Interview #45: Laura Harnish

Baby, it's cold outside. (Well, at least it was last week!) And that doesn't stop Laura Harnish one bit.

You may recognize Laura from this post about PULSE. She has recently completed the program and has decided to stay in Pittsburgh. Hooray!

Laura truly yinzpired me this past May at the Pittsburgh Marathon when she completed with a time of 2:58:56 and placed 11th in the overall female runner group. This woman is a running machine!

Laura is not only passionate about her own races, she is dedicated to helping others achieve their personal running goals. Whether you are training for a 5k or a marathon, she sets you up with a manageable plan and provides both physical training and mindset support along the way.

I'm super stoked to be working with Laura to train for the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay. (I've only run one 5k in my life, and it was a nightmare involving blistering heat, a train, and too many corndogs. Trust me, you don't want any more details.) Ever since that less-than-pleasant experience, I knew if I were ever to run a race again, I'd need a little extra guidance, motivation, and accountability.

So, like the 30 days of yoga I completed in October, this is my new physical challenge and I am more motivated than ever! I'll be updating you along the way, of course.

Enjoy Laura's Q&A. And we hope to see YOU at the Pittsburgh Marathon this spring!

Job title:
Running Coach. I'm also a Crew Member at Trader Joe’s

Neighborhood you live in: East Liberty

Coffee shop drink of choice: The lavender-grapefruit latte at Commonplace. It’s seasonal, so I’ll have to wait a while for my next one!

Current Shampoo Preference: Aussie Aussome Volume

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
I moved to Pittsburgh last year for a year of service with the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE). I lived in a magniÔ¨Åcent old house in the East Liberty/Highland Park area with the 7 other participants and worked as community liaison for Union Project. The city really captured my imagination with the interesting buildings, history, and welcoming people; I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else right now!

Who do you spend your time with?
I live with three friends, so I spend a lot of time with them as well as other friends in the area. I also love hanging out with an aunt who lives in the area and heading out for runs with fellow runners from the running group I’m a part of, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
As a coach, it’s gratifying to see someone achieve a performance breakthrough or simply fall in love with running. I’m a planner, so I enjoy formulating plans and Ô¨Åguring out what sort of things will help an individual meet their goals. I love sharing what I’ve gleaned from the many challenges and successes I’ve had in 15 years of running.

At Trader Joe’s, I’m surrounded by fun people and tasty food. It’s a pretty great place to work!

Do you have a soul food?
As far back as I can remember, my grandpa has baked white and sweet potatoes for every family get-together and holiday. Just halved
potatoes slathered with olive oil. As simple as that is, it’s the ultimate comfort food for me!

What are some of your recent personal goals?
I’m looking forward to running the Pittsburgh Marathon in May, and am just starting to build my mileage in preparation for that race. After a disappointing injury and marathon this fall, I’m ready to crush my PR (personal record) from last year’s race around this lovely city!

Having the opportunity to do some coaching is a really exciting venture for me this year. It’s been a great experience working with Yinzpiration’s own Kate Stoltzfus as she prepares for the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, and I’m looking forward to helping others meet their fitness and running goals!

I’ve let my art-making get put on the back burner, but I’m determined to set aside some time for creative pursuits--speciÔ¨Åcally painting and stained glass work.

What are your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?
I’m lucky to live so close to a bunch of wonderful places! My favorite are deÔ¨Ånitely People’s Indian and Abay Ethiopian. When I need a peanut butter Ô¨Åx, I’ll head to Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe for their fried pickles with Thai peanut butter sauce or a veggie burger with pb. Brunch at Zenith can’t be beat. And in the summer, I try to make it to Oh Yeah! as much as possible--where else can you get jalapeños or magic blended into your ice cream?

Describe your ideal day.
I’d wake up to a sunny morning in late May and go for a long run in Frick Park with a running buddy or two, then have a leisurely brunch. A bike ride down to the Strip might be in order, then I’d paint, read, or nap on the porch. We’d make something fabulous for dinner and crowd a bunch of friends onto our back deck—plenty of good food, laughs, and probably some cider from Lawrenceville’s Arsenal Cider House.

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?
There are a couple. I became a huge Fitz and the Tantrums fan when they played a very rainy but super high-energy show at WYEP’s Summer Fest. Also, a long-time favorite, Mason Jennings (who grew up in Pittsburgh!), delivered yet another great performance at Mr. Smalls this fall.

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in 10 years? What do you love most about the city?
I think Pittsburgh will continue to attract even more great people because of everything the city has to offer. People are slowly Ô¨Ånding out what’s going on here, and I believe the momentum will continue. I love that we have the cultural attractions of a larger city, yet because of Pittsburgh’s unique neighborhoods, it still feels like a bunch of small towns crowded together. To my surprise as a Midwesterner used to running on pancake-Ô¨Çat land, I really enjoy the more interesting (and challenging) hills.


Maggie's picture

Rock on, Laura! You are the most yinzpirational runner I know.

Alicia's picture

Snap snap snap! Way to go Laura! I might be contacting you soon as I work towards running the Race for the Cure in May :)