This mother of two has conquered marathons, triathlons, and the noteworthy Kona Ironman.  Romagnoli talks to us about racing competitively, balancing training and family, and what her future as an elite athlete holds

Born to Race:

MaryBeth Romagnoli

CS:  When did you first start running?

MBR:  I was in middle school.  The first race was at Vernon Downs, and I think I was 12 years old.  Andy Pino was my math teacher in 6th grade, and he was also the cross country and track coach.  He started talking to me about track and cross country in sixth grade. 


CS:  Did you play any other sports in high school?

MBR:  After modified [seventh grade], I ran year-round.  Looking back, it would’ve been fun to try field hockey or lacrosse, but with running, one season went into the next.  He [Coach Pino] was great because he didn’t put a lot of high miles on us, so once we got to college, we still had love and enjoyment of the sport.  In college, the coaches made it enjoyable, so after college, I still wanted to race and run.


CS:  Where did you go to college?

MBR:  I did my undergraduate work at Ithaca College and graduate work at Potsdam.  I was an anthropology major and minored in politics and business.  I went the liberal arts route because I wasn’t sure what to do, and then I went onto teaching.

Image: MaryBeth Romagnoli

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CS:  Did you ever have an “ah-ha!” moment when you realized you were a true runner?

MBR:  In high school, I was the number two runner, and number two in the Tri-Valley League.  The runner in front of me was Patty Wiegand, and Patty was a Division I National Champion at the University of Tennessee.  I was never the top runner at Canastota, but I still had an enjoyment for it and a love for it, and that was OK.


CS:  For team sports, like cross country, it’s about the success of the team as a whole.

MBR:  Exactly.  Cross country is more of a team sport.  I got faster when I got out of high school and college.  I carried a little more weight in high school, and I think that might be part of it.  Then there’s also that mental toughness, and I might not have figured that out until the end of college.


CS:  Do you think running and racing have changed over the years?

MBR:  Training has definitely changed—nutrition, stretching, and a lot of the other stuff kids are exposed to now.  Now, I think of the stuff I used to eat right before races [laughs] and to actually be able to run after that [laughs] …


CS:  After completing your graduate work at Potsdam, did you start running fulltime?

MBR:  After Potsdam, I raced for the Syracuse Chargers, and we had a post-collegiate team.  I did cross country races for them and a few track races.  And then I ran for Fleet Feet. (They used to have a club team).  After I got married and had my sons, I would pick and choose local races, and I would represent Fleet Feet.  And then, six years ago, I switched over to triathlons.


CS:  How are you able to compete at such an elite level with a family and other responsibilities and obligations?

MBR:  It’s a barter system [laughs].  When the kids were younger, someone else would watch the kids while I went for a run, and I’d do the same for them.  It’s all about time management and prioritizing.  I refused to miss any of the kids’ activities, so that meant getting up early to run and doing it when everyone else was sleeping.  It also meant I might not join a certain club or a specific race.  Family is always number one.


CS:  What’s your training program like?  Do you train alongside teammates?

MBR:  The team that I race for now is called QT2 Systems (out of Boston, Mass.), and through them, I have a triathlon coach.  They give you everything—workout plan, nutritional plan, everything.  To compete at the level I want to compete at, it definitely helps—you need the coaching and the structure.


CS:  When you solidify your racing calendar for the year, how are your workouts structured?

MBR:  You plan out 10 months ahead and work backwards, so I’ll have my A race, B race, and C race.  Based on how many weeks I have before the event, I’ll complete a certain amount of base training, endurance, then some faster stuff; it’s all about targeting certain heart rate zones.  Every workout has a specific purpose.  Every morning at 3 a.m., I receive my workout for the day via email. [The triathlon coach for QT2 Systems designs it.] The workouts themselves are very specific and very regimented.

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Born to Race:  MaryBeth Romagnoli

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