The Last Tenth with Coach Pilar

Mid Strike Magazine Podcast feature

This months Podcast feature highlights The Last Tenth with Pilar Arthur-Snead. A runner and run coach based in Albany, NY. The Last Tenth is a podcast about everyday runners who are in some way or another doing extraordinary things. Pilar took some time to give us some insight into her podcast. Lets get to know Pilar and the Last Tenth a bit more.

The Last Tenth serves as a metaphor for the most demanding aspects of life we may face. Our obstacles can either hinder our progress or spurn us forward to greater than previously imaginable heights. In races, that last .10/tenth of mile in a race is often the hardest part of the race, as we are so close to the finish line and yet may feel so very far away from it. I view the podcast as a podcast about life and running…or life as a runner. Each week, I invite guests, coaches and runners from all backgrounds and from around the world, to share their tips for pushing through to the next level not only in the practice of running but in the practice of life!!! Many of the guests I’ve had on the show have overcome significant challenges either before entering the sport of running or have encountered seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way.

Finally, where I live in Upstate NY, the sport of running is visibly white and male. Of course, we have a Black Girls Run chapter, but I felt like the stories, the voice, the perspective of being a black female runner was predominantly absent, not just in my hometown but in the sport in general. And with that I set out to create a space that highlights a variety of runners’ stories, particularly women of color, disabled and LGBTQIA+ runners. Another important part of the podcast is that I speak to everyday runners. I felt like the challenges and obstacles we each face in our lives just to get to race day were just as important as those faced by elite competitive racers, perhaps even more so. Because, these are the folks we interface with at road races and on the trails and perhaps our stories can inspire someone who sees a little bit of themselves in us.

MSM: 2019 was a pretty insane year for you when it came to running. You’ve ran between 25 – 30 races. How was that experience and what led to you actually doing all those races? That’s pretty intense. 

Pilar: Yes, 2019 was a bit of a crazy year race wise. Essentially, I was lucky. Ultimately, as far as marathons are concerned, I am working on completing the World Marathon Majors. As you know you have to enter lotteries for many races the year before you actually do them. So, in September or October the lottery for the BMW Berlin Marathon took place after submitting you found out in December. You also had to submit for the the Chicago Marathon lottery in early December. It’s my favorite race so I had to put in for it. Eventually I found out that I didn’t get into Berlin but a great company called FIT International had a very reasonably priced tour package for guaranteed entry into Berlin…no brainer. Afterwords I found out about Chicago and later in spring of 2019, I thought why not sign up for the NYC Virtual Marathon. Hence, three marathons within 5 weeks.  Following that I won an entry to the United Airlines Half in March. I also got into the Brooklyn Half and the Cherry Blossom 10 miler via the Lottery. Other races I already registered for or when I was training for the marathons it worked out that the distance fit into my training plan. 

In the spring I ran 4 half marathons (United Airlines, Helderberg to Hudson, Brooklyn and Buffalo). That fall, I ran three marathons (Berlin, Chicago, and NYC Virtual). By the end of the year, my body was ready for some rest. I enjoyed the travel aspect of doing all those races, though. I don’t think there is a better way to see the world around you than through a road race.

MSM: You’re also a personal trainer and a certified run coach what were some of the things that led you on that path?

Pilar: My husband and I started the fitness journey together. My husband likes to go all in, all fast but I knew if I wanted to build a habit I’d need a little more of a tempered approach, so we hired a coach to get us started. Of course, at the time I could barely make it around a track without feeling like I was literally dying! At some point during training, my coach said to me that one day I’d be running half marathons and marathons. Seriously, I couldn’t fathom a day when I might actually be able to make it around that damn track!!

After the first 5k, and getting across that finish line, the feeling of accomplishment I had was like nothing I had ever experienced before and I started to wonder, maybe I could run a half marathon or maybe even a marathon, who knew unless I tried! So in 2016, I ran my first half just one year after the first 5k and haven’t looked back since.

In 2018, I became an RRCA Certified Coach (Level 1) because what my coach did for me — inspire and challenge me beyond my wildest thought of my own capability — I wanted to be able to pass that along to others! My goal is to empower and inspire highly motivated change-seekers to move their bodies and strengthen their minds. I just recently finished my Certified Personal Trainer Certification with ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association). I am working on my Level 2 Coaching Certification and 4 other specializations with my Personal Training. I am a lifelong learner, so for me learning about all the ways I can best help myself and all the athletes I serve is a no brainer.

MSM: I see that you also train mobile/wheelchair runners. I’m sure that’s a totally different process of training mentally and of course physically for those you train. Can you give us some insight into how that process is?

Pilar: Truly, the process is for a wheelchair runner and a runner using their legs is not any different. Everything that’s important for a runner using their legs is important for a runner using a wheelchair as well: form, proper pacing, core strength, and nutrition. A wheelchair runner needs a variety of workouts in the same way a runner who uses their legs does: track or speed workouts, tempo runs, hill workouts, long runs etc. The primary difference is that a wheelchair runner is using their arms to propel themselves forward. So their strength workouts are going to focus on upper body movements and chair seated workouts as opposed to workouts where one uses their legs. No matter how a runner gets to the finish line, by use of their legs or by use of a wheelchair the most important thing is commitment and consistency. You have to build a solid running practice in order to make progress in the endeavor.

MSM: For most of us running is considered a hobby but i’ve seen you’re also an Artist and Gallerist. What are some of your favorite artists?  

Pilar: In 2009, I went to graduate school and got my Master’s of Fine Art in Photography. I worked as an event and portrait photographer during this time as well. My artist work has been shown in Chicago, L.A. and around my home town of Albany, NY. Most recently my work was included as part of an ongoing outdoor exhibition, one of my photographs is on the side of a building. Whoa! But, I have made the transition to podcasting and this realm of fitness and running. 11 years is a long time and I needed a change.Artists/Photographers that have inspired me are Carrie Mae Weems, Susan Kae Grant, Stephen Shore, Eugéne Atget, Clarence John Laughlin. There are really way too many photographers and artists for me to name that have influenced my personal work and artistic thought processes.  

MSM: What can our readers look out for from The Last Tenth?

Pilar: I just started recording the second season of the show. Each season has 20 episodes. For the first part of Season 2, I am focusing on the intersection of running, politics and what it means to be a person of color in the running community. I just wrapped a show with Ben Chan, an Ultra runner and Black Lives Matter activist within that space. I’m currently chatting with Run 4 All Women, Latinas Running Founder, a runner out of California who has been running for Breonna Taylor since July (Nicol Hodges) and so much more. Then I want to talk with folks about body positivity and some issues like that. Finally, I truly enjoy hearing about runners’ stories and find a great deal of inspiration in hearing about folks journeys in running. Lots to look forward to.

MSM: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Pilar: Thanks for the opportunity to share a little bit about myself and my journey in running. I share a bit more on Episode Bonus S1. I am grateful to all those who have tuned in so far.  And I look forward to meeting any new listeners in the future! Thank you so much!!!

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