MS: Out of all sports to choose, why did you choose running?
KO: I chose running because it always makes me feel wonderful! Running gives you a great sense of accomplishment, and is a great way to relieve stress.
MS: Tell us a little bit about your story prior to your running career?
KO: Before running, and even just getting back into the fitness world, I had a severe drinking problem, and it almost literally killed me. When I got out of the hospital and realized that I needed to change my life, I began working out again. Eventually, a couple of my friends got me back into running! I was going to the gym regularly and focused more on weight lifting. When that wasn't quite cutting it, I needed new things to do. Again, running made its way back into my life, only this time I took it much more seriously and became more committed to it!
MS: You just completed your first marathon ever! Congratulations! How was your experience?
KO: Running my first marathon was unbelievably incredible! I will admit it was a big struggle after about 21 miles! I remember thinking during the first 13 miles how quickly it was going by and thought, "this is a breeze!" I was wrong! It definitely got much tougher, but I used my mental strength to push through, and there is no feeling like crossing that finish line knowing what you just accomplished!! It is a very emotional moment!
MS: Do you see yourself wanting to run another one anytime soon?
KO: Right now I would say it may be awhile before I run another full. My knees are not in the best shape and I want to make sure I don't do a whole lot of damage to them. Will focus on shorter runs for the time being!
MS: Do you have a group you train with? If so, who are some notable people who have helped your running?
KO: I did have a group to train with, the Big River Training Team! Some of the coolest, nicest, most motivating people I have ever met! This is such a great group and I'd highly recommend anyone training for any races to join this group! Some people who have helped me along the way are of course my friend and running partner, Lauren Minden! She has encouraged me (or talked me into ;) ) running my first 2 halves and my first full. Some others who have been incredibly encouraging are Mark Spewak and Bob Alexander! Again, such an incredible group of people I am lucky to have met!
MS: What do you think of when you hear More Miles More Smiles?
KO: When I hear "More Miles More Smiles" I think of an awesome organization that is helping people all over learn to ENJOY the running experience! An organization that changes people's lives!
MS: Where are some of your favorite places to train in St. Louis?
KO: My favorite places to train have been Queeny Park and down in U. City. I also enjoyed Forest Park and running to the Arch! That was probably my favorite training run!
MS: What's your best piece of advice to anyone interested in starting running?
KO: My piece of advice to anyone just starting out would be to have a positive mindset and never a defeatist attitude! Enjoy the run, take everything in, and stay focused! And of course, stretch and foam roll!
MS: Favorite television show growing up?
KO: Favorite television show growing up would have to be...Mama's Family!
MS: First thing you ate after your marathon?
KO: First thing I ate after my marathon was a delicious cheeseburger and fries dipped in ranch dressing! Water to wash it all down...and rehydrate of course ;)
MS: Favorite flavor of ice cream?
KO: My favorite flavor of ice cream would be anything chocolate with chunks of fudge, brownie, cookie dough, M&M's and Oreos. Topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I don't mess around when it comes to ice cream!
When I first started More Miles More Smiles in the fall of 2013, I really had no idea what direction the company would go in. I knew I had a passion for running, smiling, and helping others achieve their fitness goals. However, the path More Miles More Smiles has taken has been a little more unpredictable. With that said, I'm so grateful and thankful for every moment and memory so far.
In the winter of 2013, we decided we were going to start a charity race that benefited the Children's Heart Foundation. I really believe it's important that not only does the company focus on inspiring runners but it also focuses on using the running community to come together and raise awareness for different causes. Our first race was June 20th, 2014. There was a torrential down pour of rain in the middle of it but the first event couldn't have gone smoother. We raised a lot of money that night and drank a few too many beers! Immediately after the event I knew we had to repeat the next year. It was incredible seeing people of all ages coming together on a hot steamy summer night to support the event. So far we have hosted two summer Heart Foundation races. Both June dates threatened rain and crummy weather but we were still able to get 200 plus people to attend the event each year. Please stay tuned for this year's date coming soon.
