How Running Changed Me – Joe Riggs

Name: Joe Riggs
Age: 32
Hometown: Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Occupation: Engineer
Time Running: 6 years
Reason for Running: I run because of the sport of triathlon. I love those three relatively simple disciplines (swim / bike / run) in their own respects, and that they can be merged into a single-day event that creates one of the most challenging endurance endeavors for athletes across the board.


I had run somewhat sporadically since 2003 when I participated in middle school track. But my running really geared up when I decided to do a half Ironman in early 2016. My endurance was quite low, and my running form needed some work. My average pace for that half marathon was 11:59. But after following a regimented training plan, I ran 8:38 in another half Ironman in September 2016.

After that, I continued to run casually and train for shorter distance Xterra events from 2017 through 2019. And that’s when my life changed. I was suddenly diagnosed with epilepsy in the fall of 2019. I lost the ability to drive, swim, and partake in other everyday activities. I was put on anti-seizure medications by a neurologist; these were the first medications I had ever routinely taken.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to epilepsy, but what is most critical for someone with epilepsy is determining what triggers seizures. I spent the better part of 2020 keeping notes and examining my habits to try to better understand what could be contributing to the seizures. Thankfully, mine are very predictable – often related to not enough sleep. That said, I have nailed down my rest routine and try to keep it as regimented as possible. I have now been seizure-free for 17 months, and hopefully continue to be so.

Courtesy Rachel Riggs

In 2020, I started training for the Denver Colfax Marathon. But due to COVID, the race was canceled and postponed to October 2021. I spent four months devoted to marathon training to complete the Denver Colfax Marathon in October 2021, where I finished in 3:49:23.

I’ve always wanted to do a full-distance Ironman, and decided to sign up for the Ironman World Championship St. George in Utah. St. George is a beautiful and difficult course. With my strongest sport being cycling, I wanted to choose a bike course that would be challenging. And the fact that it’s the World Championship is purely coincidental as the 2021 Kona Championship was postponed and relocated to Utah this year, and I had already registered before.

I am training four days a week, running 30 to 40 miles. I use Training Peaks where my triathlon coach Danielle Mack uploads my workouts. Running is the sport with the most room for improvement compared to swimming and biking. (For cycling, I use TrainerRoad for programming and analyzing all my key indoor / outdoor bike workouts.) I have currently been training at a 7:15 minute per mile marathon pace.

Generally, I run 60-minute intervals on Tuesdays, four-mile shakeouts on Wednesdays, 60-minute tempo runs on Thursdays, and long runs on Sundays ranging from 14 to 20 miles. I am also doing the Lumberjack 100 Mountain Bike Race in northern Michigan with my brothers in June 2022 that I am really looking forward to.

Running has been amazing. It’s made me stretch more. I’ve always been bad about that. Jokes aside, coming from a cycling background, running provides a fantastic avenue for exercising with minimal equipment. I have also noticed my joints feel stronger. Most people worry about running hurting their joints but as long as you practice good form, increase distance gradually, and allow for proper recovery, it can be very beneficial.

I’m very fortunate in that my epilepsy has been more predictable and easier to get under control. But overall, I would say regardless of epilepsy or any other condition, any runner would stand to benefit from a change to lifestyle. I eat, sleep and live healthier than I ever have and pay attention to my stress levels. Being mindful of my health outside the sport itself has been life changing.


These three tips have made my running journey successful:

1. Enjoy the process

The number-one reason I love it and am successful is because I genuinely enjoy it. Worry about equipment and stats later. First, just get out and have fun with it.

2. Dream big

Motivation is everything when it comes to training for endurance events. I chose to do an Ironman because I knew it was hard and would require more training than I’ve ever attempted in my life. The appreciation that the training will push my physical limits week after week to build my base level of endurance to handle all three sports in one day, was great motivation to keep after it.

3. Embrace indoor training and rally a team

From a training perspective, being consistent is key. Although I love training in beautiful locations, time and the weather does not always allow me to do so, which means sometimes I must do rides on an indoor trainer. I created a space dedicated to indoor training so there’s no excuses.

Finally, I think any athlete undertaking a big event like this needs to find support. These sports consume a lot of time, money, and energy. And doing it without the support of family, friends, spouses, pets, or colleagues would be impossible.


Joe’s Must-Have Gear

Garmin Forerunner 945: It’s so easy to use. I can program and monitor every single workout, whether it’s swimming, biking, or running.

Saucony Ride 14 Running Shoes: Shoes are such a personal choice but for me, these have been extremely durable and withstand my long training volumes. I’ve tried different brands, and these have worked best for me.

→ Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer: It allows me to program cycling intervals with extreme precision. I’ve used mine for six years and haven’t ever had issues.

→ Air Relax Classic AR 2.0 Leg Recovery System: They’re a great way to kickstart recovery while I load up on food recovery. It’s a nice alternative to foam rolling if you dread rolling after a workout.


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