A Conversational Pace – Kennedy Nickerson on saying yes, ass-backwards motivation, overcoming “run guilt,” and broken shins.

Kennedy Nickerson came off as the quiet type until she started dropping f-bombs. She is also working with companies to find solution to hopefully end climate change. There’s a lot here you need to know.

I’m currently trying to write the story of why I started Leggggs in the first place. And though each iteration of this origin is semi-different, there’s a pretty strong theme running through the veins of this blog (or online journal if we’re being fancy.) That theme? Well, community for one, but larger than that, this idea of loneliness and seeking connection, whether consciously or not. 

I’ll expand on that concept more another time, I also want to say that by no means is Kennedy Nickerson lonely. But when I was introduced to everyone in Van #2, she was the most reserved, until the f-bombs started flying (see below, “greatest run,”). It got me thinking about the quiet person in the room that probably has way more to say if everyone would just simma-down-nah. Or, for those Simpsons aficionados, the little Yakuza guy.

Before I get any more virtuous (oh my lord), let’s talk about Kennedy. I joined Kennedy’s Hood to Coast team this year (Van 2 what), and was immediately intrigued by her soft-spoken manner, especially in light of the overall high-energy in the van. There is a LOT going on when it comes to H2C, so I definitely commiserate with a potentially-quieter personality in this situation, but I was also very appreciative of the balance she brought to the intense day. And when she opened up, both in her insanely talented running, and in her enthusiasm (THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME!!!), it was pure magic. 

That said, here we are with Kennedy Nickerson. I guess I’ll just say, “you’re welcome.” 

Leggggs: Kennedy – Hello and thank you so so much for being a part of this. Stoked to have you. Starting at the top, as we do: Who are ya? Where can we find you? What do you do? All that goodness.

Kennedy Nickerson: I am Kennedy Nickerson, @nickerkenn1 on Instagram, Kennedy Nickerson on Strava! I am a Director at the clean energy and climate policy firm, Boundary Stone Partners, in DC largely working with clean energy companies on finding ways to leverage the government to achieve their goals (and hopefully end climate change). 

Leggggs: That sounds wildly important. Good on you for being part of a good mission. And speaking of a good mission, what’s yours? A personal mission…

KN: I don’t know if I have a personal mission, but I love being a ‘yes’ person and I think that’s a huge part of who I am and how I’ve gotten to where I am in life. All of the last minute opportunities I’ve said ‘yes’ to have been some of the best experiences I’ve had so far in life… ‘Yes’ to getting a Master’s degree when I had to quit soccer my senior year because of injuries, ‘Yes’ to moving to DC from Boston on a whim to work at DOE, ‘Yes’ to adopting my dog Meatball the day I met him, ‘Yes’ to running Hood to Coast two months out from the race date, etc.

Leggggs: I was right-now-years-old when I realized you only accepted that Hood to Coast invite somewhat last minute. Figured you were along for the ride since the start! Yes is so fucking powerful but way harder to put into action. So, again, good on ya.
And now for an incredible segue, being a yes person had to mean saying yes to running at some point. When did you first get into running? Why?

KN: Not to be dramatic, but running used to make me cry. I played D1 soccer in college and, for events that I won’t rehash here, just seeing a track would make me feel nauseous. I was also injured multiple times during my career and, as I was coming back from my last one, my coach at the time told me that I just shouldn’t bother anymore and that I’d never be able to play (or run) at a high level ever again. What maybe he saw as ass-backward motivation was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me not run again until 2020. 

Leggggs: That’s pretty powerful, Kennedy. Not being sarcastic at all. To go from “makes me cry” to making a mess of the Hood to Coast course…. I hope that coach is now sitting at home crying about how wrong he was, ass-backward motivation or not.

KN: Then I met Trevor, who LOVES running and it took me a while to get it but when you see someone you love loving something so much, it makes you want to love it too. So he helped me get past those mental barriers and find the joy in running again. I also met some other amazing people through running (shoutout @ne_trackclub and @dojoofpain), which reinforced the idea that running is fun even more, and here I am about a year later and just ran my first marathon and had a smile on my face the entire time!

Leggggs: That’s incredible. Truly. And we’re going to have more on Trevor in a future Conversational Pace, so thank you for priming the pump there.
So now that you’re up and… running… (oof), what type of run gets you out the door fastest? Fave run essentially…

KN: This most definitely is a hot take, but Friday morning long runs have become my favorite runs (shoutout to my DC Girl Gang). Yeah, we have to wake up at 4:30 to get 20 miles in before a work call at 9:30, but there’s something oddly satisfying about being that productive on a Friday and then having the whole weekend to sleep and eat and recover. I also really just enjoy any run that involves gossiping with friends… I learn a lot on those runs!

Leggggs: That is ambition. And I love it. So then if that’s your fave type of run, what has been you favorite run in general?

KN: I’ve only been running seriously for about a year, but I find it extremely hard to believe that any run will ever beat my second leg of Hood To Coast this year. The air was crisp, I was chasing people down in pitch black darkness with a headlamp on just listening to the sound of my feet and breathing. It was the middle of the night, my second leg, and there was over 600 ft of elevation gain over 6 miles, and I just remember getting into the van afterwards (far earlier than anyone expected me to finish, by the way) and saying “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME!!!” Probably my first official runner’s high.

