Colorado native Kristen Arendt has tried living elsewhere, but the allure and draw of the Colorado mountains and running epicenter brought her quickly back. The Newton Running Elite member knows that’s one of the keys to her success, for her the “combination of the stellar places to run and the great community of runners…altitude and mountains” provide the perfect setting for her training and all around living.
Aside from Kristen’s stacked resume (seven individual 3A state high school championships, two All-American honors at Nike Nationals, eleven-time All-American, 2012 DII Outdoor Track National Champion in the 5000m, 2010 ASC National Champion Cross Country Team Member, multiple-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion and Runner of the Year, and two-time winner of the Elite 89 award which recognizes academic and athletic excellence across all college divisions), she is currently setting her footprint across the country with big podium wins in multiple distances. Her recent Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and USATF Colorado Half Marathon Championship win is proof of her insane talent and drive to be the best she can be.
What’s more, Kristen’s positive personality and appreciation of others (she’d like to “say a big thanks to my husband, my family, friends, coaches and teammates who have been such an integral and positive part of my life. Looking forward to many great years ahead with all of you!”) obviously contribute to her growing success. As she aptly puts it, she’s solving the world’s problems one pair of running shoes at a time!
Name: Kristen Arendt
Hometown & Current: Bailey, CO and Niwot, CO
Professional & Educational background: Graduated from Adams State College in 2012 with BA is English with an emphasis in Creative Writing, currently work for Newton Running in Boulder, CO
Sports participated in: Cross-country, track, road racing
Years in current sport: 12 years
Racing Team: Newton Running Elite
Sponsors/Affiliations: Newton Running, train with the Boulder Harriers coached by Steve Jones
The Long Run
What are some of the -biggest highlights in your racing career?
So far, my two biggest highlights came at Adams State. The first was winning a team National Title in cross country. I had a horrible race that day and was the last scoring member so initially it was a bittersweet memory. But now that I am able to look back on it, I really understand what my college coach always drilled into our heads – “You have to run for something bigger than yourself.” Because of that race, I understand what that means. Winning a title as a team is completely different from anything that I have ever individually accomplished, and I am so thankful for that experience. My second highlight came at the very end of my career at Adams when I won my first (and only) individual national title in the 5k. For me that was my goal for five years, and I had to overcome a lot of personal ups and downs through college to get there.
What are your long-term goals? What do you want to achieve as an athlete?
I think I have a lot of the same individual goals as almost every other competitive runner my age: make the Olympic Trials, make a US world team, runs some big PRs on the road and on the track, finish in the top 10 at as many US championships as I can. But more than that, I am really hoping to find a way to use the sport to give back. Running for me is about being healthy and happy, and I would love to find as many ways as I can to share that with as many people as possible.
Why Colorado? What makes Colorado so special for endurance athletes? What makes Colorado special to YOU?
I grew up in Colorado and although I loved running here when I was in high school, it took three semesters at Baylor for me to really appreciate what I had (sorry Texans). I don’t think I will ever leave again! For me it is a combination of the stellar places to run and the great community of runners. The running community in Colorado is so tight-knit. Plus, I like altitude and mountains so I wouldn’t really want to train anywhere else!
Take us through a “day in the life,” what type of training regimen do you follow?
So depending on the day, I am up in the morning for either an easy run by myself or a workout with my group. After that I usually have about 30 minutes (or less) of running around like a chicken with my head cut off to make it to work on time hopefully showered (sorry coworkers for the days that doesn’t happen…) I do two-a-days 3-4 days a week with my second run ranging from 30-40 minutes. If work isn’t too busy, I either run from work or run again when I get home. Then it is time for cooking, eating, sleeping and repeating. Boy it sounds so simple when you break it down like that! Right now, I am probably running about 55-70 miles a week with 2-3 workouts per week. My coach Steve Jones has me on a quality-over-quantity program which is perfect for me since I am focusing on 5k-10k distances and still trying to figure out this whole “grown-up” schedule of working a 40 hour week.
What are one or two things you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?
I think one of my strengths is having good focus and being able to be engaged in the moment. So when I am running, I focus on running. I don’t let other stressors affect my run or workout. The other key thing is that I trust and listen to my coach.
Do you follow any specific nutrition plans?
I don’t follow any specific nutrition plans – My main guideline is to eat as much “real” food as I want, meaning I just stay away from junk food and too much sugar (unless you count frozen yogurt, ice cream, and chocolate which seem to be staples in my diet). My husband and I enjoy cooking together so we have lots of tasty food – sometimes it is healthy, other times not so much but, hey, that’s what long run days are for!
