Sunday, May 29, 2016

Donielle "The DON" Spears: Running And Inspiring In The USA

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.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Claire Blanton: New Ultramarathoner, Long Time Runner

Claire Blanton is definitely a quiet force on the local running scene. She not only has competed or is training for every race in the sport, she crushes them, often placing high in her age group. Claire possesses speed, endurance, experience and determination. She completed her very first ultra marathon (50K) over the weekend of May 19-20th, placing 5th in her age group.

Blanton began running her freshman year in high school. She ran cross country and track all four years. Claire had a spinal fusion at 15 years old but continued to run three months later for track her junior year. She has completed three marathons to date (including Asheville and Kings Mountain, two of the toughest around)  and has two more scheduled this year. In July she will run the Jack and Jill marathon in Washington State in hopes of a 3:40 PR to qualify for Boston. Then in October, Claire is running the Chicago marathon.  She hopes to qualify or win the lottery into New York in 2017.

Blanton would love to continue running forever but it will depend on how her back holds up. Her shoe of choice are Hokas for the past three and a half years. Claire usually purchases her shoes at REI because she's a member and receive wonderful discounts and money back every year.

Claire is a solo runner, running whenever she can. She improve speed and endurance by simply running. Nothing special,  just pounding pavement. She would love to coach others but being a single mother with an active child makes it a no go.  However, she did coach her daughter for cross country this year as she was the only runner from her school. Claire has also have run races with her patients at Greenville Memorial Hospital to assist them with goals or safety. She also attends a boot camp group most mornings at 5am before work. Claire started cycling last year and rode 252 miles over 3 days for the Alzheimers association.

Runners often have a prerace schedule/ritual. Blanton's is different depending on location. If she's away from home,  she gets everything ready the evening before. She used to get prerace jitters but that seems to not be an issue lately with longer distances.

Her advice for a new runner is to never give up. Always set new goals whether it's a distance to complete or a new PR.

Claire is very phenomenal and humble. She doesn't run a lot of races but she is in the front of most that she does run. I'm pleased and blessed to know her. I predict she will be at Boston and/or New York within two years so look out.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I'm Too Old For This Crap!

This has become my latest saying.

Also, this isn't because I'm turning 38 in less than two months. There are some things I am growing way too old for and out of. Here are some of the following things.

1. Unnecessary drama.
2. Ratchet behavior
3. Ignorance
4. Ignorant rap
5. Pettiness
6. People ignoring me
7. Being talked down to or at
8. Too many late nights
9. Letting little things get to me
10. Hanging around folks that treat me as a priority and don't enrich my growth
11. Eating whatever I want all the time
12. Hating and constant negativity
13. Boring, repetitive nonsense
14. Lying and dishonesty
15. Showboating
16. Bad grammar

There are plenty more but these are few of the main ones.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

10 Reasons Why I Am So Competitive

I have been a competitive person for so long, pretty much my whole life. It even got to the point where I became a sore loser and my mother had to correct me. My career and even becoming a runner, writer, and former competitive eater have helped to fuel that competitive fire.

So what makes a person competitive? Where are ten reasons why I'm this way.

1. I really hate the feeling of losing more than I do winning. It's an awful feeling that I never want to feel. It's only second or third to losing a loved one.

2. Many of you are aware of my journey to manhood and social growth I am highlighting weekly on In short, I had to overcome a lot of obstacles growing up that make me tougher and lit a fire inside.

3. It's fun to compete, and gives me a feeling of accomplishment everytime I go out for something. I feel like Sue Heck from The Middle since I try so hard at everything.

4. I started in trivia and high school football in my adolescent years. Being around so many folks better than me allowed me to look at myself and see where I needed to improve.

5. My motto is similar to the Army "be all that you can be." I feel if I'm not giving 100%, my heart isn't fully into it and perhaps I shouldn't be doing it.

6. I like to inspire and motivate others and I feel there are few better ways than being a living example.

7. Not along do I hate losing, I hate feeling inadequate. That is honestly my biggest fear.

8. I love sports and watch athletes and teams compete regularly. I get really invested in games, races and matches.

9. I love a good challenge, and I welcome all challengers. You have to beat me before you can legitimately say you're better than me at something.

10. There's a great thrill to being a champion and being on top. People rarely remember 2nd place and 3rd, well,...

And a bonus one:

We all like being associated with winners, and those that possess a winning attitude. No one likes being in the armpit or bottom of anything. Mediocrity is also rarely good, if ever.

So there it is. I will continue to find ways to fuel my competitive fire.