Sean Raines: Sometimes just ‘getting out the door’ is a big win

Sean is all smiles after reaching a mountaintop on a training run with friends. Photo by Jordan Chang.

Sean Raines has a long list of running accomplishments. He has finished multiple 100-mile races. He survived the Hellgate 100K. And last summer, in the early months of the pandemic when nearly every race was cancelled, he ran a 3:48 marathon personal best in a time trial on the New River Trail.

But you won’t hear about any of those if you ask him his most satisfying running accomplishments.

“That’s a tough one,” says Sean. “I’ve been able to do and see some cool stuff. I struggle with anxiety and depression so, for me, the most satisfying accomplishments are just getting out the door some days. If I had to pick a race it would be the first 5K I ran. It’s a feeling I think I’m still chasing.”

That first 5K, the 2013 Sundown 5K at the Blacksburg Summer Solstice Festival, happened by accident. 

“I initially started running as a warm-up before lifting weights,” Sean said. “A friend of mine signed up for a Tough Mudder obstacle race and asked if I would join him. I rarely turn down a challenge, so I said yes. I realized (after signing up) that I would have to run a 10K and so I started training to be able to run longer than a mile. I used one of the couch to 10K apps and cut my teeth running on the Huckleberry Trail. 

“As the Tough Mudder got closer, my friends dropped like flies. I had all this training and no race so I decided to sign up for the Sundown 5K. I loved it and have been hooked since.”

It also helped him find and help build a community that keeps him motivated and inspired. 

“I enjoy all aspects of running. It can be great for some alone time but also great for bringing people together. I like that each run is its own unique challenge. The endorphins are great too. Running has taken me to some really great places. At the top of the list of things that keep me running, though, are my friends,” he said. “My major goal is to stay in shape so that I can have a chance at keeping up with my friends.”

Sean Raines | Age: 43

Sean runs on the Appalachian Trail near the Audie Murphy Memorial on Brush Mountain. Photo by Jordan Chang.

Hometown:  Born in Beckley, WV; now lives in Christiansburg with his wife Deborah

What brought you to the NRV? I first moved to Blacksburg after college to start my career. After a year in Blacksburg, I moved to Cincinnati (while I was in sales) and lived there for five years. After that, I moved back so that I could take a role in marketing.

Occupation? Sr. Director of Marketing for Spectrum Brands. My team and I focus on the home aquariums and bird and small animal pet businesses.

How did you get the nickname “Mao Mao”? Haha!! It is a nickname I got from my friends in China during my first trip to China (a frequent destination for work). The story of how I got the nickname has become a legend in and of itself as it gets more detailed and longer each time I tell it.  

Jordan Chang (left) has helped Sean plan his training.

Your typical training week?  Well … typically I run pretty sporadically. For the past year and few months though Jordan Chang has been helping me with my training.  This has led to much more consistency and really improved my performance while racing. I usually get somewhere between 50-60 miles in a week.  But don’t look at my Strava for the past 3 weeks. I’ve been slacking — haha. 

Last race? Conquer the Cove Marathon

Next race? Iron Mountain 50 miler in September

Favorite race? Rim to River 100, in the beautiful New River Gorge.

Favorite workout? I love a good progression run. That was something Jordan showed me and it changed my whole mindset. I like looking at splits going the correct way (Ha. Ha.).

Favorite places to run?  I love running at Pandapas, the trails around Mountain Lake, all around Blacksburg, the Appalachian Trail, and the track at Virginia Tech. 

Advice for new runners? Start slow and gradually build. Also, find some good people to run with (*cough*) Runabout Sports’ pub run (*cough*)

Roads or Trails? Trails

Hobbies beyond running? I love movies. All movies. Even bad ones. I also enjoy reading. 

Any running superstitions or rituals? I have to get up super early before a race or really long run. It sometimes takes me some time to settle my nerves, eat and make sure I’ve left time for the pre-run poop. 

Friends Pawel Nazarewicz (left) and Brett Sherfy (right) share a moment with Sean following his 2018 Hellgate 100K finish.

Proudest running moment? Getting into and finishing Hellgate 100K. I’d love to get back there soon. 

Suggestion for growing our running community?  What a great community we have here! I haven’t been participating in group runs or the pub runs much, but they are great ways to introduce people to the community. Weekend running meet-ups that happen at the same time/same day every weekend would be great too. We could rotate who “leads” the run. That would entail route planning and ensuring we have a buddy system in place to make sure no one gets lost. 

Favorite gear?  I primarily run in Brooks Glycerins for more roadie stuff and La Sportiva for trail stuff. Lately, I’ve been running in the La Sportiva Jackals but my go-to is the Wild Cat. I also run with Nathan hydration packs and handhelds. Most of my shorts are Patagonia.  

Favorite pre-run fuel? When they are available, I love to have one of Deb’s lemon/blueberry muffins. If she hasn’t had time to make them (or I’ve eaten them all) I go to either Cocoa Pebbles or Peanut Butter Capn’ Crunch cereal. I’m a real health nut.

Favorite post-run recovery/reward meal? Anything with lots of fat like pizza or a burger. Ice cream is always welcome. I also really like having a cold, crisp spicy water waiting.  

Fact most people don’t know about you? I won a Commodore 64 computer when I was 4 at McDonald’s. After one week of me typing my name over and over and over, my parents sold it and bought us an Atari. 

Your might also like these stories:

Matt Wisnioski: ‘A born again runner’

Jordan Chang shares his passion for running and community.

Former top marathoner Michelle Lowry still running strong in Blacksburg

A thank you to James Demarco and Runabout Sports

Jenn Fleming’s comeback story continues with win at Holiday Lake 50K



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