Do you have any recommended resources to share?
Check out the Newton Running website and YouTube page!
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
Balance. I am like a lot of runners – OCD to a fault. When I try to make running the sole focus of my life, it takes away a lot of the joy. I need to be able to balance my family and my friends and my work and my running. Perspective is how I balance it. When I start feeling overwhelmed or like I have tunnel vision, I like to stop and remind myself to look at the big picture. Although running is very important to me, it is only one piece of the puzzle, and ultimately it won’t be what makes or breaks me as a person.
What are your favorite races in Colorado?
Definitely the Bolder Boulder – hometown race, at altitude, with an uphill finish? Yes please! I also like any of the 5ks in Washington Park. And any of the local college XC races – I still get nostalgic for XC season so I am always happy to hop out on the XC course. The USATF XC Nationals that Boulder hosted this year were great – next year is going to be even better and more competitive so that will definitely be a fun race to participate in.
Where do you like to train in Colorado?
I am a sucker for the mountains. I love going back home to Bailey to run up by Kenosha or Red Cone or Webster pass – I love a dirt mountain road that goes for miles. I like Rollinsville but it can be a little bit busy in the summertime. There is some great running up in Winter Park in the summer and fall. And I really miss running in Alamosa. Talk about breathtaking scenery and some quiet running roads and trails – Zapata Falls and Mosca Pass by the Great Sand Dunes, the Wildlife Preserve and Fort Garland outside of Blanca, and Rock Creek and San Francisco Springs out by Monte Vista are some of my favorites.
Favorite running shoe: Newton Distance Elite for training, MV3 for racing
Favorite post-run/race beverage: Coffee
Favorite post-run/race meal: Steak, red wine, and some kind of chocolate dessert
Role models: Tough one – I have so many great people in my life that I look up to: My husband, my mom and dad, and my mom and dad-in-law, my little brother and my coaches Damon Martin and Steve Jones are at the top of my list. In the professional world, I look up to runners like Melody Fairchild and Lauren Fleshman whom I consider to be strong, honest, and open role models for women in the sport.
Day job: Customer Service Rep at Newton Running Headquarters – solving the world’s problems one pair of running shoes at a time!
Solo runner, running partner or team/group? All of the above!
Favorite Restaurant: Colterra in Niwot
Favorite Coffee Shop: Pekoe and The Cup in Boulder
Favorite Bar: Do self-serve frozen yogurt bars count? Then Aspen Leaf in Gunbarrel!
Favorite Running Store: Newton Running Lab
Favorite non-running activity: Reading, writing, and cooking
Favorite TV Show: 30 Rock
Favorite book: The Hobbit/ The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am a nerd)
Favorite movie: The Hobbit/ The Lord of the Rings
Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?
I don’t think I have ever had performance breakthrough really. In 12 years of running, I have come to realize that running is a give and take relationship. I personally haven’t had a single race or performance that made me think “wow that was it, I am at the next level now.” For me it has always been a slow and steady progression. My biggest breakthrough was more of a mental one. In college, I lost a lot of the confidence that I had had in my running when I was in high school, mostly because I started comparing myself to other runners – and inevitably you can always find someone who does higher mileage or faster workouts or better cross training than you. My breakthrough came when I finally told myself to quite comparing and just trust my own training – and to know that what works for someone else isn’t going to work for me. As soon as I adopted this mindset, I quit worrying about what I wasn’t doing and finally put my best effort into what I was.
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Two things stick out in my head that Coach Martin told me at Adams State. He told me (and all of us on the team) that belief is the greatest power in the world and that the problems of the world are going to be solved by the people who refuse to take no for an answer. And, sure, at the time, maybe we were talking about winning a National Title, but for me running is just a reflection of how I live my life. So if I want to accomplish something bigger than my running for something bigger than myself, I will be using the lessons I learned from running to get the job done.
Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by? That you train by?
My mom and my aunt had a saying “simple is easy.” And that is how Jonesy likes us to train too. I am already enough of a perfectionist that I don’t need to overcomplicate things any more than I already do. So I try to keep it simple and put my focus 100% into the thing that I am doing.
What keeps you motivated? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Ultimately, I love running and I love the people that running has brought in my life so that keeps me motivated to keep striving for more of these opportunities. Also, I am competitive, and I love to race so that keeps me motivated to train. And inspiration for me comes in many forms – on more serious days, it is my husband’s or coach’s encouragement to give my very best. And honestly on other days, it is the pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer. You have to be able to find inspiration in the big and the little things – that’s what keeps it fun!