Once we did our second event I knew More Miles More Smiles had to figure out a way to make an impact on more causes. A good friend of mine has a foundation that is dedicated to raising money to build wellness centers in hospitals nationwide. She is a runner herself and has the most creative mind out of anyone I know. We decided More Miles More Smiles and the Jackson Hill Foundation should team up and do something great for the St. Louis running community. On February 28th, 2016, we will be hosting the first ever Run n Run S'more 5k/1 Mile fun run at Ladue High School. Our goal is to raise money for St. Louis Children's Hospital, the Jackson Hill Wellness Centers, and to eat as many s'mores as possible. We also want to highlight the awesome local businesses in the area.
Every so often I will get a text message or phone call from someone telling me they wore their More Miles More Smiles shirt and someone complimented them. I truly believe wearing a piece of our apparel can inspire you or someone else. The shirts, hats, and car decals are just a simple reminder to run and walk with a smile. You would be surprised at the amount of random places More Miles More Smiles gear has been spotted. I have had people tell me they have seen us in places like rural Indiana and even in spots in the wine country of California. It's truly humbling knowing our customers represent our gear everywhere.
In the beginning of the More Miles More Smiles journey, I really believed selling apparel online and at events would be the extent of the company outside using social media to inspire people. What I have learned about myself and the company is that I want to take More Miles More Smiles to the next level. I truly believe More Miles More Smiles came into my life to share my message and passion for running but also for my love for people. I hope in the coming years we can continue to figure out more ways to help the lives of many people. Stay tuned for a special announcement on a new More Miles More Smiles project coming soon.
Lastly, please reach out to us. We love hearing from you. In fact, the more we hear from you, the more we smile. I am always open to hearing more ideas and more stories! I am not sure where More Miles More Smiles will be in another year. However, I am sure we will have the same amount of incredible support from all of you. For that, I am so thankful and so blessed. Thank you so much for a spectacular first two years. We are looking forward to many more.
This month's athlete feature is Mike Orrico! Mike is a very popular runner in the St. Louis running community! Read all about his exciting running adventures in his interview below!
MS: What got you into running?
MO: I played a lot of different sports as a kid and loved to just run around. However, I don’t think I truly started running until we found out we were going to have our first child. I was out of shape and wanted to be around a long time for my kids.
MS: Who has had the biggest influence on your running career?
MO: There have a been a bunch of individuals but I cannot single one out. It would have to be our little running group the WolfPack. It is a group of friends that like to run. They are some great runners and more importantly great friends.
MS: It's my understanding you were a life long baseball player who has now converted over to marathon running. Please us about that transition.
MO: This is true, I came to St. Louis on a baseball scholarship to SLU. I loved baseball and still do. Growing up playing team sports like baseball and soccer then making the transition to running was tough at first. Running can be a very solitary sport but that is also makes it great. Having a great running group around that you cheer for and feed off each other makes it almost feel like a baseball team.
MS: Where do you see your running in 10 years?
MO: Hopefully still upright and running races with my two boys who are now 5 and 2.
MS: You have a running streak going. Can you please tell us a little more about it?
MO: I just hit 1,000 days and 8,500 miles the day after my birthday on 9/25/15. The streak started after a nudge from a few friends to give it a try. The streak just becomes part of your daily routine now and it is just my time. There have been some rough days in there but I never once finished a run and said that wasn’t worth it.
MS: What group do you usually train with?
MO: The Pack!
MS: Where are some of your favorite places in Missouri to log the miles?
MO: I have a few, first how can you not love Forest Park. It is the gem of St. Louis and a huge part of the running community here. My second is the Katy Trail. I live less than a mile away and you can just get on it and go. Lastly is the Lewis and Clark Trail in Weldon Springs. It is home to the trail race I direct (Corps of Discovery) and I just love being out there, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing.
MS: Do you have any immediate or long term running goals?
MO: Nothing really too specific. I just like to run. I like to run as much as my body and schedule will allow me to.
MS: Favorite band?
MO: Brandon Flowers and the Killers
MS: Favorite post long run meal?
MO: Beer and Steak
MS: St. Louis Cardinals post-season prediction?
MO: World Series!
MS: Coffee before or after you run?
MO: After mainly but will occasionally before.
MS: Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, what are you munching on?
