A Conversational Pace – Lauren Ross of Rose City Track Club on Themed Runs, Tears in Heaven, and Asking for Pain (sorta)

I first found out about Rose City Track Club when this dude passed me on the Reed College campus during the 2021 PDX Marathon. I was cruising, or so I thought, until a Tracksmith singlet emblazoned with RCTC came into my peripheral and then off into the sunset. (NOTE: It was my first race and I went a little hard in the first 10… Feel like I COULD HAVE paced him better, but, shrug emoji next time…) Plus I already talked about all this. The memory is just burned into my brain.

Between this introduction to RCTC, and my previously-mentioned difficulty of finding friends this “late in life,” the people I’ve met as a result of this track club have been some of the nicest and most welcoming, not to mention just genuinely stoked on seemingly everything.

This is why I am particularly excited to have Rose City Track club President, registered dietician, and all-around inspiration, Lauren Ross with us today on Leggggs.

Leggggs: Lauren – Hello, hello! Let’s start at the top real quick. Name and where we can find you online or otherwise…

Lauren Ross: I am Lauren Ross, and you can find me at @laurenross.rd and running the streets of Portland!

Leggggs: And what would you say you “do” here?

LR: I am a registered dietitian, which most people know, but I don’t practice like most people assume! I actually work in sales in the infant nutrition industry. Sales isn’t really something I considered doing at any point during school, but it suits me! Time flexibility, meeting people, making connections, talking about science – it all works for a nerdy extrovert. Ha!

Outside of (paid) work, I am the President of Rose City Track Club where I, and the rest of the Board, put a ton of energy into trying to create a welcoming team that provides the resources to help runners take their running to the next level, whatever that may be. For my own running, that means a lot of focus on fast marathons – but I also like to run shorter stuff and get out on the trails too! Playing outside in all capacities – skiing, hiking, seeking out swimming holes with my dogs, etc. – is also a thing I really love to do. Plus food. And drinks. And I have a decent costume/wig collection to be used for celebrations of all sorts (former New Orleans resident).

Leggggs: If you had to sum yourself up in one sentence, what is it? What would you say your “personal mission” is?

LR: Have fun, try hard, make friends, eat good food.

Leggggs: Let’s talk running – When did you first get into running? Why?

LR: I actually grew up as a competitive downhill skier, and running was not on my radar. In college at UMass Amherst, I started running outside a bit for fitness and liked it. When I started to enter races, I found that the running community is pretty similar to the ski racing community in that everyone kind of knows everyone. Races are like family reunions, people care about each other, and the level of support and encouragement I felt just by getting to know some local runners really clinched it for me. The ability to set very tangible goals and go after them was also something I loved, and the love has just grown from there!

Races are like family reunions, people care about each other.

Lauren Ross

Leggggs: Family reunions… I love that. I haven’t seen some of my family in years. It sorta sucks. But, I just gotta make some time… Okay. What type of run gets you going most? Basically, what’s your favorite type of run?

LR: Anything with friends, but especially long tough workouts with buddies! It’s so much easier to crush a workout when somebody else is there, and the feeling of getting to the end and being proud of yourself AND your friends for accomplishing something difficult is the best. Luckily, I’m currently training for the Chicago marathon and we have a solid crew of Portlanders all looking to run similar times, so we’ve been able to do quite a few of these lately!

Leggggs: Definitely agree. Long tough workouts with friends. Makes things so much easier. And just fun… Speaking of fun, again – Tell me about your favorite run ever? What, why, where, how, who, when…. All that good stuff.

LR: There are so many categories of good runs! Good scenery, good performance, good company, THEMES! I guess I’ll throw it back to pre-pandemic times and “Slow Tuesday”, when a group of friends would run from Great Notion NE to Great Notion NW and (sometimes) back again. We devised a scoring system and additional points were accrued by stopping at Ex Novo en route. It was stupid, competitive, and so fun, with a beautifully curated playlist and a lot of silliness to go around.

Leggggs: Still never checked out Great Notion. On my list even more now. Okay so, conversely, what has been the worst run of your life? What made it terrible and how did you push through (if you did)?

LR: I’ll go with 50k national championships in 2021. There were a lot of great things about this day, but a lot of hard ones too. I had been injured and only trained for about 8 weeks leading up, but had some incredible runs that indicated excellent fitness which should make it pretty easy to run the selection criteria standard for the US team for 50k world champs. The standard was my primary goal (though I was fit for about 10 minutes under), and winning was my secondary goal. The race is on Long Island and is usually in March but was pushed to June because of COVID protocols. For all my East coasters out there, you know what June is like on LI. Humid AF. The day ended up warm with no clouds and high humidity, and the course was 10 laps of a 5k loop that was primarily through parking lots without any shade. My first 7 laps were perfect, spot on conservative pacing and I was leading the race with one other woman. Then the heat and humidity started to get to me, and when the woman in third passed both of us like we were standing still it broke me. I stepped off the course for 10 minutes having decided to quit. Eventually someone talked me into finishing, which I’m so glad I did but I wish I had been more mentally flexible to be able to adjust expectations on the fly because that weather was not something I was ready for. Ended up 4th, which is pretty cool! What really sucked though: I lost 7 toenails from the experience.

Leggggs: I’ve lost a toenail here and there, but 7 at once… brutal. I guess that’s a good segue into a question about running gear. What’s some running gear you cant live without?

LR: I am obsessed with Senita High Waisted Rio shorts. Very specific, I know. This brand was the first I found with a solid high waist option that had good pockets, and they’re super affordable. I tell everyone who will listen – ha!

