Our C-U Women Outdoors series is all about highlighting the women in our local RuggedOutdoors community who are passionate about the outdoors. Meet Alyssa Hudson, a competitive long distance runner who encourages all women to live a balanced life.
Name: Alyssa Hudson
Occupation: Illinois Senate Communications & Public Affairs
Alyssa is a wife and mother who works full-time for the Illinois Senate. She is also a licensed Realtor, a competitive dance team coach and choreographer, an Officer for the Illinois Drill Team Association, and a health and fitness enthusiast. Alyssa runs The Honest Mama blog which chronicles her most vulnerable experiences with parenting, marriage, and all of life’s journeys.
What does the “outdoors” mean to you?
I love to spend time outdoors whether that be relaxing on my porch at home, playing at a park with my daughter, visiting with friends on a restaurant patio, running, or traveling and taking in different scenery. As a runner, I’ve ran races outdoors in every season here in the Midwest and there’s something awe-inspiring about being outside and experiencing the different sights, sounds, and scents during each season. I’m a spiritual person, so taking time to unplug from technology and practicing gratitude for my surroundings and circumstances is so refreshing.
If the weather is nice on a Saturday, what can we find you doing?
The perfect Saturday for me would consist of a morning run, brunch on a restaurant patio in C-U, an afternoon visit to Curtis Orchard, and an evening bonfire or some relaxation time on the porch with friends and family.
You haven’t always been a runner, what inspired you to start and what was your biggest struggle in getting started?
In January 2018, my daughter was not yet two years old, and like most moms, I was not the greatest at making myself a priority. One of my goals for 2018 was to start focusing on my physical health, and that meant finding time to do things that were strictly about me, which felt selfish at first. I have never been a runner. I always refer to myself as “the girl who cheated the mile run in high school P.E. class,” because I would find ways to hide or get out of the mandatory running in school. When I began running, I started on a treadmill and did intervals of running for two minutes and walking for two minutes for twenty minutes total. Over time, it became a mental competition to see if I could continue to increase the amount of time that I was running and decrease the amount of time that I was walking. I’ll never forget the first time that I ran for twenty minutes straight without walking. I was so proud of myself that I almost cried. I didn’t realize when I began this journey that running would become a huge part of discovering who I am and what I’m really capable of achieving.
You often take your daughter on runs with you, any tips for someone that is thinking about taking a baby/toddler on their runs?
Invest in a good running stroller and bring things to keep your child entertained. When I first started running with my daughter, I was pushing her in a regular walking stroller because I wasn’t sure how often I’d run with her. We both enjoyed our runs together and I quickly realized how difficult it was to push a regular stroller on uneven pavement, so I ended up purchasing a running stroller. I always make sure to pack a little bag with a snack and some toys to keep her entertained. Our runs usually end with a trip to the park, so that’s a special bonus for her as well.
On top of raising a toddler and having a full time job, you also coach a junior high dance team, act as Membership & Communications Officer for the Illinois Drill Team Association, and run The Honest Mama blog. How do you find the time and motivation to go running?
Running is absolutely critical for my mental health. On days where my schedule is jam packed and my energy is depleted at the end of the day, I know that even a short run can bring some peace to the chaos.
What’s your favorite race that you’ve completed?
I’ve enjoyed all of the races that I’ve done for different reasons, so it’s hard to pick just one. If I had to narrow it down, I’d say there are three that stick out equally in my mind. I recently completed the Chicago Women’s 10 Mile which was amazing because the scenery was beautiful along Lake Michigan, and it was a group of hundreds of empowered women running for their own personal reasons. I also really enjoyed the Illinois Marathon 10k this year because it was awesome running through the streets of downtown and seeing Champaign-Urbana from a different perspective. Last November, I ran the Savannah Day 2.96 in honor of a former Unity High School cross country runner who passed away earlier that year. It was the first race that I ran with my daughter in her stroller, and it was on what would have been Savannah Day’s 19th birthday. After the race, Savannah’s family and all of the participants sang Happy Birthday, released balloons, and ate cupcakes in her honor. I didn’t know Savannah personally but reminiscing about that experience is still emotional for me.
Do you have any favorite local running spots?
I often run anywhere from 3-5 miles around Stone Creek in Urbana or near the YMCA in southwest Champaign, and I enjoy running anything beyond 5 miles around C-U through campustown or through St. Joe. I like campustown because of the scenery and nostalgia, but I usually try to pick places with less traffic and decent pavement. I’ve never been a superstitious person, but I am somewhat superstitious when it comes to running. If I’m training for a race and have really successful runs in certain areas or on specific paths, I usually go back to those places on distance days. I try to avoid any spots where I have had “bad runs.” Running is incredibly mental.
Why do you think running has become such a big part of your life?
Running has taught me so much about myself. I’ve learned to practice gratitude for what I am physically and mentally capable of doing and to appreciate my surroundings. It’s a huge outlet for me, and it’s important for me to set a healthy example for my daughter. She also loves to run on her own now because it has become such a regular part of our lives. I will be doing the Champaign Urbana Special Recreation Cupcake 5k race in November, and she is so excited to be running her first 100m kids’ race that day.
As an employee of the Illinois State Senate, you’ve worked with local non-profits to help them receive state grants for outdoor recreation and sustainability projects. What is the best way for a group looking for funding to go about finding and applying for state grants?
Depending on the time of year and the project itself, there are several state departments that offer grant money to assist with outdoor projects for cities/villages and non-profits. Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity are a few of the organizations that have assisted our local park districts and communities in completing projects such as sidewalk and bike path additions and park and playground renovations. State legislators’ offices are available to assist their constituents with grant applications, so reach out to your state representative or state senator to inquire about potential resources available.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I could credit a multitude of people for this, but the best advice I’ve ever received from several outlets is to practice gratitude regularly. In Brene Brown’s words, “Joy comes in the ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
I’ve wanted to sky dive since I was a kid and listened to all of my dad’s stories about his sky diving experiences. I want to experience it with someone close to me, so I’m still working on convincing my husband.
Is there anything you're working on or a project that you are a part of that you're most excited about right now?
The collaboration projects with my blog (thehonestmamablog.com) have been really exciting and rewarding opportunities that have continued to open new doors for me. I began blogging as an outlet when my daughter was a newborn, and my readers grew steadily over the years. I started an Instagram for the blog (@thehonestmamablog) this summer which has really helped its growth and has connected me with some amazing people in the community. Collaborating with local small businesses through the blog has been a great way to meet entrepreneurs and to help them grow their businesses and the blog simultaneously.