This month we sat down with the one and only Matt Dahl! Matt just finished up the Boston Marathon. He has had a very successful running career so far. Read his brilliant interview below!
MS: When did you start running?
MD: Summer 2001, freshman year of high school
MS: Where did you run at in college?
MS: What made you want to go to Rider?
MD: Coach Hamer was a key figure in the decision. Before really looking into it, Rider was never a top choice, but the more I spoke with Hamer it became a front runner. He was a coach you couldn't walk away from. And then the enthusiasm a lot of the guys had for the future of the program played a big role too. It really came down to Rider, Manhattan and Monmouth in the end and between the coach and the group of guys I’d get to be teammates with, Rider easily became the choice I had to make.
MS: What do you consider to be your greatest running accomplishment?
MD: Tough one. I hope there’s a great one still in me. But one of the fondest memories I have was junior year at Rider when we finally broke the Top 15 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional meet. It had been the goal since I got there, and the year before we were dead last. Being apart of that team that day after going through a lot of bad meets together made that a special day. I’d say achieving that with that group was great.
MS: Is it true you took some time off running after college?
MD: Yep. About 2 years. I think I hit a point where I had only been on four 20 minute runs over 16 months.
MS: What made you get back into running?
MD: A handful of things. I missed it. I felt like I needed it back in my life too. I remember spending a good portion of 2011 not being happy with how things were going personally, and felt like I needed something to put my focus towards again. Running was the easy choice, so it was time to get to work.
MS: What is your favorite Coach Hamer story?
MD: I was really struggling to put together a big race during my sophomore year and he really committed to get me to run a fast 800 leg on the team’s DMR at the end of the indoor season. I had kept running so terribly I didn’t believe him. DMR for IC4A’s finally comes around and I think I got the baton in 4th. I remember seeing the clock and kept trying to do the math in my head, at this point I had never run faster than 1:56. I remember just sliding up and hanging on the entire leg, and all 4 teams handed off at the same time. I looked at the clock and thought “wait, did I just break 1:55? ..no way.” I walked over to Hamer, looked at him writing down the splits on his note pad and it said “1:53”. I was a bit stunned and said to him “is that my split…?” He looked up and said “that’s your f---ing split”. Sorry if you have to clean that one up.
MS: What is your goal moving forward in your running career?
MD: Long term, I’d like to end up going sub-2:30 in the marathon. I think it’s in these legs, just have a lot of work to do in order to get there. Short term? Not certain yet, but I’ve got some big races lined up this fall and hope for some faster times. Next spring I’d like to get back on the track and see if I can ever break 15 again in the 5k.
MS: Congratulations on an awesome performance at Boston! How did you feel about the race?
MD: Thanks man. I was pretty happy. For months I was just thinking about running a 2:37 marathon. It was that time that really kept driving me through the cold winter, so I was pretty pumped to hit the race the way I wanted. I had my plan, stuck to it, and the right results came with it.
MS: Describe your emotions post-race at Boston?
MD: It was a great feeling. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself in college, and was almost never satisfied after a race. But Boston was a day where I felt like I really hit it and felt proud of my accomplishment. I definitely did tear up a bit too after crossing the line and knowing I just ran 2:37… I remember thinking about my Grandfather, I run with his initials on my shoes. He would have been proud of that one. It was such an emotional race with the crowds, the effort… everything. It was great experience, probably my proudest running experience.
MS: Does it seem a little surreal that you ran sub 2:40 at the Boston Marathon?
MD: Yes and no. No only because I really believed in myself and ability to do so. Yes in regards to it was yet another marathon I had to face dreadful conditions, but I’m glad it didn’t throw me off. I’ll admit there was a surreal feeling in me after crossing the finish line just because 4 years ago around this time I was my furthest removed from running ever, and then I just finished the Boston Marathon.
MS: Who has had the biggest impact on your running career?
MD: Probably my high school coach, Dan Formato. He really believed in me from the start, and even though it took a long time to teach me the sport and build me as a runner, he stuck with me from the start. I don’t think I’d have the passion I have for it now if he wasn’t the one introducing me to it all those years ago.
MS: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone who is either graduating high school or college that is hoping to someday run a marathon?
