Runners of the Month – Gina and Jason Loyd

Jason & Gina LoydIMG_7311 copy

The stage is set.  The crowd’s assembled.  The “limelight” awaits.  Behind the scenes, the warm up begins.  Gear is checked, strings are fine-tuned, and preparations made, both physically and mentally.  There is no “RUSH”.  This will be no “fly by night” performance.  She stands at her mark, with her wild, black hair partially tamed by a band of colors and red lips that outlast any “marathon”.  He takes his place beside her; head shaved clean, with tattoos that’ll tell a story (that’s if you can keep up).  Now, there is only one thing left to say…

“Are you ready to ROCK?!”  Yeah?!  Well, you better be, because our two Runners of the Month (ROTM) approach running like Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart of RUSH approach a stage in a packed arena, like true rock stars!  And they would know, since they’ve seen RUSH live in concert (a few times, I think)!  Get your Zippos out (or iPhone apps up and ready) and read on for a Rolling Stone style interview in honor of our own Gina and Jason Loyd.

NRC:  So, let’s start at the beginning.  Where were you born? 

GINA:  I was born in Manhasset, New York.  Jason was born in Nashville.

NRC:  As ROTM, we know you run.  What people may not know is that you both are officially ultra runners and Jason, that you recently PR’d at your third Ironman.  I have to know did you have any athletic interests growing up?

GINA:  Swimming and Ballet.

JASON:  Baseball in high school.

NRC:   Really?  I’m kinIMG_1629d of surprised neither of you answered cross-country or track, knowing you now.  So when did your non-running paths finally meet?

GINA:  We met at the scrub sink in the operating room.

JASON: It was my first time working with this new (to our hospital) Dr. Hamrang.

GINA:  I couldn’t even see all of Jason’s face, because he already had his mask up, but I fell in love with him at first sight and instantly knew he would be the father of my children.

JASON:  When I saw her I was, let’s say, pleasantly surprised. She was beautiful, talented and extremely intelligent. Suffice it to say I assumed she was way out of my league. I’m a very lucky man.

NRC:  Wow!  That is amazing!  Sounds like there was definitely chemistry in the midst of all that biology, and years later you can still see sparks when you’re together.  Any recent family celebrations to note? 

JASON:  On February 13th we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. Twelve years ago Gina and I ran away together to Las Vegas (we bought our plane tickets the night before) after a 2-year engagement.  We were struck with a fit of inspiration when trying to decide what to do for Valentine’s Day.  We realized that the day before would be Friday the 13th and we thought, “That is the day”.

NRC:  What a cool story!  You have two incredible kids and, I hear, a few pets that keep things interesting. 

GINA:  Yes, we have a boy who will turn 10 years old this month namedIMG_7942 Cyrus K and a 6-year-old girl named Erin Rose.  As far as pets, the elder statesman of the bunch is Tommy, our chatty 15year-old, tuxedo Tomcat (also known as Darth Kitty). Lucky Luke Loyd is our 5-year-old black golden doodle (the sweetest dog ever). Cyrus has a dwarf hamster named Geri (to go with Tom the cat).  He also had 2 fiddler crabs, but we’re now down to one. At press time we may have none.  Erin Rose has an empty fish bowl that is between fishes at the moment.

NRC:  That’s a lot to keep up with, especially with all the training you do and your demanding jobs.  What’s something you enjoy about your work?  Anything, that’s helped you in your running world?

GINA:  I am a managing partner at Genesis Women’s Care, Inc. and an OB/GYN.  I am also an active committee member at Stonecrest Medical Center and currently hold the office of Secretary/Treasurer of the Medical Executive Committee.  What I like about my job the most is delivering babies.  I did my first delivery in 1993 and have performed thousands of deliveries since. The long work hours as an obstetrician translate well into ultra running.

JASON: I am a RN/First Assistant in the operating room.  I work at the same hospital I’ve worked at for 20 years on Tuesdays of each week and on Wed. and Thurs. I work with a plastic surgeon at a Smyrna ambulatory surgery center.  My favorite part of my job is sewing, oddly enough, which I get to do plenty of on the plastic surgery days. I also just enjoy scrubbing in with the docs and getting my gloves dirty helping to fix what is wrong.  I know that might sound crass, like working on a car, but it’s the truth.

IMG_8369NRC:  Not at all.  Helping people is also part of your running stories, so let’s talk more about that.  When did you start running and why? 

GINA:  I was volunteering at the Country Music 1/2 Marathon finish line, turned my head for a second and saw the marathon runners collapsing at the finish line and being wrapped up in mylar.  It affected me so much that I went out the next day and ran my first mile. I never thought of anything during that mile other than at the end I would need to make another 25.2 miles to be a marathon runner.  At the end of my first marathon, all I could think of was running my first 50 miler.

NRC:  Those finish lines can be some powerful inspiration! 

JASON:  She was volunteering at that half marathon, because it was my first half marathon. We missed each other at the finish line, she says, because I was “so much faster than she expected”.  I know that it was really because she was mesmerized by the marathoners.

