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Ithaca is People: Genna Hartung

The #IthacaisPeople Files

Week 4: Run For the Gorges! Genna's in Town.

A budding photographer with a propensity towards fitness and the outdoors, this girl runs Ithaca. Well... not in the traditional sense, but she does pack in about 60 miles of running on our trails, in our parks, and through our gorges every week. Oh, we're sorry, did that make you feel a slight twinge of guilt for skipping the gym this morning? Well, that's nothing. You should see what she does on her off days. Follow us on Instagram to tag along with Genna on her daily excursions, and read on for an in-depth interview with this @VisitIthaca trailblazer.

Where are you from?

Originally from Plattsburg New York, so that’s about 6 hours from here.

When did you move to Ithaca?

I started Cornell here in 2009 and then I went to school here from 2009 to 2013, and then I moved to New Jersey for two and a half years. Then I moved back to Ithaca because I missed it, and I’ve been living here since August of 2015.

What did you miss so much about Ithaca?

I missed the running trails, I missed (surprisingly) the weather. I’m from where it’s 10 to 15 degrees colder on average, so for me New Jersey was way too hot… which is sad to say that that’s my standard of temperature control! I missed the Cornell track team, I missed being able to go to four different waterfalls in ten minutes and being able to get outside and escape from the city. I could get to New York City in 45 minutes, but I couldn’t get to any hiking or anything like that reliably when I was living in New Jersey.

You take a lot of outdoor fitness photos on Instagram. Did your account start out that way?

No, I think my account just started out as like an extension of Facebook, and just a way to post my day-to-day life, but I really always liked doing… well my dad’s a part-time professional photographer who does really awesome outdoors Adirondacks-based stuff, so I started learning from him, and then I started putting myself into the photos- I did a couple of photo shoots for Nike and I had a lot of fun with that and I started using that as a way to teach myself photography of other people. It’s much easier to take photos of other people when you can see what’s going on on the screen! I’ve been figuring out how to do it when I can’t see what’s going on in the shot, and how to get the photos I want… getting a sense of where I am without seeing it, if that makes sense. So I have gotten to do a lot of landscape and running photography, and I’ve learned a lot about my camera and photography in general, so it’s been a lot of fun.

How long have you been doing that?

A couple months.

Oh really?!

Yeah, I had a nice camera for a while but it was hard to travel with, so I just didn’t use it as much as I probably should. So I bought a smaller, more portable camera, a tripod and a self-timer, and I just started doing this since… February, maybe?

Wow, good for you! That’s very impressive!

Thank you.

So what is your daily fitness routine?

It depends on the day. I run semi-professionally, so I am actually in the process of training for the Olympic trials. The next qualifying race is actually this weekend. So the typical day is anywhere between six and thirteen miles of running, maybe a work out, maybe just an easy day…it depends on the day, but usually about 60 miles of running a week and then an hour-plus of biking or swimming.

Do you take a day off?

Uh… (laughs) that is the day off.

You mean the biking and swimming. Really.

It’s significantly different than running so it’s a mental and physical break.

Wow. Okaaaay, well… (shaking my head in shock and disbelief) Have you always been into fitness?

Well, yes. My mom is a Type-1 diabetic so she’s been a runner since before I can remember, and runs every single day so I started… I’m one of the few people who got into running competitively because I wanted to be a runner, not because I was cut from another sport. I started running competitively in the 7th grade I think, and I’ve been doing it ever since and I basically just fell in love with it.

So you’re saying to us that people who run competitively are generally just cut from other sports? Like, they got benched?


Well, it’s really funny, I’ve been to a few running camps and they’ll ask at the beginning, “How many people here got into running because they want to be a really good runner?” and like, two people raise their hands. And then, “How many people here got cut from soccer?” and like forty people raise their hands.

Jeez, I never would have guessed that.

Yeah, we’re generally not the most hand-eye coordinated people so…

How funny! So where is your favorite place to go running outdoors in the Ithaca area?

Probably Sapsucker Woods out by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It helps because I live about a mile away from there so I can run there. Or I can drive in less than 5 minutes. But it’s an awesome place to run - it’s got shaded, wood-chip trails, it’s really pretty, it’s usually not too crowded, there are birds chirping, there’s the Visitor’s Center which is really beautiful, and it’s really just quite picturesque, and calm and quiet. But there’s tons of different runs along the gorges, and endless trails. I mean I could list them for quite a while. But my number one is Sapsucker.

Well then. Ok, so in all honesty, this next question is really quite selfish and I’m mostly asking for my own personal benefit. (laughter) Where would you recommend - for someone who is completely out of shape and wants to get fit - is a good place to start being active outdoors? What are some of the easier trails to start?

I would honestly say again, Sapsucker. It’s a wood-chip trail, so it’s man-made and covered with two or three inches of packed woodchips so it’s really nice, very flat, very even, and it’s really soft so it’s super comfortable to run on. It’s enough of a trail where there’s lots of scenery so it doesn’t get boring, and there are boardwalks, and benches, and places to just sit and bird-watch and just enjoy the area in general. And if it’s hot it’s a good place to go, too.

Because it’s shaded by the woods?

Yeah, and actually in the winter it’s a really good place to go too because the snow either gets packed down and it’s great for cross-country skiing, or - because it’s so shaded - it really doesn’t get too much snow on the trails, so you can run there. I was running there all winter.

Well it’s funny that you said that because you just kind of answered part of my next question: Do you spend time outdoors in the winter, and if so, what do you do?

Exactly the same thing! I run in the snow, or I run on the roads. The whole cross-country team was running on the trails all winter. Even when we got some snow it wasn’t too bad and we could still run on most of the trails off-campus too.

Are you super healthy in general?

I think so? (laughs)

I mean, do you eat well? Do you shop at certain places to get healthier foods?

Well yeah, I was actually a Nutrition major at Cornell, so I’d like to think I eat pretty healthy! I’ve kind of become an “accidental vegetarian” from living in Ithaca. I think you end up eating vegan and vegetarian more times than you think, just because there are so many places that have vegan and vegetarian options. So you forget sometimes to buy meat and eat it.

Oh really? (Big carnivore here.) Hmmmm….That doesn’t happen to me, I don’t think.

Yeah, that’s probably my most unhealthy thing, is forgetting to eat enough red meat. Not that I don’t like it, I just totally forget.

I don’t relate. (laughter) But anyway, that brings us to our last question. If you could describe Ithaca in one word, what would it be?

You’re not allowed to use “gorges”, I’m assuming?

Nope. Overdone.

Um… Ooooh... That’s tough.

Take your time.

I would say “Outdoorsy”. I mean, that’s how I experience Ithaca and that’s one of my favorite things about it. I was actually out taking photos in this random area yesterday, and I saw probably seven, eight people walking dogs and running in this one spot within half an hour. I mean, it was beautiful out, so people are obviously enjoying the weather, but it was kind of a back-woods trail that I think not everybody knows about. So to see that many people... There’s so much to do outside, and so many places to explore, and it’s just so beautiful. Winter has a beauty of its own, and the summer is so amazing, and the fall and spring- with the leaves and blooming flowers- are incredible… Ithaca is just always a great place to be outside!

And with that, I am grabbing my keys, going home to change, and heading out for a beautiful walk in Sapsucker Woods. Thanks for the tip, Gemma! ;)

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