MD: Be patient! If you’re a distance runner, then yes, you can almost definitely run a marathon. But if you’re ever going to do one, do it in the right way. Take your time to build your training up, spend time learning the race, and even get yourself a coach. You spend hours out there, and many miles alone, all to just get to one race. It’s a draining experience, but I’ll say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I really feel everyone should give it a try, but make a serious commitment about it. It will control your life in a lot of ways and is probably far different than anything you've taken on before.
MS: Favorite pre-race meal?
MD: Pizza! Always my go to meal!
MS: Best Mike Soroko story?
MD: Man, too many for rapid fire. I’ll choose a dumb one. My junior year when none of us were running well in the spring, me, him and Christian would spend our Saturday nights at the SRC playing Wii or shooting hoops. One night we were there kind of late just goofing around and joking about playing the Dancing with the Stars Wii game. He randomly said “get a few shots in me and then I’ll play Dancing with the Stars”. I can confirm none of us took any shots though, and we still have never played Dancing with the Stars.
MS: You trapped on a deserted island. You are only able to pursue running or radio. What do you choose?
MD: Ha! Very easily the answer to this is running. If the options were running or the WWE, then we may have more of a debate...
MS: Fastest mile before college?
MS: Favorite dessert?
MD: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
MS: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Keep up the great work!
This month's athlete feature is Sarah Fisher! Sarah is by far one of the happiest runners we have ever come across! Read all about her exciting running adventures in her interview below!
MS: Where are you from and what got you into this crazy awesome sport?
SF: I am originally from the amazing city of St. Louis, but I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio when I was ten years old; therefore, I cannot be judged by what high school I went to ;) I was always an athletic kid growing up, so I honestly thought the idea of just running would be boring. In fact, I was determined to play volleyball instead of running cross country in high school. It was the wonderful people on the team (who eventually became my best friends) who influenced me to decide to run. Runners are seriously the best people.
MS: What is the happiest running moment of your life?
SF: The happiest running moment of my life recently was finishing the Take Steps for Kids 5k in 2014 with Mark Spewak, who positively encouraged me along the way! The race was for a great cause, the sun was shining, and I got to have a Boston-qualifier pace me - what more could I ask for?
MS: Who has had the biggest influence on your running career?
SF: My college coach, Jeff Stiles, who inspired a healthy training philosophy. He always reminded our team to “control the controllables.” and defined success as, “Taking advantages of your daily opportunities to the best of your ability under your given circumstances.” So basically, do the best you can - with what you got - where you are. Great advice! His genuine support and dedication to our team also influenced me to become a more confident runner and trust in my training. On the day of the 2011 DIII cross country national championship meet Coach Stiles calmly told our team to just go out and do what we already knew how to do; he believed in us that much…and we won!
MS: Do you have any tips for prospective college runners interested in trying the sport on the collegiate level?
SF: Believe in your dreams: If you want to run competitively in college- go for it! You have to be willing to make sacrifices, but it is worth it. I would invest the time to thoroughly explore colleges both academically and athletically and find the best fit for you and your interests. Ask a lot of questions and follow your heart. If you love to run, love to compete, love being a part of a team, and want to have fun then collegiate running is right for you!
MS: Over the years you have fought through more adversity than any other runner I know. What keeps you going?
SF: After many injuries and ending my collegiate running career early I felt lost. I knew I could make the best or the worst of it, so I decided to make the best of it. It was faith that kept me going: Faith in myself, faith in the sport, and others’ faith in me kept me going. When I realized I was worth more than my identity as a runner I became inspired to share my other gifts to motivate and empower others in their endeavors. I have learned the importance of positivity, self-love, speaking your truth, resiliency, and holding nothing back! I want everyone to find their strength to live a life they are proud of.
MS: What are some of your current short term goals?
SF: I am striving to stay healthy in mind, body, & spirit as I balance graduate school, work, coaching, ect. I am currently practicing yoga in addition to pool running and running ~30-40 miles/week to stay fit and strong. However, I have many more specific goals for my Kirkwood High School track athletes this season: State bound!
MS: What kind of impact has coaching at Kirkwood High School had on you?