Leggggs: Can’t say I’ve heard of Senita, but hey, the world is your stage. Shout it from the rooftops, or whatever the saying is. Staying on the topic of gear: What are your go-to shoes for road / trail / recovery / short runs / long runs?

LR: I love the Nike Invincible for an easy run, I didn’t even know they were a thing until pretty recently and now I do a huge percentage of my mileage in them. For racing, again I gotta say I’m a Nike gal these days (I mean, we live in Portland) and a Vaporfly or Alphafly is unequivocally gonna get the job done the FASTEST. I’ll pretty much run in whatever I can get my hands on for trail shoes.

Leggggs: Great minds, Lauren. I too run in the Invincibles for my dailys and throw on the Alphaflys for race days. They just… work the best IMO. Onto some self-motivation: What’s a quote you repeat to yourself mid-run when shit is. getting. real?

LR: I don’t have one in particular, but something usually pops into my head. One that I remember vividly is from the 2020 Houston Marathon, where I ran 2:45. Around 18/19 miles, my friend turned to me and said “I don’t know if I can do this today.” I knew what she meant. That’s where it gets hard. Even if you’re not dying, the miles aren’t effortless like they are in the beginning, and that shift in sensation is frightening. But truly – this is what we expected to happen. We knew it would hurt. “Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean we give up.” I said this to myself a lot over the last 10k of that race, even when I did give up a little bit. It’s helpful to remind yourself that this pain is what you asked for, and it truly is a privilege that you got to the part where you get to see what happens – don’t let that derail you. Be brave. Also, “It doesn’t have to feel good to be good.”

This pain is what you asked for, and it truly is a privilege that you got to the part where you get to see what happens – don’t let that derail you.

Lauren Ross

Leggggs: Asking for pain. Can’t even begin to tell you how many times I say a version of that to myself either before or during a run. This is a privilege, not a right. We GET to do it. Now the lightning rod question: Headphones or no headphones when running?

LR: NO HEADPHONES! I’ve got enough internal dialogue to last for decades.

Leggggs: Couldn’t agree more. But a quick follow up to that: Pump up music for running? What your perfect song?

LR: Oh man, that depends. Definitely something catchy and good to sing along to, but other than that I go through a LOT of moods with pre-run music! Last weekend I raced with Confessions Part II by Usher stuck in my head, but a Carly Rae Jepsen or Taylor Swift dance party is also great, or some Talking Heads, or some strong disco vibes…the list goes on. I don’t discriminate. HOWEVER, I was once running a marathon and feeling sorry for myself when I passed an old man soft rock band playing “Tears in Heaven” and that is NOT an appropriate pump up song.

Leggggs: I’m just gonna take a second to think about Tears in Heaven being played live by a group of older dudes while a marathon proceeds by… That’s a… that’s something else.
While that ruminates in my brainspace, how do you convince yourself to run when you really don’t feel like it?

LR: Bring a dog, bring a friend, or end somewhere fun.

Leggggs: What races are you eyeing in the near or not-near future?

LR: Currently I’m training for the Chicago marathon in October and hope to keep on building that fitness for Houston marathon in January! After that I’ll definitely need a break from the long stuff for a while, but I sure do love it.

Leggggs: Chicago is on my bucket list… but it may be because I want to be yelled at at the Weiner’s Circle… but speaking, what are some of your bucket list places to run?

LR: I was registered for the 2020 Berlin Marathon, which obviously did not happen. I would LOVE to run it then hit up Oktoberfest! The past couple years have been pretty limiting travel-wise, so getting out and seeing new places is at the top of the to-do list. Wherever I end up going, running is a given.

Leggggs: What no-bullshit advice would you say to inspire a person to start running?

LR: The most powerful way to encourage someone to start running is just to find joy in the pursuit yourself, and be vocal about it. There is no one-liner that can be as impactful as seeing a friend or family member set goals, work hard for them, and find success while surrounded by a supportive community. I think everyone wants a piece of that, and a show-don’t-tell strategy is easier than trying to articulate why the running life is so compelling.

Once you’ve got their interest, make sure they know you believe in them – another person’s confidence can go a long way when you’re trying something new.

A show-don’t-tell strategy is easier than trying to articulate why the running life is so compelling.

Leggggs: We ask for pain. And just run; show-don’t-tell… Such good words of wisdom here. Who do you have to thank for where in your running journey?

LR: Oh man, so many people. There is no way I could list them all here! Everywhere I’ve moved since college I’ve found a new set of folks who support me in different ways. I wouldn’t even know what structured training means without an assist from the New Orleans running community, and I never would have considered chasing an OTQ if not for various friends along the way who believed in me – especially my friend Cal Neff, who was my first ever coach. When you come into this sport later in life, it’s hard to know what is possible unless someone with experience tells you. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by incredible people who are always willing to help and I hope to be that person for as many others as I can.

Of course I couldn’t be running as much as I do without a supportive partner, and my husband Brooks is always ready to encourage me to get out for a run, feed me when that marathon hunger sets in, and tolerates my early bedtimes and all the other stuff that comes along with being married to someone who is training at this level. Spending every day with someone who believes that you can achieve big goals is critical for believing it yourself. Love that guy.

Leggggs: Any parting shots for the Leggggs community?

LR: Invite everyone along with you. The bigger your running network, the more fun you’re going to have, the more support you will give and be given, and the more meaningful this experience will be.

Thanks for joining the Leggggs community, Lauren, and sharing these absolutely amazing insights and advice. Seriously.

If you’d like to connect with Lauren and or the Rose City Track Club, here you go:

Instagram: Lauren Ross

Instagram: Rose City Track Club

Official Site: Rose City Track Club

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