Charlotte, NC runner Donielle Polk Spears (bka: "The Don") has made quite a name for herself and a brand. She has turned a regular workout into a lifestyle, running races almost weekly. At press time, she just completed her 18th full marathon in Vermont. She balances all of this while teaching at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, coaching other runners, and being a wife and mother of two sons.
I have been following the petite, positive runner for a few months on social media and got to meet her when I ran my first full marathon back in April. She graciously agreed to a sit-down to answer a few questions regarding her passion.
Don began running in May 2013. She had lost a significant amount of weight and needed to find an exercise to help her maintain this healthy lifestyle. She became burned out of going to gym and doing cardio classes and wanted something new.
In additions to the 18 full marathons and 28 half marathons she's completed, Don has also finished one ultra marathon (50K)
Currently, Spears have no plans to qualify for Boston or New York (the big time marathons). With children and her daily schedule, the time needed to spend on qualification guidelines would be an overload. However, Don does plan to run in Boston through a charity and she will continue to lottery to run NYC.
Mrs. Spears is still young, and therefore has no plans to stop running. She may slow down during the summer months but will kick it back up in the fall. However, even in the summer, she'll still run and train (just shorter distances due to heat).
Spears's shoe of choice are Brooks only. She purchased them about a year after running and loved them. The Don hasn' t tried any other brand. She had a Gait analysis done finally (recommended for any runner) and they recommended Brooks as well.
Don's basic weekly running consists of three days of training (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and a race day. She runs a race almost every week. On weeks where she doesn't have a race, The Don is still in training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, vital since she does so many races. She focuses on fatigue legs to help with the back to back races. One main thing Spears does are recovery runs normally on Mondays after the race.
Don can be spotted during races looking stylish with her monogrammed sports bras, lipstick and small hoop earrings. It is definitely a ritual for her that she wears lipstick and earrings during a race, her personal MO. Spears even carries her tube of lipstick in her sports bra and reapplies during the race close to the end. On Facebook, she has taken full advantage of FB live by giving her followers a post-race recap. Running isn't easy and neither are marathons. However, the Don never looks like what she goes through.
Spears has currently ran in 23 states and in DC and Canada as well. That number will increase before the end of the year.
Don mostly runs marathons now and even has a "twentysixpointtwo" tattoo on the inside of her right bicep that she often flexs in photos. Spears used to run a lot of half marathons but has now gained a love for marathons over the past six months.
Currently, Don's overall health is great. At a recent visit with her doctor, her numbers are great and she feels greater. She gained some muscle from running longer distances. People find it hard to believe that she ONLY runs, her only form of fitness.
Despite her success and noterioty as a runner with Black Girls Run in Charlotte and her reputation as a strong finisher and coach, Don is a very approachable person and her personality has never changed. She has always been very sweet, genuine, helpful and humble. Spears enjoys meeting and talking with people, even being known to snap a picture with friends/fans/others. What has helped her stay grounded is knowing where she has come from and never forgetting that, realizing that this place is a place that God set forth for her. It was a path He created and she is walking and running in His path. Don knows that God uses her to bless others, and she knows that her blessings are rendered to bless others. People are so appreciative and love for all that she does, and her support system is phenomenal.
Balance is key regarding her busy lifestyle. There are a few factors to are important far as when balancing her personal, professional, and family life. First, planning ahead must be done. Most of the races for 2016 were planned out last year. Even Don's weekly run schedules are planned out a week or two in advance. Here and there, things may be altered but for the most part, planning ahead has worked. Don also have to budget. Because of her children, they have needs and a budget must be set. She sets this budget far in advance and tries to stick to it as best as possible. Spears also prioritizes, realizing that family comes first. Their needs are met first and then hers. Working part time as an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor definitely helps with her flexibility.
So there's the lowdown on Mrs. Donielle Spears. Phenomenal runner with phenomenal support, but an even better person. She loves running and to see others excel. The Don's impact on the sport of running will be felt for years.