Name: Alison Gittelman

Age: 37

Location: Virginia

Years Running: 26 (except for a 2 year hiatus when, burned out from college running and disillusioned from a series of DNFs and DNSs, I quit and joined the non-varsity sailing team…)
PRs: 5K – 21:17, 10K – 44:28, 10 mile – 1:15, Half Marathon – 1:42, Marathon – 3:44

Favorite Race Distance: Don’t have one…I like to race all distances.

Favorite Race: Greasy Gooney 10K – 3 miles uphill, 3 miles downhill! Race director Karsten Brown puts on some of the best races in the area. There are no frills; it’s all about running. My favorite races are those that offer some type of challenge. I’ll choose a race with a killer hill in the middle over a flat one any day.

Favorite Pre-Race Food: Oatmeal

How did you get into running: School coaches “discovered” my ability during the dreaded cross-country run. They made me run the boys’ (longer) course because I was so fast. I was fast because I wanted to get it over with and get back to the showers while they were still hot. Eventually I fell in love with cross-country running, joined a club (in England high school sports are not practiced to a very high level so you join a club if you show any ability) and started racing in leagues. As I lived in southern England, many of our cross-country events were in France so I spent most weekends crossing the channel to race through farmland in Normandy and eat lots of cheese. Over 25 years later, I still love cross-country running (and France and cheese!) and prefer it to the track or road.

How do you find/make time to train with kids: There will always be something that threatens to get in the way of your training…kids, work, travel, etc. Even before I had kids I had trouble fitting training in around my work and grad school schedules. The key is to find a way around the obstacles, and not allow the obstacles to become your excuse. When my kids were younger I ran with a baby jogger. A few years later I ran while my younger son rode his bike, although keeping up with him on downhills proved challenging! Now I run while they’re in school, or early in the morning before my husband goes to work.

You are the president of South Riding Running Club, tell us a little bit about the club: The aim of any club is to join together people who have a common interest. SRRC makes running a social event. We have runners of all levels and abilities, from those who are training for their first race to those who have run multiple marathons and ultramarathons. It’s not a group of super-fast, serious runners, although I’m aware that we’re sometimes perceived that way. As president of the club I encourage people to come out, find people who run their pace, and then stay in contact with those people so they always have running buddies. I’ve been a member of the club for 6 years and president for 3, and I’ve enjoyed watching and being a part of its growth.

Advice for someone who is interested in getting into trail running: Take it slow and easy. Trail running is not as fast as road running, and your pace will vary tremendously based on terrain, obstacles such as rocks and streams, hills, etc. Use your Garmin for mileage, not pace. A lot of people worry that they will sprain or break an ankle running cross-country. While I can’t say you won’t (I broke my ankle running a cross-country race in Oxford when I was 19 and had to have surgery on it twice!), what you will do is strengthen your ankles and legs so rolling an ankle is less likely. You don’t necessarily need trail shoes unless the trail is particularly technical and/or muddy. Don’t wear motion control shoes as you do need your feet to move naturally, which motion control shoes prevent. DO enjoy the scenery. One of the wonderful things about trail running is that there’s so much to look at and enjoy that you can forget you’re running…the experience can be transcendental. I don’t think I can say that about the road!

Accomplishment you are most proud of: Qualifying for the English Schools’ National Cross-country Championship in 1991 at age 18. Paula Radcliffe (current Women’s Marathon World-record holder) ran in the same race. She was 2nd; I came in 249th….

Favorite Quote: Focus on the journey, not the destination.


  1. Karen the "Hungry Mom" says:

    great bio on alison! running through france… pretty cool!

  2. Rebecca Samson says:

    I agree with Karen. It's always nice finding out details about the runners you "run" with.

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