NRC:  How funny.  So how about you, Jason?

JASON:  I started running off and on in the early 2000’s as an addition to my gym workouts. I didn’t start running in earnest until I was preparing for my first triathlon, the Memphis in May Olympic Tri in 2007.  The NRC has been instrumental in my coming to actually love running and not just doing it to train for a tri. Endurance sports of all kinds have also contributed handily in quitting my pack a day smoking habit 4 years ago.

IMG_1226NRC:  Congrats!  That’s not easy.  How did you first find out about NRC?  Do you remember who you ran with that first time out?

JASON:  Our good friend of 11 years who we work with, [NRCer] Yong Kim, kept encouraging Gina to come out and run with them.  Gina also kept seeing so many of their runners out in groups on her long solo runs on Saturday mornings.  Around this time, I met [NRCer] Rachel Eller at the preschool that both of our children attended.  I’d noticed the NRC sticker on her car.  So, one day we pulled up behind her vehicle at the school and Gina was so interested to meet this person with the “50K” and “NRC” stickers on her car that we waited so that Gina could talk to her.  She was extraordinarily welcoming and encouraged Gina to join the group also.

GINA:  My first run was on a Saturday morning with NRC and it was with Yong Kim and John Pryor.  Jason joined much later at my urging, but wasn’t able to attend very often until the childcare started up regularly which has been a boon to us.

NRC:  Gina, I heard you placed first female in your age group for the Black Warrior Trail 50K and had a 55K PR at the 2016 Pistol Ultra Run.  I also saw Jason earned a bronze level status as an Ironman for having a great 2015 season and placing in the top 10% of his age group, plus took 2nd place in his age group in his first ultramarathon, the Pistol 55K.  I know you’ve set a lot of goals and run a lot of races.  What others stick out in your mind?

IMG_2713GINA:  After 13 marathons and 4 ultra marathons, I’m proudest of the 50 mile Nashville Ultra in 2014.  This was my favorite distance.  The Flying Monkey was my favorite marathon and I ran it for the first time in 2015.  In 2014, I really enjoyed Jason pacing me to my PR of 4:30:01 at the San Diego Marathon and in 2015 I had the honor of pacing Mayor Jimmy Alexander to first place in his age group at the Carmel Marathon.  Still, to have been named the MVP of NRC’s Miles For Amelia Run benefitting Tucker’s House was my greatest accomplishment.  I ran 31 miles that day around a half-mile track and my friend David Dye ran 40 miles.  This event means more to me than any race I’ve ever run.

JASON:  My first Ironman was special in Los Cabos, Mexico 2013.  At the end, I ran my first marathon.  They both nearly ended me.  Ironman Louisville 2015 was special because it was my PR (11:12) and I had the privilege of being paced/encouraged during the marathon by both Gina (on foot) and Yong Kim (by bike).  Rocket City Marathon in 2014 was huge because it was the first time I broke 4 hours with a 3:45 and gave me the confidence to go for more in my running.  It was also my first time at a big race with a large NRC group, which was extraordinary.

NRC:  Do I dare ask, what’s next?FullSizeRender

GINA:  Strolling Jim 41.2 road ultra marathon.  My real goal is to go farther and get stronger in more extreme conditions.

JASON:  The Oak Barrel Half Marathon and the Chattanooga Ironman in October but I’m sure I will find a few other things to do between those two.

NRC:  When you rise to the level of running (and biking and swimming) that you two have; a level that I will take the liberty of labeling “Rockstar”, one might beg to ask, why?   

GINA:  I run for the runner’s high.

NRC:  Hah!  Your positivity and philosophy on life is a big part of that, I’m sure.  Like your Facebook posts often read, “Happy to be alive!”…  I can say from running some shorter distances with you that even then you bring a sense of appreciation and wonder to the run.  I would think you’d have to have that attitude to tackle the challenges you take on.  What keeps you running, Jason?

IMG_2663(1)JASON:  My favorite thing about running has become the camaraderie. Sharing that sense of accomplishment at the end of a race that runs through us all.

NRC:  Well said.  And whether the end of that race is 25 minutes or 10 hours after the start, it is runners like you who show what it means to really enjoy the journey and not just the destination.  On behalf of your fellow NRCers, congratulations and thanks for letting us get to know you both a little better. 

GINA – Speed Round:
Hobbies:  Swimming, yoga, weight lifting
Favorite RUSH song/lyric:  Marathon – “You can do a lot in a lifetime, if you don’t burn out too fast. You can make the most of the distance. First you need endurance. First you have got to last.”
Dream splurge:  A mobile home to travel the country while running.
Must-have piece of gear:  Hoka shoes.

JASON – Speed Round:
Model building
Music that motivates you:  Arcade Fire. Maybe some early Motley Crue pre race.
Dream splurge:  A new watch or bike… depending on the enormity of the splurge.
Must-have piece of gear:  Head gear (hat, cap or buff). Without hair, the sweat runs right into your face…