Finding Inspiration Together with...Kirsten Mengden, Operating Partner, Fleet Feet San Antonio
To say that trail runner Kirsten Mengden has hit her stride in her 40s both on and off the beaten path would be an understatement. Recently promoted to Operating Partner at Fleet Feet, 46-year-old Kirsten oversees the daily operations of all three San Antonio locations, customizing each store to meet that area’s demographic trends. Although she’s been a runner since her mid-twenties, Kirsten didn’t discover trail running until her early 40s, competing in her first Big Bend Ultra 50K at the age of 42. So how does the pixie-ish blonde manage the demands of work, training, and being a single mom to two teens? Just like she runs, putting one foot in front of the other, blocking out distractions, and moving forward.
Growing up, you were into volleyball and dance team. How did you get into running as an adult?
Honestly, I got into it around the age of 27 for stress relief. I had a friend who set a goal of running a 5K every month, so I started with that. Several years later I trained for my first San Antonio Rock and Roll Half-Marathon, but I didn’t really know what I was doing and I injured myself and couldn’t race. The following year I trained with Fleet Feet and did much better. Today, I’ve done five marathons, several halves, and I’m currently training for the LA marathon.
You also completed the Big Bend Ultra 50K. What is the difference in road and trail running?
Yes, I did the Big Bend Ultra at the age of 42. It took me 6.5 hours and I got lost and accidentally did 32 miles instead of 31. You really have to pay attention out there! You also have to shift your mindset because typically you can’t run as fast on trails due to the roots, rocks, and other obstacles on the path. There is usually more elevation in trail running, and there isn’t the ease of access to water and pit stops so you have to be prepared for that and plan accordingly.
How do you prepare and plan for something like that?
First, you have to have the right shoes. Trail running shoes have a carbon fiber rock plate to protect the foot from sharp rocks or cactus coming through. They also grip more safely than running shoes, while still offering running support. Road shoes will wear out a lot faster on a trail. You also need a hydration belt or vest. I like vests because it holds your hydration, nutrition and other small necessities like extra sunblock or your phone. Some even have a pouch for a light jacket.
Which do you prefer, trail or road?
I prefer trail. It’s more technical and it’s harder effort-wise, but it’s more scenic and more relaxing because you are focused on being out in the woods and in nature rather than on just the run itself. But whether I’m on the road or on a trail, I love being outside period. It gives me time to get out and clear my head.
What other sports or fitness activities do you participate in?
I do a lot of yoga and kickboxing. Yoga ties in nicely to running because you get so tight when you run all the time, it’s nice to stretch it out. Strength training is really important for runners, and I strength train at least three times per week. Most injuries for runners occur because of weak glutes and tight hips. You have to make sure your glutes and core are strong. I also foam roll regularly.
How do you manage to train, oversee three stores, and parent two teens?
The trick is to schedule time for yourself just like you would anything else. Sometimes it’s at 5 a.m. and sometimes it’s at 8 p.m. Prioritizing tasks is a really big one too. I am reading a book called “Indistractable,” right now and it talks about “time boxing.” You are able to focus more when you designate blocks of time to a specific task and shut off distracting things like your phone or watch. I’m working on this one.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start running?
First, start easy and get fitted for proper footwear and (for ladies) proper sports bras. The right shoes and gear can make all the difference in your enjoyment of the sport. Next, focus on the community aspect of it. I am not a competitive person so for me I enjoy the way it brings people together. Remember, pretty much anybody can run and it can change your day, your week, and your life if you let it.