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Silicon Valley Half Spotlight: Ann Gillespie

The Silicon Valley Half, 10K & 5K presented by Excite Credit Union is Friday, September 18 – Sunday, September 27. Run Local is spotlighting a couple of its runners and partners throughout the week. Visit svhalfmarathon.com to learn more and register today.

Ann Gillespie is an ER Nurse and was a guest of the Run Local podcast in May to discuss her experiences on the front lines. We caught up with her during SV Half week to learn about what’s changed since May and how she remains motivated.

How do you describe yourself?

I’ve had people tell me I’m funny, I’ve also had people tell me I’m weird; I have to agree to both. I am also an ER nurse, runner, marathoner, a Dopey Challenge finisher, traveler, hiker, camper, an over-packer, an over-thinker, music lover, coffee and donut lover, a puzzler, volunteer, a daughter, sister, niece and an aunt. I am also a loving, caring, thoughtful, frustrated, interested, sometimes sad, excited, fragile, awkward, indecisive, and hopeful person. 

Where did you grow up and where is your local now?

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. My family moved for my dad’s job landing us in Kenosha, WI, and Eden Prairie, MN. I finished high school and completed 2 years of Community College in Minnesota. I then moved back to Cincinnati to be closer to family. I completed my nursing degree at Northern Kentucky University and started working at University Hospital in the ER.

After a couple of years there, I moved to the Bay Area (San Jose) to be closer to immediate family. I have been out here for 10 years.

Note, I would hear about the Flying Pig Marathon, even volunteered for it at an aid station. I used to say, “I’m not a runner”, which then became “I could never do a 5k”, then “Okay a 5k, but no half marathons”, then “Marathon? Not for me!”, to “Dopey Challenge, let’s do it!”, which leads me to having a goal to complete the Flying Pig Marathon back home in Cincinnati.

What are 2-3 of your favorite running locations?

I will always have a soft spot for running thru Disneyworld since that is where I completed my first 10k, half and full marathons! I usually run thru there with my sister (and about 15,000 other people). The costumes, energy and magic are amazing! Unfortunately, due to COVID they have not yet resumed races, but have offered virtual options. 

I have 3 other local spots that are my go-to. 

  1. Willow Glen/Campbell area – I know the streets, minimal stop lights/interruptions, and don’t need to rely on my GPS for turn by turn directions. I also know the distance for certain routes which have been helpful for training. The sidewalks aren’t usually packed with people, unless it’s a nice day. Most people will move when they see a runner coming or I will jut out, whichever is convenient.

  2. Santa Cruz – along the upper ridge, from the pier to Natural Bridges. When I need to clear my mind and just go with the ebb and flow, this is a great spot! Due to distancing and keeping beach access to locals only for certain times, I have not been here since racing it in March.

  3. San Francisco! Running across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, down by Chrissy Field, Presidio, along the waterfront, the views and opportunities are endless! The main things that are different now, are wearing a mask and distancing from others. Still get to enjoy the scenery!

Where do you take friends and family when they visit you?

When people come to visit, I love taking them up in San Francisco. We go to as many local and tourist attractions as we can. Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Union Square, riding the cable cars, and driving/walking down Lombard Street, to name a few. There’s an amazing pasta place called the Italian Homemade Company (I would eat there before most of the races that I attended in SF!) as well as MAC’D (gourmet mac n cheese). And of course, can’t forget about Ghirardelli’s famous ice cream sundae’s (also a post race favorite!)! Local in San Jose, Stan’s Donut Shop. THE. BEST. DONUTS!!! 

Since our Podcast in May how have things changed for you at work?

I didn’t realize that the podcast was only back in May! In the last 5 months (which feels like 5 years), things have certainly changed, not even for better or worse, just… changed. I can equate it to running a marathon without having looked at the route map and being at mile 25. There will (hopefully) be an end, but we don’t know where or when that finish line is. The first few months were nice as various restaurants were ‘donating’ meals to healthcare providers. That has since dwindled down since most businesses are open in some capacity. 

