Running Strong

Three Dominican Hospital employees share their running stories

Those who run will tell you, it’s about more than just fitness. For many, running is an emotional, sometimes spiritual, experience. It can bring perspective, catharsis, renewal, and joy. It can trigger powerful transformation, and awaken a strength you never knew you had. It’s like hitting your own personal reset button, creating space for endless possibilities. The best part? All of this is true whether you run alone or with others.

As the presenting sponsor of the She.is.beautiful Santa Cruz 5k and 10K race, Dignity Health Dominican Hospital is proud to support local women on their running journeys. This includes many of our own employees. Recently, Medical/Surgical Nurse Joy Rexford, Oncology Department Services Coordinator Kristen Rice, and Marketing Manager Ally Synstad shared their running stories with us.

Q: How did you get into running?

Joy Rexford: Well, I’m retired military. When I was in the service, it was a job requirement—three times a week, with a physical fitness test every six months.

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Kristen Rice: I got back into running after having major abdominal surgery in 2014. I got a Fitbit and kept track of my steps. I did a ton of walking and hiking, and one day decided to run again. It helped me lose the weight.

Kristen Rice all smiles at a She.is.beautiful race (1)

Ally Synstad: I started running when I was in college at Virginia Tech. I was no longer participating in competitive sports and needed a way to stay in shape. The great thing about running is that you can do it almost anywhere and it costs little to nothing (which was perfect on a college budget). It wasn’t until April 2009 that I participated in my first group event that was timed. It was the “3.2 for 32” race to honor the victims of the April 16 shooting tragedy at the school. The goal of the event wasn’t speed, of course, but remembrance. Still, it was the first time I had been able to run over 3 miles without stopping. At that point I was hooked.

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Q: What are the benefits to you—physically, but also emotionally and psychologically?

JR: The main benefit is it helps me to maintain my weight. I also like to run because it clears my head and makes me feel calm.

KR: Running literally saved my life. I was overweight and depressed after my surgery. When I started running again, I felt this huge weight lifted off my shoulders and felt like a new person. To me, running is 90 percent mental. I’m not going to let anything stop me.

AS: Whenever I am having a bad day, running usually helps me to clear my mind. If nothing else, for those few miles, my mind can only focus on my pace and reaching my goal.

Q: How has it changed your life?

JR: Running can be a solitary or social thing. You feel a kinship with the other runners out running when you are. Running give me strength and endurance.

KR: Running helps me feel balanced and healthy. I set new goals for myself—usually a race to train for. It helps me stay focused and motivated.

AS: I don’t know if running has so much changed my life, as much as enhanced it. I love a variety of different sports, but running offers me something I can take with me anywhere I go. Whether or not I go for a run at home or on vacation, it gives me a different perspective on many different and beautiful places.

Q: What’s your running ritual?

JR: I run two miles on the treadmill two to three times a week. On the weekend, I like to do a 5k, either Saturday or Sunday, or both.

KR: One of my favorite quotes is, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” I have to plan my runs at the beginning of the week and make sure I fit them in with whatever else is going on in my life.

Q: Where are your favorite local places to run?

JR: My favorite place to run is along East Cliff, through the trail by Moran Lake Park and up and around Pleasure Point.

KR: I love running where I live in Capitola Village to the harbor and back along East Cliff. Trail running at Wilder Ranch is another favorite place.

AS: I live over the hill, so I love running the Los Gatos Creek Trail and through all of the beautiful neighborhoods in downtown Los Gatos.

Q: Any advice for others wanting to take up running?

JR: Have good shoes and the necessary running gear. You don’t want to mess up your feet or knees by running in non-running shoes. And us ladies really need to support the things that need support while running! Just get out there and do it—start slow and move to more advanced distances at your own pace.

KR: Start where you are. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, just get out there and move. The hardest step is not just out the door, it’s what you tell yourself.

AS: Remember that it’s not about skill. I am very competitive by nature, but I am not a great runner. So instead of competing against my peers, I compete against myself. Every time I run, I try and beat my previous time for that distance, even if it’s only by a couple of seconds. This helps me prepare for actual races where I set separate goals. I remember running for the first time postpartum. I was only able to run two miles and it was tough. I felt like I was starting over. That first run gave me a benchmark for my one- and two-mile times, and from that point on running became easier. I was able to quickly return to my pre-pregnancy time for a 5K. So between now and March 17, I will be focusing on my 10K time while pushing a stroller (which will be a first 🙂 ).

Q: How long have you been participating in She.is.beautiful, and what does the event mean to you?

JR: This will be my second year doing the She.is.beautiful run. This run and the Wharf to Wharf are my favorites. They are fun to do, and I especially like the focus of the She.is.beautiful run—that every woman is beautiful and can be and do anything she wants. Just get out there, begin, and achieve whatever your greatness is.

KR: I walked the very first She.is.beautiful race with my sister-in-law, niece, and best friend. The good vibes, friendship, motivational signs along the route, cheering each other on, and PINK is what keeps me going back. This will be my fifth She.is.beautiful race. There’s nothing like the power of women coming together!

AS: This is my second time participating in She.is.beautiful. Last year, I was 18 weeks pregnant, had not trained, and received one of my slowest 5K times, and yet I still LOVED experiencing the event. This year, I will be seven months postpartum and I am hoping to run in the stroller division with my little girl. I not only love an excuse to wear pink, but it is such a great opportunity to celebrate fellow women and their journey toward health and happiness. I look forward to making this race a yearly family tradition.

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