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This is the first post in the new Interview category of Joy and Sunshine! I hope you like it and find some inspiration, motivation, and helpful tips!

Photos courtesy of Just Don’t Be Last

First up is Valerie, distance (looooong distance: she’s training for her first full marathon!) runner; super-mom; full-time professional; and the multi-talented blogger behind Just Don’t Be Last.

What influenced your decision to start running?

I’ve been running off and on since high school but never stuck with it consistently. Last summer (2011), I started again with my sights set on eventually completing a marathon in my lifetime. My friend, Katie Key (www.katierunsthis.com), told me about Black Girls Run [BGR] and I joined the BGR-Atlanta facebook page in July. In August I participated in my first BGR group run and ran my first 5k in September. Since then I’ve completed 5 5k’s, 2 marathon relays, and 6 half marathons.

How exactly did you go about getting started?

For me it was simple. Before joining BGR, I bought some minimalist running shoes and began running around my subdivision. After joining BGR, I began going to their group runs along with running around my subdivision. Joining the group, I learned the in’s and out’s, do’s and don’ts of the sport.

What is/are your absolute favorite thing(s) about running?

It’s my me time. Between working full-time and taking care of [my son] full-time, I don’t have a lot of time for just me. But in order for me to maintain my sanity I have to have ME time so I’ve made fitness my own little bit of selfishness. I prefer to run solo and that is my quiet time when I’m not thinking about work, school [Valerie is a teacher, so we already know she has the patience of Job 🙂], or life stuff.

The feeling of accomplishment when I set a PR (personal record) or new distance.  Finishing my first half marathon was a big deal. Finishing my first full marathon will be an even bigger deal.

Have you made any mistakes in your running journey so far?

YES! LOL. I did not take heed to a hip injury before completing my first half marathon.  My first half was the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half last year. About a month before that half I raced with a relay team in the Atlanta Marathon Relay. On one of the training runs for that race I hurt my hip. I was told that it was a hip flexor strain…nothing serious…but I needed to pull back on the running and let it heal. Well stubborn me was not going to let that stop me from completing my first half. I pulled back on my training, but I still ran the Thanksgiving Half. By mile 7, my hip was talking to me. By mile 10, it was screaming at me. By the time I finished, it was done. Painful. I took over a month off from running after that to let it heal completely. Lesson learned. Let injuries heal.

What is on your must-have gear list for beginning runners?

The main thing for a beginner is to get properly fitted for shoes. Big Peach Running Company, West Stride, and Phidippidees all do free shoe fittings and offer discounts to members of different running groups.

And for the ladies… a good sports bra. I’ve seen some travesties out there on the pavement from women wearing unsupportive bras. No matter how large are small the girls are, they need support for a high impact activity such as running. West Stride has an excellent selection of sports bras and will also help with selecting the right one.

Other must haves for me can be found HERE.

In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about running or being a runner?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that Black people don’t run. That’s not true. There’re PLENTY of us that do. Between National Black Marathoner’s Association, Black Girls Run, and South Fulton Running Partners, races are becoming a bit more colorful in the Atlanta and surrounding areas.

Another misconception…Some people are afraid to run because they think they will increase their chances of injury. Running doesn’t cause injuries, but having improper shoes, improper form, and not listening to and responding to cues your body gives you are what cause injuries.

What advice do you have for people who think, “I’m not a runner, so I can’t do what she does?”

If you can move, you can run. You don’t have to run fast. You actually don’t have to run all the time. But get out and get moving.

Which 3 words best describe your personal style when you’re not hitting the pavement? Tell me about one of your favorite looks.

Sexy. Funky. Casual.

I love cowboy boots and I love Bob Marley. My favorite outfit is this Bob Marley t-shirt designed by his daughter Cedella Marley, a pair of denim shorts, and cowboy boots.  When it was cold I put on leg warmers that came to my knees. Since it’s hot, olive green high top All-Stars replace the leg warmers and boots. Accessorize with wood & nickel-brushed jewelry, and it’s a go.

Yay! Thank you so much for your inspiring words, Ms. Valerie! Get more running tips and follow her on her journey to completing her first full marathon at JustDontBeLast.com 🙂