Q&A with a Running Dairy Farmer

As we gear up to hand out 15,000 chocolate milk chugs at this weekend’s 500 Festival Mini Marathon, we reflect on the all-consuming hobby that is race running. I chatted with Janny Kleine, a dairy farmer from Cedar Lake, Indiana, who just finished her fifth half marathon on April 26.

janny kleine cow

How did you get started running? Did it come easily?

Janny Kleine: I ran two years in high school, but I didn’t like distance running at all.  It was after I came home from college, when I just needed something else to do and keep myself busy. My cousin is in charge of the local YMCA and they do a Hub Run every year. It’s just a 5k so I decided to train myself to do that. Then I got in with a running group at the Y in Crown Point. We started off training for a 5k, then we moved up to a 5 miler, then a 15 k, then a half marathon.

How was your April 26th half marathon?

JK: It went pretty good, my watch said I was 45 seconds better than last year. The official time only said one second better, but oh well. It was my fifth half marathon and it was really close to my house. I hated to pass up the chance since it was so close. I was feeling good the first half of it, then I got turned around and I started getting tired. The wind was bad. I traded with my brother so I didn’t have to milk cows that morning. I sacrificed my morning to sleep in to go run… crazy right? [laughs]

What time do you normally get up?

JK: 4:30 [a.m.]. We start milking cows about ten till 5. I never get a full eight hours of sleep in, it’s more like six, maybe, or less.

What’s your training routine?

JK: [laughs] I’ll tell you what I’m supposed to be doing, not what I’m actually doing. I don’t stick to my training schedule really well—it’s really hard for me to get in my weekly runs. We’re supposed to run from about  11 miles a week and up to maybe 25 miles a week. We do our long runs on Saturdays.

What gets in the way of your training schedule?
JK: Our Saturday long runs are at 8 am, but I have to milk cows in the morning. I get up, milk cows, and then I go run. On Mondays, we don’t get done milking until around 6 p.m., so I would have to leave the milking early to make it or just run on my own. In the winter, I was able to train the most, because we weren’t so busy in the field. Now we’re getting busy, so summer running is the hardest.

Since drinking chocolate milk after a long run helps build muscle and refuel your body, are you a chocolate milk drinker?

JK: Most definitely! I sometimes stop at Walgreens or a gas station to get some chocolate milk after running at the Y. It does taste so much better after a run. It’s weird. I buy milk chugs in a six pack because I like the handiness of them. I sometimes drink a milk chug before going out to milk cows in the morning just to get something in my system, because I’m usually starving.


What keeps you going, keeps you running?

JK: It is mostly my running group. I could not do this by myself. I have a great group, we have the support and everybody’s so positive. They are the greatest people to have around. It’s fun on long runs because you’re running with people for a couple hours and you get to know people really well. You hear crazy stories. I talk about cows and the farm all the time, so I’m trying to give people a picture of life on my farm, you know, talking about some misconceptions. I get called “cowgirl” all the time by my run coach. [laughs] I’m not really a cowgirl, but technically, kind of.

What advice do you have for someone running their first race or just getting started?

JK: Find a good running group. If you are training for a long distance thing, keep up your training. Think positively. It’s so easy to think that you can’t do something, but if you’ve been training for it your body will just do it, it’s your head that will say no or stop. My coach says, “Trust your training, you know you can do this.” It’s your mind that will get to you. The first time I started training for a 5 k, I did it on my own and I didn’t do very well. I didn’t have any formal training and I didn’t know what to do.

Any plans to do a full marathon? 

JK:  I don’t have time to commit to it. I don’t have time to take five hour runs on Saturdays. I’ve got too much to do around the farm. Luckily, my dad lets me get out and do my thing, but usually, when I get done with a long run, I have to come home and work. Fixing fence after a long run, now that’s hard.