SF: Coaching at Kirkwood has inspired my mission to help athletes become young people of empathy and integrity, who understand how to be positive agents of change in the world. I strive to uphold the legacy of Pioneer Track and Field, which aims to develop better human beings through participation in the sport. Coaching has been a wonderful way to give back to the sport that has done so much for me. It is a dream job to do what you love and witnessing the athletes achieve their goals is priceless.
MS: Where do you see your running in 10 years?
SF: Hopefully running in the mountains in Colorado with Matt Kruger, my husband (by then) as we train for a race together! I wonder who would win!?
MS: Rapid Fire!
MS: Favorite race day song?
SF: “Let’s Go” by Matt & Kim
MS: What do you call a carbonated beverage in the state of Ohio?
MS: Coffee before or after you run? Or…never?
SF: Chocolate milk + iced Coffee = post run drink in the summertime because it has the complete nutritious protein/carb ratio with an energy boost!
MS: Favorite place to do a long run?
SF: In Missouri: the Lewis & Clark trail; however, a long run on the Oregon Coast during a sunset is bliss.
In the month of December, anytime you purchase an item from our online store your name will be enrolled in our drawing for a FREE More Miles More Smiles running singlet. We have men's and women's sizes! We will draw our winners on December 31st! Good luck and happy holidays!
Recently I was asked to describe what running meant to me. I found it incredibly difficult to sum up because running means so many different things to me. I think that’s what truly makes this sport unique. Growing up all I wanted to be was a professional basketball player. I had it set up perfectly. I would go to the University of Arizona on a full ride scholarship, win the national championship, then get drafted to the NBA in the first round.
It wasn’t until I failed to reach my goal of being over 6 feet tall in the 8th grade when I decided it was time to focus on another sport. Fortunately for me running happened to be that other sport. I pursued cross country and track in high school. Then, I chased my dreams at Rider University on the collegiate level. Unfortunately, my college running career ended in less than a year.
From early on in my running career, I wanted to be one of the best runners in the sport. I set the standard early on in my head that I would run at the division one level someday. I was on a mission to accomplish each and every goal I had set out for myself. When collegiate running ended for me I had to ask myself, “is this sport a lifelong passion?” For a few weeks I was ready to give it all up and focus on something different in life. However, I looked back to the last 9 years and realized I couldn’t go on in life without my passion.
Nearly three years ago, I started working in the running industry. I am now a marathoner and a far more passionate runner. The lessons I learned from my high school and short college career were extremely valuable. At that point in my life all I wanted to be was the greatest runner in the world. What I didn’t realize was you don’t have to be the fastest runner to experience the happiness that comes from the sport. Success in running is relative from person to person. I believe the most successful people in our sport are the ones who take advantage of everything running has to offer.
Now today I ask myself, “what does running mean to me?” I guess the answer is very simple now. Running has helped me improve not only my times but my overall quality of life. My life is built around my commitment to this sport. It’s the one thing in my life that I know feels completely right. Being 5 foot tall in the 8th grade was the best thing to happen to me. I’m so blessed to be able to say I am a runner…for life!
*Mark Spewak is the founder of More Miles More Smiles.*
This morning, like most Sunday mornings, I went out for a long run. My long runs tend to be a little different sometimes, now that I live in Denver. Today I drove into the mountains and headed out on a trail called the Bear Creek Trail. The first mile was relatively easy, aside from dodging all the people. See, it was a beautiful fall day here in Colorado, and the parking lot at the trail head was completely full.
Pro tip: A good way to tell how far you are from the trail head is to notice how many people are on the trail with you. Can’t hardly run due to all the people, kids, dogs, etc.? You’re very close to the trail head, probably less than a mile. See a few hikers and mountain bikers around? You’re anywhere from 2-3 miles from the trail head. See only the occasional mountain biker or bearded trail runner? You’re at least 4 miles or more from the trail head. But I digress
As I was saying, the first mile of the trail was relatively easy. It was as wide as a lane of traffic, only slightly uphill, and perfectly smooth and manicured. The Bear Creek was bubbling right next to the trail, and it was a pleasant, sunny 60 degree day, as seen in the picture above. Just after a mile in the trail turns suddenly to the left, narrows to single track, and turns sharply uphill. For the next 5 miles I would be running roughly uphill, which is never an easy task, but is made even harder when the trail starts at 6,465 feet.
