Laura Caster: “If I Can Help Even One Child Start a Path to a Healthy and Active Lifestyle, That Is an Incredible Reward”
Each week, we highlight a unique NYRR Team for Kids runner and talk training runs, race-day rituals, and recovery. This week, Californian Laura Caster shares the series of events that helped her turn a dream of 14 years into a reality.
What excites you most about running the TCS New York City Marathon with NYRR Team for Kids?
Being able to see NYC from a perspective that few do is such an incredible experience. The spectators and volunteers are second to none. It is the best block party of the year! Being able to run with Team for Kids makes it even more fun with the support and enthusiasm of the coaches and fellow teammates. Being able to do it for a great cause is icing on the cake.
Where is your favorite place to run and why?
I have a love/hate relationship with running in the tiny mountain town that I live in, but it is hands-down my favorite place to run. Idyllwild is in Southern California at 5,400 feet above sea level. I live slightly above there at 6,000 feet. There are no “flat” areas. Most runs turn into hill workouts, regardless of what was actually called for. It is crazy-tough, but also very beautiful. It is always an adventure when I run. I never know who or what I will see. It may be coyotes running nearby, a neighbor cheering me on, or a jaw-dropping sunset. It is always a challenge, but equally rewarding.
If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
I have an eclectic collection of music that I run with during training, from silly pop songs to loud heavy metal and everything in between. The type of music is usually dictated by the type of run I am doing. I do not listen to music at the New York City Marathon though because I would miss out on all the fun along the way!
What is your favorite post-run meal?
I have a protein shake and banana as soon as I finish a run. After my longer runs, I do treat myself to whatever strikes my mood that day. Pizza and burgers are my favorite meals, but I always sneak in a little ice cream at some point!
When did your relationship with running begin and why?
In 2001, I watched a friend run the LA Marathon. The excitement of the race was contagious. Although I did not run at all, I decided right then that I would run it the next year...and I did! I quickly swore I would never run another one though. Later that year, I saw the New York City Marathon on TV. Watching the runners cross the Verrazano gave me chills and I knew that I needed to run this race…someday.
I stopped running in 2003. I battled with knee issues, health issues, a challenging pregnancy, and a lot of weight gain. Then I had a fall on my “good” knee, which made me even more sedentary.
Fast-forward to 2015 when we adopted Ella, our blind dog. Because of her disability, I had to take her out for walks several times a day. Little by little, I lost some weight and my knee grew stronger. I was no longer terrified that I would fall from my knee giving out.
In January 2016, a friend asked me if there was anything on my “someday” list and why “someday” hadn’t happened yet. The answer was easy—the New York City Marathon was still a dream, but the question was if I could make it a reality. I knew the first thing I needed to do was lose more weight and then I would try a short run. I knew that if I could run one mile without knee pain that I could finish the New York City Marathon in November. In March, I hyperventilated my way through one agonizing mile. I was horribly slow, but I had no pain (other than my lungs). I felt like I was at the edge of a cliff. I immediately jumped and nine months of training later, my dream of 14 years finally became a reality. Coming back to running was so empowering for me.
Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions? If so, please explain.
The night before a race, I get everything organized. I carefully lay everything out to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything and I snap a “Flat Laura” pic. Because I always travel with my family, I am usually wrestling with my son to go to sleep so that I can try to get some sleep.
Why did you choose to run with Team for Kids?
Going through my own battles of inactivity and being overweight was very difficult for me. Without a few key events happening, I may still be right where I was. It was very challenging to get myself back to a healthy lifestyle. Sports have made intermittent appearances throughout my life, but I now feel like running is something that I want to do as long as I am able. I feel fortunate that I have made it part of my lifestyle now. It is so wonderful when a child can find that passion and allow it to carry them through to adulthood. If I can play a small role in helping even one child start a path to a healthy and active lifestyle, that is an incredible reward. Being a mother now, I realize how critical it is get kids started on the right foot.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I am the wife of an amazing and supportive husband and mother to a rambunctious 6-year-old son. I also work full-time as the controller for Skydive Perris. Although I have made about 500 skydives, I have not jumped in about 16 years. I stay super busy between family life, work, and training, but I know if I wasn’t this busy, I would probably be bored.
To learn more about NYRR Team for Kids, visit runwithtfk.org.