Leggggs: I remember that so vividly. In the van, we were driving up those hills going, “This is fucking crazy. This sucks. WHAT ANOTHER HILL C’MON….” But when we passed you in the van, your stride and face told another story: Just sheer confidence and determination, mixed with a bit of excitement and intrigue. It was awesome to watch. Then you crossed the finish line… Man, I got goosebumps just thinking about that. Good shit.
We can live on this high for a second longer, but I do want to ask about maybe the worst run of your career thus far.

KN: This is where I’ll tap into my college soccer days, I guess… The worst one was probably the day after we lost a game we shouldn’t have lost and our coach had us come in the next morning to do full-field suicides for 90 minutes. Teammates were puking and crying left and right… and then I woke up the next day and my shin really hurt. After two weeks of playing through some of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt, I got an x-ray and it came back that my shin was broken. 

On the bright side, I now have an intense appreciation for being healthy and able to run with no pain!

I now have an intense appreciation for being healthy and able to run with no pain!

Leggggs: WHAT IS WITH THESE COACHES? I get motivation, but… Two weeks with a broken shin? How were you not keeling over every step? Hats off to you, Kennedy.
Shifting gears a bit, what is some running gear you can’t live without?

KN: I am obsessed with my Saucony Endorphin Speeds. My ride or die trainers! Also, merino wool in the winter. It’s the only option.

Leggggs: And continuing, what are your go-to shoes for trail/road/race, etc?

KN: Saucony Endorphin Speeds, obviously, for all of the above. Though I love the Endorphin Pros too, and I’m a big fan of the Nike Alphaflys for racing. 

Leggggs: Noticed we had matching Alphaflys on Hood to Coast. High five. So, when things are getting real during a run, what’s a quote or something you tell yourself to keep you going?

KN: I think all I said to myself during the Chicago marathon when it got hard was “COME ON, KENNEDY, COME ON” over and over. It worked! 

Leggggs: Love that simple power of self-motivation. And there’s something about saying your own name over, “Me, I” and the like. 3rd person for the win.
Here’s the lighting rod (which again really isnt, but I have opinions): Headphones or no headphones when running?

KN: Typically I go no headphones. Like my race shoes, I like saving my music for when I really need a boost. Plus I mostly run with friends and we constantly chat on our runs, and, to echo Xavier, it’s really weird to run with other people while wearing headphones??? 

Leggggs: That is such a weird phenomenon. But, because music is such a vital part of life, what are your go-to pump-up jams?

KN: My Body by Young the Giant is the best song IMO for when you’re starting to hit a mental wall and need an extra push.

Leggggs: Alright. It has been added to the Conversational Pace playlist. Thanks for the rec!
Shifting back to motivation, what gets you going when you really don’t feel like running?

KN: This depends… Part of healing my relationship with running was allowing myself to take days off without feeling guilty. But I also set really high expectations and goals for myself that require planning and consistency. So I made a deal with myself that I would at least get one speed workout and one long run in each week, and whatever easy runs I could throw in the middle were just gravy!

Leggggs: That self-discipline is amazing. I suffer from the same guilt of taking days off. Strava notifcations makes it harder. I love this approach though. Might cop it.
Where. doyou hope you get to run someday?

KN: I’d love to get into trail running I think, but that’s not possible in DC so I would definitely have to travel for it. Send recs! 

Leggggs: Come back to Portland and stay longer this time. Bring the Dojo, even. I can get us to Forest Parkin about 10 minutes from my front door, and it’s easy to spend an entire day getting lost in there.

KN: Also, the NYC marathon. Other than the obvious reasons of it being an iconic and electric race, both of my parents have run it and I want them to see me run it too.

Leggggs: Hell yes. Maybe this next year?
What no-bullshit advice woudl you give to someone that is looking to get into running?

KN: Start slow and don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison really is the thief of joy and I think that’s most true with running.

Leggggs: Thief of joy. I have to work that into the title of this thing somehow. Well put.
Who do you have to thank for where you are in your running journey?

KN: I am SO thankful for my incredibly supportive parents, Trevor, Northeast Track Club and the Dojo of Pain, and of course my DC Girl Gang!

Leggggs: What races do you have lined up, or on the radar?

KN: I’m planning to focus on the half marathon distance in Spring 2023 followed by the Berlin marathon in the Fall, then Boston in the Spring of 2024 thanks to my Chicago BQ! Hopefully another Hood to Coast in there, and ultimately the NYC marathon at some point.

Leggggs: I’m in the Berlin lottery, so maybe we’ll run there together. That seems so amazing.
Finally, anything else you’d like to mention? The floor is yours:

KN: Vote this November!!!!!

Leggggs: Boom.

A huge thank you to Kennedy for chatting with me today. So many good reminders in here, as well as relatable moments. That guilt of not running everyday… that’s real. And I am glad to know I am not the only one. Be sure to give Kennedy a follow on IG and Strava to stay up to date with her journey.

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