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Big Leaps Lead to Big Dreams for Hungry Runner Girl

Janae Baron, one year after breaking 3 hours in the marathon for the first time, will shoot for an Olympic trials qualifier of 2:45 at the California International Marathon on December 8.

Janae Baron, better known as “Hungry Runner Girl,” is a 2:49 marathoner and popular blogger. Her relateability, genuineness and willingness to share her story daily has captivated many.

Baron, a mother of three, is hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. This is a dream for many, but for Janae, it’s a new one. While she ran a 3:04 marathon 9 years ago, she didn’t break 3 hours until just last year at the St. George Marathon, her favorite marathon near her home in Utah. Running 2:59, she was excited with her new PR, one she had worked hard for. She felt like that would satisfy her appetite for the marathon.

Content with finally breaking 3 hours, she prepared for a 50 mile trail race, but after successfully competing and completing her first ultra, her heart drew her back to the roads. A neighbor also inspired her to dream bigger. “She was telling me her dreams and it was so contagious,” Baraon says. “Being around a dreamer helped me to dream.”

Coaching and Companionship

Joining a local elite running group, Runner’s Corner Elite and having coach Hawk Harper direct her training helped Baron not just dream bigger, but also to run faster. Harper owns Runner’s Corner and has a wealth of experience in the sport; his son, Golden, is the founder of ALTRA shoes.

But it wasn’t just the coaching that boosted Baron’s training. “The group I started training with—they are all moms or in school,” she says. “They have other things going on while training for big goals.” Seeing other moms run fast gave her inspiration that she could do the same.

Adding training partners also helped her leaps and bounds. “You run so much faster with other people there,” she says. “Having someone 20 feet ahead of you to try and catch…helps a lot.” As her workouts got quicker, she noticed her ever improving fitness and speed.

This year, she clocked 2:49 at the St. George Marathon, cutting another 9 minutes and 55 seconds off her previous huge PR. Instead of contentment, however, finishing this marathon inspired bigger dreams. Briefly after finishing, she announced her goal of running under 2:45 at the 2019 California International Marathon, which was just 2 months away.

Chasing Potential and Embracing Pain

Baron says not much has changed now that she’s pushing on elite status, mostly her mindset. “I’ve always focused on physical training, but to make the big jumps… it’s the mindset of knowing there’s more in there,” she says. “It’s amazing how positive thoughts have helped me make big jumps.” She says this mental shift has helped her change perspective and run faster: “I’m more excited to discover what my potential is. Now I feel this drive to keep going and keep seeing what’s next instead of placing worth on a number.” She has been inspired by Deena Kastor’s book, Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory.

Her advice: “Expect the pain: if we expect it, we better deal with it rather than expect it to feel magical on race day. We can’t always control the first thoughts that pop into our heads, but we can control them after that. We can choose to stop thinking negative thoughts and replace them with positive.”

Challenge Runs, Carbs and Shut-Eye

Baron credits ultra training with building her endurance, as well as lots of mileage on the trails. One of the key workout coach Hawk gives her he calls “challenge runs.” These are long recovery runs on trails with lots of vertical gain the day after a hard speed workout.

“The back to back speed run then a ‘challenge’ run has helped me take things to the next level,” Baron says. The challenge runs were different every time, venturing onto new trails. “The more time we are on the trails, the more time we aid in recovery and injury prevention,” Baron says, noting that running on dirt had never been a priority before.

Nutrition has also played a part in Janae’s success. Baron attempted carb depletion for a couple of days before the week of the marathon for the first time this year and says she never hit the wall. While she says “it could all be placebo effect,” she attributes some of her success to carb manipulating and says she would do it again, as much as she loves carbs. She also has been using UCAN in her training and plans to use it at CIM.

While her nutrition hasn’t changed significantly over the past couple of years, she’s made an effort to cook more at home. “There’s probably more work in that regards,” she says. “Some days I’m just eating mac and cheese with the kids.” Her favorite pre-race meal? Spaghetti with marina, bread, and grilled chicken. She laughs, “Lots of carbs.”

Baron also attributes success to sleep. She notes listening to her body and getting more sleep has greatly improved her running. “I’m lucky because my kids sleep a lot and go to bed early,” she says. “It would be a lot harder if I didn’t have sleepers. They are sleeping 12 hours a night. For me, I can put the kids to bed, then I can put myself to sleep and get 8 1/2-9 hours. It’s hard to train at that level without enough sleep.” She advises other mother runners: “Sleep train your babies.”

California and Beyond

After St. George, Baron was eager to bounce back right away to prep for CIM, but her coach held her back a bit, making sure she’s recovered. By early November she was running 70 mile weeks again, with encouraging speed workouts and long runs of 15–24 miles. With a shorter build up, she will still feel fresh on race day for CIM to go after her goal of sub-2:45.

This time, her kids are staying at home for CIM, while before, the whole family went. She’ll be able to get some more down time and rest before CIM, arriving a little earlier. Her teammate she raced St. George with will also be running CIM so they can work together to run sub-2:45. While it’s Baron’s first time racing at CIM, she’s looking forward to sea level after living at 5,000 feet for so long, and St. George is also at altitude.

Baron says she feels no added nerves for this race. “I don’t put my worth on running,” she says. “I have my family and my life.” After CIM she will hopefully race the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. And if not? She says without hesitation, “We want another baby.”