a great opportunity. There is always a clear path, and plenty of good running company in Minnesota.

I was thankful to Kurt Decker for giving me a name and number of a high school friend of his who works at the Naperville Running Store, here in the Chicago area.

I was able to link up right away with a running team. We meet every Wednesday evening for track workouts from April to Oct, and long runs in the winter. I refrain from joining the race circuit itself, as I get plenty opportunities still from the GEAR team.

I now fully appreciate the Minnesota Dept of Transportation snow removal system. Unfortunately, the Chicago area is not as “runner friendly”. It does however “force” us to drive downtown and run the lakeshore quite often during the winter months. This is a beautiful route along the lake, past Navy Pier, and past Soldier Field (go Vikings!).

Even with the move, you still come back to Minnesota to race occasionally. What races do you tend to come back for?
Since this move to Chicago is “temporary”, the GEAR team still remains a priority. I’ve been thankful to Sonya Anderson-Decker and Kurt Decker for helping this process and keeping my active status with the team.

The spring races seem to be easier to get back to, before the summer gets busy. The Human Race is such a fun kickoff race. Of course, Grandma’s Marathon is always on the schedule.

With planning for a fall wedding, did you end up skipping a fall marathon?
Wish I could say I did! The Chicago Marathon was a week after the wedding. I was signed up, and despite record breaking temps, (which the Twin Cities marathon runners experienced as well), I ran the thing. Not my best performance, running 3:14:17, however, it’s a fun race.

You ran a 3:01:09 at Grandma’s Marathon. Were you happy with that performance?
I guess this was the summer / fall for warm marathons. My goal is usually to get it under 3 hours. No such luck again this year. There is always next year!

During that race I noticed you were running with a couple other GEAR teammates. The three of you seemed to be pacing a large number of men. Can you explain that?

Ha! I think it was the men that may have been pacing us! I was lucky to be able to run the race with Sonya and Laurie Hanscom - wonderful and talented ladies that I knew would keep us close to a 3-hour marathon. We were delighted to be sharing the road that day with the men…including you Chad! Nice racing by the way! You left us in the dust!

How has the rest of 2007 gone for you?
Whew…time to coast into the winter and get ready for next year.

Fall is a great time for some finally cooler weather, and fun small races. I think there is a “turkey trot” in every city.

Do you have any goals yet for 2008?
Plans are set for Boston this year. I am honored to be running the 2008 Boston with my mom! She qualified at the Green Bay Marathon and I couldn’t be more proud and excited to run my first Boston with my own mother. It’s great timing to watch the women’s Olympic trials the day before as well.

In June I’ll head back to Duluth to see if a sub-3 is in the cards and I’m planning to run the Okoboji, IA marathon again [Note: Heather ran 3:06 there this year] in July. It’s a great small town marathon with a triathlon at the same time. I’m also planning to run a fall marathon again. Maybe Chicago will cool down by then. And of course I’ll be making the trips back to Minnesota for as many team circuit races as I can get to.

What are your PRs?
Oh, so many years ago now.

The golden years of college gave me a 17:36 for a 5K, and a 36:21 for a 10K.
Lincoln half marathon one year was a 1:21 and I ran 2:56 one year at TCM.

What is your training philosophy?
I’d like to say that I run smart, taper appropriately, eat right, stretch, etc…but I don’t!

I run because it’s what I love to do, and it has become a lifestyle for me. It’s my way to get outside and escape the busyness of work and life. I have learned that consistency is what works for me. High mileage is key for my training, as well as tempos, however, with that I have also learned when it’s time to cut back and ease up.

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
That would be a very large group of runners!

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
High mileage can actually help if done right, as well as speed work. And don’t wear anything cotton in the winter!


Jana said...

I am a friend of Heather's from college. I really enjoyed watching Heather's races because she always did well. At that time, she did shorter races. Then I accompanied her to her first marathon, which if my memory serves me right, was the Chicago Marathon. I remember her saying at the end of the race "I don't think I will be doing that again". Well it appears she did not adhere to that remark (although, I didn't believe her). She never missed a day of running. She has a lot of dedication and determination, and I am happy to see she continues to do well.

Jana from Omaha

Anonymous said...

She also forgot to mention that she was an SDSU Jackrabbit back in those collegiate days!

Digger Carlson