Outrun the Dark is a brand representing a community of runners who outrun their inner demons. We call them Outrunners. Either for themselves or others, an Outrunner is someone who runs to stay ahead of the darkness, and in the process inspire those around them.
In a series of interviews, you will get to know some of the Outrunners in our community, what drives them, what their struggles are and what has helped them get past them.
Today we had the chance to interview Lena Klatte from Pittsburgh. The pizza-loving, nature embracing, and teacher is part of our Facebook community group and has decided to share her story of running and being an Outrunner. On top of that, Lena is training for an upcoming 10-miler in November.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you are from and what you do?
Sure! I am 38 and I live near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I work as a middle school special education teacher (grades 6-8). I teach students who have emotional/behavioral challenges as well as learning disabilities. I also work with our high school marching band during football season. I have been married to my husband for almost 15 years, and I have two daughters (ages 13 and 17).
What are you passionate about outside of running and your day job?
I love spending time outside, being as active as possible. I enjoy camping, hiking, birdwatching, and simply taking in the sights and sounds of the outdoors.
When and how did you start running?
I started running in my early 30’s, primarily because I needed something that would get me a good workout in a shorter amount of time! With a busy schedule and 2 kids (and also because I really love brownies, pizza, and peanut butter!), I added running into my usual exercise routine, and soon my husband and I started running occasional 5k’s. Running still was not anything serious or consistent at that point.
Lena and her husband at the Great Race 5k.
What does Outrun the Dark mean to you?
Well, happiness has never come easily for me. I have struggled with my mental health since I was a child: obsessive and intrusive thoughts, eating disorders, hospitalization, depression, anxiety. Then a few years ago I started to recognize that my relationship with alcohol was becoming... complicated. I was using it more and more to cope with the unpleasantness of life. Difficult day at work? Nothing like vodka. Teenage daughters with mega attitudes? Wine will help. Abrasive relatives at a family function? Bring me something strong. You get the idea. Smoothing out the splintered edges of life seemed like the only way to survive. I realized that I was looking for reasons to escape. I wanted desperately to fuzz away the rough spots of every day… and many days, I simply didn’t want to feel anything at all.
So, I started to cut back on drinking, to give pause and say “no” more often... and as I cut back, I really started to feel my feelings. When I decided to become a total alcohol abstainer, though, running took over as my redemption, my life force. I recently hit the one-year alcohol-free mark, and in that year, I’ve made incredible progress physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Running has become my coping skill, my meditation, it has helped me to regain my sense of self and to instill a sense of pride that I never had before. I have to say it again: PRIDE! I earned these muscles, I earned these worn shoes, I earned my race medals— nobody else did it but ME. Setting a PR while pushing past the darkness, the wall, that seemingly impenetrable gloom that still greets me some days... now THAT is true empowerment. Running will never make the unpleasantness of life go away, but it helps me to feel so incredibly strong and bulletproof— the darkness has no more power over me. Every time I lace up my shoes, I outrun the dark and embrace the light.
What is your favorite part about the Outrun the dark community?
Although I am new to this community, I already feel so uplifted and encouraged by reading people’s posts and responses. There is such a unity and compassion in this group, and the world needs so much more of that!
What has been the most trying part of your life up until now? What helped you get through it?
I can’t identify one specific event, but an underlying difficult theme has been that notion of struggling to ‘find myself.’ It has taken me until now, almost 40, to truly feel comfortable and unapologetic in my own skin. Sure, there are days when uI really struggle, but self-love and acceptance are the greatest gifts I have ever given myself.
What do you know today that you wish your 20 year old self knew?
I wish my 20-year-old self would’ve tried running! I might’ve weathered some storms a little bit better if I had running in my arsenal from an earlier age.
What helps you go for a run when you don’t feel like it?
There are days when I do have to set manageable benchmark goals for myself. I’ll say, “just get through 2 miles.” Or, “just give it 10 minutes.” Then quite often, after I reach that goal, my endorphins are kicking in and I’ll be able to power through and go a greater distance. I also try to remind myself that the only workout I ever regret is the one that didn’t happen.
What is your alternative workout when you can't run because of injury or circumstance?
Every day I try to do something physical that gets my heart rate going. If running isn’t in the cards, I will walk or hike, and I recently discovered that I enjoy the rowing machine. I lift weights regularly, and I LOVE the catharsis of battle ropes! (I call them ‘rage ropes’ – I tell anybody who will listen, if you haven’t tried them, you must!)
Do you have any quotes live by?
Yes! I have two:
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
What book or movie have most impacted your life and why?
The books “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton and “Wasted” by Marya Hornbacher both impacted me de
eply. The authors’ perspectives and life stories drew many parallels to my own life. Through messy and sometimes ugly experiences, we can still grow and learn beautiful lessons – trauma and pain may shape us, but (when we are ready), we get to choose how we move forward with it.
If you could put anything on a billboard in front of the world to see, what would you put on it?
Don’t look back! You aren’t going that way!
Anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
I’m so glad to have joined this group, and I hope that sharing my experience may be a light for somebody else.
Thank you Lena for sharing a little bit about yourself, and good luck with your training for the upcoming EQT 10-Miler in November!