Melody Karpinski: Member Interview

Dec15Melody_Murdoch03Question: The most important question first – what’s your favorite kind of coffee and roast? Medium roast Ethiopian Harrar? And what’s your favorite preparation – French press, pour over, drip? Do you add cream and sugar? Favorite coffee shop???

Answer: You must know me pretty well to know this is the most important question. My favorite roast is always anything dark and usually some kind of African/South American blend. My favorite coffee no longer exists because it’s a 2011 holiday blend made by Peet’s Coffee & Tea where I worked during my senior year of college. I generally prefer Americanos, but French press is my favorite for regular coffee prep. I always add a little cream. My favorite coffee shop is always whichever new one I discover during traveling.

How did you transition from being a journalism major at Point Loma Nazarene University, and working as a journalist, to working at a running store?

Dec15Melody_Murdoch06There is no short answer to this question! I originally  began as an English major because I’ve always loved reading and writing, but a journalism class at the JC sparked my interest. I balanced being the editor of the SRJC student newspaper, the Oak Leaf, while competing for Coaches Whit & Pat on the track team. I transferred to Point Loma to major in journalism, where I went through a wonderful program with excellent professors.

I never settled into a specific career after college and for most of my life I’ve always worked more than one job at a time. The summer after I graduated, I worked as a freelance journalist for a number of different San Diego news outlets, as a copy editor for a jazz magazine, helped run a church home for women coming off of the street, served up lattes as a barista…..get the idea? When I returned to Santa Rosa, I continued more of the same tune, working as a freelancer for the Press Democrat, part-time as a barista, part-time at Fleet Feet and part-time as an administrative assistant.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch09I had the privilege of transitioning to full-time at the Press Democrat at one point a few years ago, and got to call some pretty amazing reporters and photojournalists my colleagues. While I was there the Boston Marathon bombing happened and it was quite surreal to sit at my desk surrounded by screens full of images coming out of the attack scene. I interviewed a customer of Fleet Feet’s who was in the race for our Press Democrat coverage of the story. Because of being part of the coverage, the Boston Marathon attack will always stick in my mind as a truly tough day more than other tragedies.

Eventually, I decided I didn’t want to just be writing stories – I wanted to be living one. Though I will always love and respect the news business, new doors were opening elsewhere. I left the newspaper, went full-time with Fleet Feet and then began coaching at RVC (Rincon Valley Christian).  I’ve enjoyed getting to learn a new kind of business, and couldn’t ask for a better boss or staff to work with at Fleet Feet. Coaching has always been a dream of mine and my athletes are some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch04What is it about running that you love the most? 

The way it clears my head like nothing else can. The way the trails speak to me amid the peaceful air and all the memories from high school and college Annadel carries for me. The way it serves as an outlet and becomes a tool to challenge myself. The way it creates a safe space for soul-searching. The way I see it mold and shape character in my athletes, my fellow runners, my fellow coaches and myself.

Tell us about coaching at Rincon Valley Christian – how do you think running has enhanced the lives of some of the kids that you have been coaching? Have you witnessed some major changes in their attitudes? Is running really just a conduit for a different kind of essential learning?

Dec15Melody_Murdoch02Everyday I get to see first hand how running molds and shapes character in my athletes, how it makes them understand the value of hard work and appreciate the effort it takes to achieve a goal whether individually or as a team. I wish I could tell you running has also magically curbed their smart aleck tongues, but those are still alive and well in all of them. The conversations that occur in my athlete carpool should be the subject of some kind of SNL skit. One day, I actually missed two different turns to Annadel on the way to practice because they were making me laugh so hard and we were nearly 10 minutes late. I’m sure it was just a carefully executed tactical attempt to get out of hill repeats.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch07Running is absolutely a conduit for learning life lessons, and the ability to have vision for your life goals. It also is a great place to see how you respond under pressure (managing stress), react to a loss (maintaining a good attitude), deal with an injury (overcoming disappointment), encourage your fellow teammates and competitors (practicing good sportsmanship) and achieve a goal (lots of hard work). As coaches, we have the opportunity to help cast that vision and give them the best tools possible to achieve their individual and/or team goals.

