How I Run: November Project’s Lillian Lingham


Lillian Lingham’s favorite running buddy? Jake Gyllenhaal.

Well…kind of. See, she happened to jog by him during a pre-race warm-up at a Martha’s Vineyard event, did a double-take, then likely smoked him after the gun went off (Exhibit A: a 1:41 PR at Boston’s Heartbreak Hill half marathon).

I wouldn’t expect anything less from someone dubbed “The Terminator.” A Boston native, Lingham has been running since age 12, competing in track and cross country in both high school and college before moving to San Francisco, where she now resides (Exhibit B: an impressive 3:42 PR for the city’s hilly marathon…did I mention that this gal eats #HillsForBreakfast?!).

After achieving her goal of 1,000 miles in 2014, she’s now set her sights on 1,500 in 2015. And she’s already looking ahead to 2016 (and more — surprise, surprise — hills) in the Big Sur full marathon, pending lottery acceptance.

So I caught up with my former November Project pal recently to talk shop about pounding the pavement.

1. What’s your favorite route? Literally ANY route that involves a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from near, far or across! I’ve been living in SF for four years and first saw it over 10 years ago, but it still captivates me in a way that no other structure or icon can. Seeing it glow red in a sunrise or sunset against the gorgeous green background of the Marin Headlands makes me swoon. On the foggiest or dreariest of days (we are #weatherproof), knowing that I could catch a glimpse truly motivates me to lace up and run out the door!

2. What shoes do you wear? For a few years, I would only wear Mizuno. Then my college coach switched my team (at Smith College) to Asics 2100s, which I love, too. But now I’m hooked on New Balance 870s.  They are minimal, comfy and come in the best selection of neon colors!

LL north face endurance challenge

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? I can’t live without my Nathan lights — they are little colorful clip-on lights. I use a headlamp and the Nathan lights in the early hours before the sun is up, and these make me more visible for the cars. Hence, the Mama Lil nickname.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack”? The night before an early morning (5:30am!) November Project workout, I lay out all my clothes, gear, snack and shoes at my front door. It makes getting dressed in the dark foolproof!

My other hack is to literally “run errands” — as in, I run to the bank to make deposits, I run to the store to do groceries, I run to the post office to mail a package…you name it. Time saver + exercise in one.

Okay maybe those were obvious ones, so here are some more courtesy of Buzzfeed.

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? I am good at hugging. Hugging is related to running. If you come to a November Project workout, you’ll see what I mean.

6. What do you listen to while running? I am shamelessly into electronica and dubstep. I’ll blast some Tiesto, Avicii, David Guetta…anything where the bass drops. The beat quickens my stride and heart-rate, and makes me float and dance instead of run. Workouts just fly by!

7. What are you currently training for? I am training for …LIFE. Aren’t we all?! It’s not a sprint, it’s marathon and I’m truly training to be the best that I can be every day so that I can live a long, healthy life.

In terms of races, I happily closed out 2014 with the Berkeley Half Marathon and the North Face Endurance Challenge. Now I’m in the market for a new 2015 race, and I’m thinking it’s going to be a full marathon….likely the SF Marathon. Why run it a second time? Well because the route goes over the Golden Gate Bridge, duh!

LL run goal

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Recovery for me equals food + hydration. (I should probably say stretching, too, but I don’t do enough of it. I go to yoga weekly instead.) The first thing I do when I get back from a run is eat a (homemade) Almond Butter Power Ball to get a quick boost of energy and protein. I usually make a batch to keep in my fridge….they are so easy to make (no bake, one bowl) and they cost way less than energy bars.

Here’s the recipe I’ve used, but I’ve modified it to include everything in my cabinet! My recipe adds honey, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cacao nibs and maca powder. Hence, the nickname @SFgluten_freek.

My sleep routine is strictly 7.5 hours. I used to sacrifice sleep in order to “be more productive,” but I found that I can accomplish more if I’m rested and work less, sleep more. The irony.

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? I read Runner’s World magazine religiously (well, running IS my religion), and I got the advice to create a mantra for your race. Mantra is Sanskrit for “instrument for thinking,” and having a well-chosen mantra really can keep you calm and focused during a race.

My mantra is “Think strong. Be Strong,” which is a reminder to myself of the power of the mind. If I’m doubting my ability to PR or I’m focused on any pain I’m feeling during a race or training run, I can derail the whole thing.

Instead I focus on how strong I am, and I repeat my mantra that if I think strong, I will be strong. Hence, the nickname Terminator. It distracts me from the negative and directs me toward the positive. This mantra has gotten me across many finish lines, both literally and figuratively.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? New Year’s Day 2014. I flew to Boston (where my family is based) from San Francisco on New Year’s Eve, partied with old friends all night, slept for two hours then went to the Harvard Stadium at 6:30am on January 1, 2014 to run with November Project Boston in the freezing temps of a New England winter around the Harvard Stadium.

It was amazing to see how many people had gotten out of bed early on a dark, cold morning to start their year off on the right foot, literally. I think there were 200+ people there, and that was considered a “small” group!

My friends thought I was crazy, but it was a pilgrimage for me. It set the tone for the whole year of 2014: a year full of running, community and adventure.

Second favorite memory: running to my goal of 1,000 miles in 2014. I reached it during a run in Paris, France in December 2014. Running is a wonderful way to visit and experience a foreign city/country: you get a fast-paced tour, yet you feel like a local. Pack your running shoes if you can!

Finish line at Berkeley Half Marathon

My least favorite running memory was when I got such painful calf cramps in both legs at mile nine in the Berkeley Half Marathon. I ended up running the last four miles of the race in my socks, with my sneakers on my hands. I was determined to cross that finish line! I crossed it eventually (completely missing my PR), but my sneakers were still in hand so the chip on my shoe didn’t register my results! It listed me as a non-finisher.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. I would love to go on a run with Rory Bosio, ultramarathoner and all-around-goofball. Her laugh is infectious, her energy contagious and her determination and positivity, inspiring. She seems like the best person to run next to for 30+ miles, assuming I could keep up!

12. Anything else you want to add? You’ve heard this before from other tribe members, but if you haven’t tried November Project (NP), then check it out.

I’ve been a runner since age 12, but nothing has transformed me or my running ability in the tremendously positive way that NP has. I’m a better runner, neighbor, hugger and athlete thanks to the community and support that NP creates.

Whether you’re new to it or have been running for years, I guarantee that NP will take your running experience (and social life) to the next level. It’s hard to explain, you just have to try it for yourself!

Thanks for playing, Lillian! We’ll cross our fingers for you for the 2016 Big Sur lotto — but keep crushing it in the meantime at NP 🙂

Runner friends of all ages/levels/abilities, please email me — info (at) — if you’d like to be featured.

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