Growing up as a skier, O’Donnell dreaded the training days when her high school coach ordered the team to spend the day at the track instead of the slopes. It wasn’t until she moved to Colorado after college that she decided to give running a chance. O’Donnell trained for her first marathon as a way to cope with working-world anxiety. Though the race proved challenging, it was the adrenaline rush and boost in confidence that transformed her into a lifelong runner. Always focusing on the fun, the 39-year-old and her best friend, Julie Knapp, bought a business called Tough Girl Tutus to celebrate women runners. Here are her race recommendations along with tips for ensuring a good time!
I love running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver event, so I can only imagine that Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago offers an equally awesome party. Since I briefly lived in the Chicago area, I have good memories running the Lake Michigan shoreline. Reliving that time in a race format while jamming to the on-course bands sounds like a perfect day of fun!
July 16–17; Chicago, IL | runrocknroll.com
Every couple of years, I get together with my college buddies to run the Hood to Coast Relay. There’s no better way to catch up with girlfriends or even make new ones than to run 198 miles in 24 hours. When you are sweating together, freezing, laughing, hurting and smelling up the van with stinky socks, you really get to know your teammates! If you need to find runners, ask a race director or a local running club for recruits.
Aug. 26–27; Mt. Hood to Seaside, OR | hoodtocoastrelay.com
The Bay to Breakers 12K is on my race wish list. As a kid, I remember thinking my dad was so cool for sporting his faded yellow Bay to Breakers race shirt. This race has a goofy vibe—perfect for those of us who like to dress up!
May 2017; San Francisco, CA | zapposbaytobreakers.com
Busy moms will love the online Train Like a Mother Race Challenge Series. As a new mom myself, I enjoy the connected community. It’s a good way to get support, share some laughs and talk with cool moms from all over. This series gives moms the flexibility of running at any location with the same satisfaction and accolades of finishing an on-site race.
Anytime & Anywhere | trainlikeamother.club
RELATED: Can You Truly Just Race For Fun?
I have a Tough Mudder race on my bucket list. It requires focused training that ends in a sense of accomplishment. Although the concept of running from obstacle to obstacle sounds challenging, this would be another fun event with friends. After all, what’s better than telling race-day stories of triumph with your besties at a post-run brunch?
Multiple dates & Locations | toughmudder.com
Of course I always recommend running in a tutu. My partner and I purchased Tough Girl Tutus (toughgirltutus.com), because we wanted to support active women who want to run for fun. We love the juxtaposition of strong women wearing tutus. Though some might think tutus are only for little girls, our skirts are designed to be comfy and cute for women who like to run. And even if tutus aren’t your thing, choose anything you can think of that will help you take yourself less seriously.
Share the Love
On race days, give spectators a high-five. Cheer for fellow racers to boost your mood as well as theirs. Stop at all the aid stations to refuel and thank volunteers. Strike up a conversation with someone running next to you. This way, you can make new friends on the course and then congratulate them in the finish area!
Kick your excitement up a notch by raising money for a cause you care about. It doesn’t matter how fast you run—by doing something for others, you’ll feel great all the way to the finish.
Consider joining a running group for support. Check local running stores for free, weekly fun runs—they are a great place to meet people and even enjoy a beer at a nearby pub afterward. Miles always seem shorter when you’re running and chatting with a buddy.