There’s never been a title I’ve been more privileged to carry than that of “coach.” Some of my greatest influencers in life were my high school/college coaches and the responsibility of this is the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night. It’s been an incredible privilege over the last year-and-a-half of coaching to watch how one season of cross-country or track can change someone’s life.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch08What is the one race your most proud of? Not the race where you got your best time, or had the biggest medal, but the one that challenged you the most mentally and physically? Is it really about the medal?

The race I’m probably most proud of (despite my time) was my first marathon last month. I did the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and it is an experience I will never forget. My hip flexors are still reminding me how unforgettable it was.

Before I left for DC, my high school coach Harry Skandera (who I coach with now at RVC) thought it might be really encouraging to me to share a story about how he hated running one of his first marathons so much that he crawled under a car in the middle of the race and just laid there for a while. He still got up, finished in a decent time and even ran a few more marathons later on I believe. It was pretty funny to think about my All-American coach, who took our high school to state multiple times, collapsed under a car in the middle of a race. It also wasn’t particularly uplifting, so one of my race goals became “don’t crawl under a car.”

It is definitely the most mentally and physically challenging run I have ever completed, and there were multiple times throughout the race I would happily have given up the finisher’s medal just to crawl under a car for a few minutes. I missed my time goal pretty severely, but I didn’t crawl under a car and I finished so that’s a plus.

You have a fascinating blog called “thisloveitlookslikesomething”. I’m wondering if you have a Christian perspective of running, since running mirrors life in so many ways – hard work, patience, practice, sometimes real pain and suffering, and even jubilation.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch05I’m impressed you found my blog! I thought only my mom and best friend read it. My faith has always been an integral part of my running and vice versa. The first time I ever heard about the sport of cross-country was when Sara Bei Hall spoke at my basketball awards in junior high I think right after she won Footlocker nationals. During her speech, she spoke a lot about her faith being part of her running.

I went out for cross-country a few years later and started to understand what she was talking about. I used to carry this wrinkled old piece of paper with a couple of quotes on it around in my spike bag to read before races. On it was a Bible verse (Is. 40:31) and a portion of Eric Liddell’s speech from Chariots of Fire. It’s a much longer quote than this, but it ends with: “If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.”

My blog posts are responses to the question of “What does love look like?” My life motto used to be pretty long and dramatic, but over the last five years or so I’ve whittled it down to this: love well and love more.

What do you think of this video? Have you seen it before?

Dec15Melody_Murdoch09AI had never seen it before, but I really liked it! I think the idea of doing something hard is starting to become foreign in today’s Western society. We’ve also started to develop a somewhat coddling culture where “every kid makes the team” and “everyone’s a winner.” I wrote an op-ed piece when I was the opinion editor at the PLNU student newspaper in response to a Boston Globe article about how teachers were switching to purple pens because red ink was “shown to have negative psychological effects.” I think this line of reasoning just sets you up to struggle so much more because it’s not real life. We will all face hardship and we will all have a dream we will have to work to achieve. Running is a sport where it’s pretty easy to see who worked out and who didn’t. The work isn’t easy.

Comparatively, the faith walk is not an easy task. It takes hard work. It’s easy to talk a big game and say you’re a certain kind of Christian. It’s not easy when hard things come, big questions pop up and you’re made fun of for your beliefs. It’s also easy to talk up a race and say you’re a certain kind of runner. It’s not easy when injuries come, goals aren’t met and people doubt your potential. You always have a decision – quit or keep on running?

What are your running goals for the future? Have you signed up for any races in 2016?

I think I’d like to change it up a little bit and do a lot more of my least favorite hard thing – speed work. I love the Summer Track series and got to coach an introductory youth track club for 6 – 12-year-olds through Fleet Feet last year where we trained to run the series so that was a blast. I started trying to chase down some of my college track times because I think I’m stronger now than I was then. Still have some work to do there, but getting to run with my high school athletes a few days a week is an easy way to push myself.

My first half was the Annadel Half so I’ve done that the last couple of years, and I’ll probably do it again this year. During the race this year I was on track to PR by around 10 minutes, fell down pretty hard around mile eight, and then got so upset about it that I PR’d by over 18 minutes! I’m sorry to say the Fall=PR Strategy worked multiple times in 2015, so I’m adamantly looking to improve my race strategy for 2016. You know, just to avoid further scars.







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