When we saw Kelly Roberts stop for a beer during the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, we knew she was our kind of runner. Kelly gained a lot of attention when her #HottGuysOfNYCHalf went viral and was picked up by major media around the country. Since then, her website, Run, Selfie, Repeat, has given birth to a new YouTube series as Kelly spreads her message of running for fun.
Kelly graciously agreed to talk with Team Shenanigans about her personal story, what running has given her and what it means to be a “real runner.”
How did you get started running?
I didn’t really have a choice, I was desperate to do something to make the pain I was in make sense. I started running after a sleepless night when I was drowning in grief and anxiety. My 16-year-old brother passed away suddenly in 2009 and I fell apart. I gained over 75 pounds and just really struggled to move forward without him.
I was lucky to be apart of a really supportive artistic environment in college so they pulled me through that initial year but it wasn’t until my Mom intervened that I started rebuilding myself. She encouraged me to get active, change my diet and fight for my life. So I did, but then I graduated and I didn’t really know what to do, so I moved home and found myself in this pause.
It was Thanksgiving Day and I was really missing my brother. I had gotten into the habit of going to the gym whenever I was feeling anxious but the gym was closed. I needed to move, so I put my shoes on and decided to run. It was more of a walk with a few short running breaks, but it made me feel better so I stuck with it. Two months later I ran a half marathon and the rest is history.
You always look like you’re having so much fun! How do you decide what races to run for fun, and which to run for time?
Even if I’m trying to “run for time” every race is a fun race. I’m all about the experience and for me, I know what my best effort feels like and that doesn’t exactly correlate to a specific time. This year’s Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon was the most fun I’ve ever had during a race because I ran with a really fun and energetic group of people.
I laughed the entire way and I never want to run a race that I don’t laugh the entire time again. That just seems like a waste of money to me to have a painful, awful time.
What are some of your favorite races to run for fun?
All you really need for a fun race is a group of fun people and a really good attitude, though. On this past Fourth of July I had to run my last 22-mile long run for a marathon I’m training for and I ran with my good friend Gregg. We had the best time ever. Sometimes I have more fun running with one person or a small group than I do running with 50 thousand.
How do you respond to people who say that if you’re running for fun at races, and not giving 100%, that you’re not a “real runner.”
I say to each their own. Everyone runs for different reasons and that’s what makes running so special. I’m not an athletic person. I didn’t play on sports teams growing up and I hated doing anything in PE. I think some people in our running community don’t understand what it’s like to have to work really hard to enjoy being active. It’s second nature to them, how could we expect them to know? That’s not to say they don’t work incredibly hard, they do. It’s just different.
So if someone wants to say someone isn’t a “real runner” I say run as far away from that person as possible. They don’t sound like someone I’d enjoy running with anyways. But there’s more than enough room for all of us at the start line. Different strokes for different folks!
What does being a “real runner” even mean to you?
Putting your shoes on and running for at least 20 seconds.
Tell us about your new YouTube project.
I feel like running has this terrible rap. People who don’t run don’t just feel indifferently about it, they HATE it. I always thought that in order to be a runner you had to be born a runner. I didn’t understand that running sucks only when you’re just getting started.
I just launched my YouTube series The Road To Run, Selfie, Repeat that I’m really incredibly excited about. I share more of my story and what it’s like to work 10-12 hour days and then train for marathons. I just released Episode 2 so check it out!
I read that you are trained in clown. What does that mean?
I am trained in clown! It’s actually the best thing that ever happened to me! You see, clowning is all about seeing the world for the first time in a very raw, unbiased way. One of my mentors who gave me the gift of clown is named Orlando Pabotoy and he’s an absolute genius. He gave me the invaluable gift of learning how to look at the world as if you’re seeing it for the first time. To take off the masks and notions we think we need to be and to simply listen and react authentically, transparently and from your heart. He taught me how to lead with my heart and to look at the world in a very different way. I think almost everything I do lives in clown.
It’s a far cry from the red nose wearing children’s birthday party character everyone is afraid of. Everything is true as it’s happening for the first time. Beautiful. That’s the word I would use to describe clowning. It tugs your heart strings.
If you could issue a challenge to other runners, for a way to put fun in their run, what would you have them do?
SMILE. My god, SMILE!
What’s up next on your race calendar?
I have a race that I can’t announce just yet a little after the San Francisco Marathon that I AM BEYOND excited about! And then I am doing the Staten Island Half Marathon, some smaller New York Road Runners races and then the New York City Marathon! It’s a very, very, very big year.