Trail Sisters Half Marathon & 10k

September 14th • Buena Vista, CO

Slow and Steady

Giuliana Di Piazza currently resides in Sonoma County. She is originally from Sonoma County but has lived in several areas before returning to Sonoma County in 2018. She is a community health dentist. Outside of work you can find her running, cycling, or traveling. She has a 14 year old Pomeranian that she enjoys spending time with.

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Everyone has a journey and a path that leads them to where they are today. I love getting to hear these stories and these journeys as oftentimes they provide some of the most valuable nuggets of inspiration. So here is my story on how I got into running and most recently trail running. I hope my story provides some nugget of inspiration for the next woman on her journey.

I began running in 2003 at the recommendation of my horse trainer as a way to cross train for my equestrian activities. During that period, I was in high school and showing my paint horse in western pleasure and English. Believe it or not horseback riding requires a decent amount of cardiovascular fitness. So my running journey slowly began and let me tell you it was a very slow journey!

I would start off by jogging a lap and walking a lap around my neighborhood. I slowly did this until I wasn’t walking anymore and running the whole loop. After I started doing this, I had recently graduated high school and was going to the local junior college. I wasn’t showing horses anymore and didn’t need running for cross training but kept running just to stay active. Sometimes I would go to the gym at 5AM and do my run on the “dreadmill” or whenever I had a break between classes. I also started venturing out and tried running on the BLM land behind my mom’s place. I guess that was my first taste of trail running. There wasn’t any smart watches or fitness trackers during this time and I would just run until I felt I had satisfied a good long run in my mind. The pace was always slow but steady. I was getting hooked on that post runners high. 

After about 2 years at the junior college, I transferred to the University of New Mexico (UNM) and my trail running went on hiatus. I consistently kept road running for fitness purposes and even attempted to train for a half marathon but didn’t follow through with it. I would love feeling that dry New Mexico sun warming my skin and finishing those runs sweaty but satisfied. As I had started to train for the half marathon and was dealing with some injuries, I became more aware of what it meant to have a good pair of running shoes!

I spent about a year at UNM before moving to Pocatello, ID to attend Idaho State University where I experienced running in the snow and in freezing temperatures for the first time. I had so much fun running in Idaho! I had this fun little zippy route I used to do sun or snow. There were also some fun running paths in Pocatello I loved doing. Idaho is where I completed my first 5k! Again, I got the idea to do a half marathon and started to train for it but didn’t follow through. Then one of my friends in dental hygiene school asked me about doing one and I was on board at first but my training kind of died towards the end. I was planning on bailing but FOMO kicked in! The night before the race I decided I was going to do this half marathon ready or not. Probably not my smartest idea but young and dumb! Haha So I ran the half marathon without really training for it, maybe averaging 4-6 mi runs prior to. I remember on mile 9 I wanted to puke my guts out, but I managed to make it to the finish line. At the end of the race there was a Dutch oven chili meal and the smell of it made me want to puke my guts out all over again. First and only half marathon in the books. 

During my time in Idaho, I also learned what runners’ toes were and the importance of good running socks. Even with my not so stellar half marathon experience, I continued to run and complete a few more 5ks. After 4 years in Idaho life took me to Los Angeles to start dental school and later Humboldt County for Residency. During this 5-year time frame not too much exciting happened running wise. I stayed consistent doing 3-4 mi road runs once or twice a week or on the “dreadmill” if inclement weather. I did some Turkey Trots but didn’t train for anything or do any long-distance running. 

It wasn’t until 2019 that I started thinking about running differently. I had recently moved to Sonoma County to start my career. At the time my boyfriend was a triathlete and he would bust out these 20-25 mi runs every week, on top of cycling, and swimming and I thought he was nuts! He would run in the rain and mud, and I would think he was crazy. While we were dating, I kept doing my 3-4 mi runs and gym workouts and didn’t think I needed anything else. Then the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 came and rocked the entire world. Gyms were closed but thankfully I still had running. But I needed something else to balance it out. So I bought my first road bike and started cycling. Oh man did I fall in love with cycling! Cycling is what truly turned my mind on to the possibility of doing more endurance sports. I was so amazed I could ride 50 miles and do it again in the same week. I never knew my body had the potential to do what it was doing. While my pandemic relationship didn’t last, I’m grateful that relationship opened my eyes to endurance sports as that has become a new part of my life. 

I learned a lot from cycling- bike fits, hydration, nutrition, Squirrel Nut Butter which has carried over to running. Not until the fall of 2022 did I start to take my running up a notch. What was the reason to all of the sudden want to train for another half marathon? During the summer of 2022 I left my fiancè and it was one of the hardest life experiences I have gone through. Running and cycling were the only things that would free my mind and keep me going. While my world felt like it was spiraling, cycling and running felt like little life safe savers that kept me from completely drowning. I knew I had to keep running and riding in order to stay afloat. I started running with a local running club and that is when I was inspired to train for something more. 

Thanks to social media and the Healdsburg Running Company (HRC) I started joining their group runs. HRC has been so welcoming and such an inspiration for me. They have several group runs throughout the week and I started to do their Thursday fun runs. After a few fun runs I kept hearing about some of the people doing these wild 100-mile ultramarathons and that is when I realized I could totally do another half marathon and train for a marathon. I had always heard about their Saturday trail runs but was scared to attend one because I knew they put down some serious mileage. I decided to try one and that’s when I committed to train for a half marathon. I was totally out of my comfort zone and I knew that feeling meant I was exactly where I needed to be. 

I remember the first Saturday run I went to was going to be around 9 miles and it was literally raining buckets. I remember driving to the run white knuckled on the steering wheel as a torrential downpour was happening and thinking what am I doing, this is crazy. When I got there, I saw the crew and I was committed. That run ended up being so much fun! I also had the pleasure of meeting some of the Trail Sisters of Marin at this run and hearing everyone’s running stories was incredibly motivating. After that run I was hooked, and trail running has become my new jam. I have thoroughly enjoyed running with others and also getting in some solo miles. Trail running has become such a fun experience in my journey. 

As I have ventured into this new chapter of trail running, I have decided to set some race goals to keep the momentum going. I’m hoping to complete the Lake Sonoma Women’s Half Marathon. I’m also planning to continue with road running and will complete a road half marathon this spring and a full marathon in the fall. My long-term running goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Let the training commence! Most of all I’m incredibly grateful for the healing running has provided me during these last few months as well as helping me to remember what it feels like to get excited again about training for something. In 2023 I am looking forward to more trail surfing, solo miles, and friendship miles! Most of all I hope my story emphasizes that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Happy running!

About the Author

Giuliana Di Piazza currently resides in Sonoma County. She is originally from Sonoma County but has lived in several areas before returning to Sonoma County in 2018. She is a community health dentist. Outside of work you can find her running, cycling, or traveling. She has a 14 year old Pomeranian that she enjoys spending time with.

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Sept. 14th 2024

Buena Vista, Colorado

Half-Marathon & 10k

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