As mentioned previously in the Pod, I work frontline in the Emergency Room, at the VA in Palo Alto. There have been many operational changes, some by the week, some by the day, to help keep staff and patients safe when coming on to the hospital campus. Everyone is still ‘screened’ (not tested), but the amount of questions and symptom variation has changed. In order for some veterans to go to certain locations, they need to have a test first. 

Even those who are asymptomatic, can be positive carriers (we’ve seen it… Wash your hands, wear your mask!!). Since the ER is the primary area for sick individuals to be coming in (usually) with one or more symptoms, we deem them a “PUI” – Person Under Investigation. For every PUI, staff have to put on PPE to enter the room, until the patient is confirmed positive or negative. PPE (minimally) includes: PAPR (or n95, surgical mask, face shield), bonnet, gown, gloves. 

I stopped styling my hair, as it’s usually in a cap (made with love by my Mom) then covered with another protective cap when I enter the room. I also stopped wearing anything other than eye makeup, because that’s all you see are my eyes (haven’t done a full face of makeup since uh….. March??). 

While I continue to care about the patients, I’m one of those people that will continue to work and work and work, forgetting about my own needs. I did finally take a vacation in August, and it was amazing! Hiked Mt Elbert, highest peak in Colorado!

Since the Podcast, how has your running changed?

Since the majority of scheduled races have been postponed, cancelled or changed to virtual, I have to admit that it’s been hard to keep a race goal. I had a lot of races on the docket this year and was going to try to beat my local PRs. I miss the element of running across the timing belts, not having to think about my watch and hitting go/stop. It got hot in August, and on one particular day, I thought, yeah! let’s go! But it was too hot. And then a few days later FIRE, then SMOKE, with awful AQI for a few weeks. I felt trapped. Now that the weather is cooling off and the air quality is less than 100, it’s time to reboot and train for the East Bay 5 & 10K and couple of virtual half marathons in November!

I did have one unique experience so far in which I got to participate in “small group racing” with my sister. The race was limited to 50 people per time slot, and we started at 4AM. There wasn’t the crowd at the beginning or the end. No hydration stations. It was still a blast to run and still be on a certified course, with someone else keeping time. 

One of the reasons I have not done many (now) “virtual” events, is due to what the race supports, if I don’t know the company already. Other race companies, we don’t know where their passions are and if they are contributing back to the community. I appreciate and admire the transparency of what Run Local does to give back to local charities (Okay, and the RL bling is pretty rad!). 

You’ve taken part in both editions of the SV Half. What’s your favorite aspect of the race and memory from those first two years?

2018, SV 5K, was only my 5th ever 5K race and my first Run Local race. I still had NO idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into. No sooner had I finished, I signed up for Across the Bay 12K, and the rest of the series. Fast forward a year later to 2019 SV 10K, and I PR!! (Shamrock holds my 5k PR.) 

When I was coming in the homestretch on the 10k, I remember JT on the scooter rolling up saying something along the lines of “watch out!” because the half-marathon men’s first place was coming in heels blazin! We were both running different races, but in the end, still crossed the same finish line. 

What else do you want to tell the Run Local community?

Being chosen to be featured, couldn’t have come at a better time! I was starting to lose touch with why I started running and with what kept me going. I have been losing focus on myself, due to my concentration on the pandemic and putting in extra hours at work. Never in my wildest work days, did I ever think we’d be in pandemic mode, let alone for this long. The pandemic, along with runners, will run its course. Staying safe and knowledgeable about what is going on in the community and the world, washing hands, wearing masks, taking the right precautions, should hopefully help get us out of this and we can get to a newer ‘new’ normal. 

Just wanted to plug in again an appreciation to Run Local, for creating a sense of community and incorporating racers of any pace and style. And, a THANK YOU to ALL of the other frontline workers who are out there with me!