The average angle of ascent for this trail is seven degrees, so it should come as no surprise that 3 miles into the climb I stopped at a false summit where the trail flattened out for a bit, to gasp for air and drink some water. It was then, out of breath and dripping with sweat, that I noticed the view, as seen in the picture below. I couldn’t help but think of the Vonnegut quote, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
It reminded me that running isn’t always easy and, in fact, if you’re training for a specific goal, it’s rarely easy. It’s usually hard work, like running uphill on this trail for 5 miles. But, I was out there because I wanted to be, and I couldn’t think of a better place to have to suffer. I continued up the trail with a little bit more bounce in my step. Once I reached the end of the trail, I turned around and was practically skipping down the mountain. I was “ramping” off of dirt mounds and rocks, gaining speed and just generally having a good time on the way back down.
Sure, it was easier to enjoy the second half of the run, since I was running mostly downhill, and that takes a good chunk of the effort out of it. However, if you don’t enjoy running with your friends, the sunrises and sunsets, running in the rain, making fresh tracks in the snow in the early morning quiet of a winter day, or any of the other pleasurable experiences that come with being a runner, I suggest you find yourself a different sport. See, we only have so much time here, and there’s no need to waste it doing something you hate and making yourself miserable. There is no shortage of ways to stay active. Get out there, try something new, and God damn it, have fun while you’re doing it. More miles, more smiles!
*Eric Mellow is a freelance blogger for the More Miles More Smiles team!*
Every month we feature a different runner and their story! This month we had the good fortune of interviewing Justin Irving! Justin is a member of the St. Louis Track Club and has a very strong presence in the St. Louis running community. Read his story below!
MS: How many years have you been running for?
JI: I have been running for 30 years!
MS: Why did you start running?
JI: My moms boy friend at the time was a track coach and got me into it. I was really good and liked the medals and trophies, so it was easy to stick with it.
MS: What advice do you have for people interested in starting the sport?
JI: Take it easy, enjoy the run. Try and go unplugged as often as possible, it’s nice to hear the sounds of the city or trail, and it helps to be more in tune with your body.
MS: Where does a lot of your motivation for the sport stem from?
JI: Watching people compete at all levels. But also seeing people that I would not expect to be running, not making excuses and putting in the work.
MS: What is the Wolf Pack?
JI: The Wolf Pack is a great group of people that love the sport. We have all ages and abilities, all distances. But running is what brings us together. Nothing better than having a group of friends support you in whatever crazy endeavor you want to take on…. I don’t think any of my other friends would want to join me on 20 or 30+ mile run, but the Wolf Pack would.
MS: If you could run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
JI: The beaches of Rio, I hear there is some great site seeing.
MS: What are you currently training for?
JI: Training for life, and all the things that it brings… I am running in my first Bourbon Chase, which is either going to bring me closer to my van mates. Or make them want to kill me by the end of the weekend.
MS: What's a typical mileage week for you in training?
JI: 30-35 miles, my race distance is 5k
MS: Can you explain your relationship with the Wolf Pack and why they are the most dangerous running group in St. Louis?
JI: I think I am one of the more recent additions to the group. We are the most dangerous group because we have members that compete at everything from the 5k to Ultras.. And I mean compete, they are always in the thick of the medals… I am just there for the age group awards ;)
MS: What distance do you consider to be your sweet spot?
JI: If there were 3ks, that would be my spot. I was a 400m/800m in my younger days. But now, I stick with 5ks until I get my times to drop.
Favorite alcoholic drink? Vodka tonic or craft beer
Favorite night time snack? Peanut butter cookies
You sleep _____ a night! 6-7 hours
Favorite sport besides running? Basketball or soccer
More Miles More Smiles was born when our owner, Mark Spewak asked himself, "Why do I run?" His answer, "The more I run the more I smile." Since then our mission has been to share the passion and love for the sport with as many runners and walkers as possible! Don't feel guilty about that healthy running addiction any longer. We are here to inspire you on a daily basis one mile at a time. If there is anything we can do to assist your running, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org