The Finish Line with Alison Staples

By Kimberley (Str8Kim) Williams

KIm: Tell us about your running journey, why you started running and what made you get into this sport?

Alison: I hated running. I used the elliptical 3x per week and that was it. In 2008, my job put together a charity team for the Baltimore running festival. One of my coworkers/friends ran marathons and I vividly remember teasing her about it, because she was the only black woman I knew who ran races. She was always trying to get me to run and my thoughts were this isn’t for me, black women don’t do this etc. I agreed to sign up for the half marathon as she wouldn’t let me sign up anything shorter. The Baltimore half marathon was my first race and I ran in a pair of Air Max fresh out the box because it matched the race shirt, which I wore on race day. That day changed my perception of the run community. I saw so many different types of people at the start line. Big, small, fast, slow, it didn’t matter, we were all running. There weren’t many black people, but it was encouraging seeing a few sprinkled throughout the course. I only “trained” up to 8 miles and at mile 7 of the race my ITBand popped, and I hobbled the rest of the way to the finish line. Although painful, finishing my first race gave me a huge sense of accomplishment I had never felt before.

KIm: How many marathons have you ran since the first? I see you have a few marathon majors under your belt.

Alison: A few, NYC, Chicago, Marine Corps, Nashville, Baltimore & Richmond Marathon.

Kim: I think you’re the second person to say your first race was a half marathon and a fellow runner Ron Joseph also mentioned his first run was in a pair of air max. So you are from the Baltimore area, did you grow up there?

Alison: I’ve been here all my life except for the years I went to undergrad. 

Kim: In the Baltimore area are there a lot of run crews out there?

The Riot Squad Run Crew

Alison: There are many run crews that are popping up. I am with Riot Squad Running, when we started in 2015 there were about 3 other run groups in the Baltimore area that I knew of. 

Kim: How big is your run crew, Is it predominantly black?

Alison: It’s predominantly black group, although we welcome anyone. We run Sunday, Tuesday and pre-covid on Wednesdays. Currently, we have about 20-25 runners that will come out on Sunday, which is our largest group run. Overall, we have about 70 runners that are part of the group.

Kim: How has the group adjusted during Covid, are you guys still meeting?

Alison: We just started meeting this week as the governor has lifted restrictions to 25 people so we’re right under it, but before then we haven’t met since March. We’ve been doing a lot of things virtually. Last month we did a “Pass the Torch” challenge where some of the members took turns doing the IG story for the day. We’ve also done virtual yoga, and had a virtual discussion with a professional counselor to discuss how to emotionally and physically process Covid. We’ve tried to stay engaged as much as possible.

KIm: How have you adjusted your running and working out during Covid?

Alison: Who says I’m adjusted lol?? In March I said this was great, more time to workout, but then it got to the point where it was hard for me to have a routine while not at work. I am an “at work person.”  I don’t do well with sending off emails while running the dishwasher, because then I can’t decide on sending off another email or putting away the dishes. I kind of muddled through March and April, but in May one of my Instagram friends and I held each other accountable for 120 miles. In June I fell back a little, then in July, I “ramped” it up to 150 miles. I’m not sure what my total mileage is for August, I’ve done quite a few timed, watch-less runs. I’ve enjoyed the switch back to timed runs as a mental break from “mileage” and I’ve used my free weights at home more these past few months than I’ve used in the yeas I’ve had them. I think it’s important to give ourselves grace. We aren’t only dealing with Covid, we’re living in a time were racial injustice is more blatant, and it can all be overwhelming at times. Sometimes just getting out the door is hard. 

Kim: How long have you been a physical therapist?

Alison:  PT is a second career for me. I’m a Physical Therapist Assistant. I don’t do evals, or discharges, but carry out the plan of care. The ROI on a DPT program was too costly. My first career path was in HR, but I realized two years in, it wasn’t going to be fulfilling. I had a come to Jesus moment and was undecided between nursing and PT, but ultimately made the decision for PT.  I started off as a volunteer at the job I’m with now, and worked while going to school. I’ve been a PTA since 2012.  

Kim: What kind of patients do you work with?

Alison: I work with patients with neurological conditions, the majority being Spinal Cord Injuries and Multiple Sclerosis. All of my patients have at least one extremity affected by paralysis, whether it be from a diving accident, or an autoimmune trigger. Working with this population, has changed my entire perspective on life. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. Physical movement really is a gift not to be taken for granted.

Kim: With a job like that how are you doing this at home?

Alison:  I see most of my patients via a secure website. Telehealth is kind of cool because there are things that can’t be replicated in clinic. Bed mobility is huge for patients with paralysis. My patients don’t have the luxury of just getting up and getting dressed. It takes an extremely long time as opposed to able body people that can just pop up.  In treating my patients at home, I get to see things such as how high my patient’s bed is, what their mattress looks like or how the bathroom is situated so I can help them figure out how to stand and brush their teeth at the same time.

Kim: How does physical therapy help you with your running or does it hinder you because you push yourself much harder than what you should?

Alison: Not a hinder at all. I think I see running a little differently than most people. Being a runner with no physical limitations, to working with patients with many physical impairments, I have a wide spectrum of viewpoint on physical movement. Being able to move and run is a gift, there is no such thing as a bad run. I always think about my patients on long runs and race day. Some of my patients can only move their heads, but they show up everyday to therapy with the resiliency and tenacity to work hard to get better. They’ve taught me more about life than I could ever teach them. I have a joke with my patients about being a runner first, so don’t do what I do lol. I’ll run with twinges of pain I know I shouldn’t run with, but I also know how to fix myself before I go too far off the deep end. I had a high hamstring strain about 6 months, but I did that to myself, tripping over a tree branch. I did a good job at rehabbing it if I do say so myself lol.

Kim: You are an ambassador for UA Running, how did you get involved with Under Armor and what does brand ambassador entail?

Alison: UA is based in Baltimore. We’ve had a relationship with them for about 4 years. Their marketing rep contacted us via DM in 2016 and asked to run with us. We maintained a casual relationship, and officially signed on in October of 2019. Being a brand ambassador, essentially entails building our community and having Under Armour’s backing whether it be financially supporting events, providing gear, etc…It’s been a great experience thus far.

Kim: I don’t really see anyone running in Under Armor sneakers, can you give us an idea what a shoe actually feels like?

Alison: Oh the shade lol. The shoes have gotten much better over time. I love their hov’r technology. Its cushioned but is still ground reactive.  I’ve never had a problem with UA shoes; however, I don’t need much stability. I’m a neutral rider. 

Kim: Is there a shoe for neutral runners that you recommend?

Alison: I love the velocities. They are a good tempo up to 10 mile shoe. 

Kim: Anything else you would like to add or final thoughts?

Alison: We needed this magazine. Thank you for creating a dope and sincere space for our voices.

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