Traci Tapani is used to breaking stereotypes. In her 20s, she became co-owner with her sister of a precision sheet metal fabrication company — one of the few women-owned businesses in a heavily male-dominated industry. She has been invited to speak before Congress and the White House regarding women in manufacturing.
Raising two daughters as a single mom, Tapani was searching for a way to get back into running and make new friends when she decided to join White Bear Lake/Shoreview Moms on the Run. But she didn’t do that the traditional way, either. In fact, she is one of the few members to initially join Moms on the Run during Polar Club — hitting the snow-covered trails in Minnesota in frigid January.
Grab a cup of coffee, protein shake or bottle of water and read on for more of our conversation with this inspiring woman.
Q: You are one of the only WBL/SV runners who initially joined not during summer session but during polar club, and have been with us ever since. What motivated you to join?
A: I had stopped running for a while because it had become boring and it just didn’t seem fun anymore. Also, my youngest daughter was in her final year of high school and I knew that I’d be an “empty nester” starting in the fall. I was looking for ways to get back into running and to make new friends. I raised my two daughters as a single parent and I had spent more than a decade just trying to care for my family and run the company I own. There wasn’t much time for anything else.
Q: Tell me a little about your running journey? Were you a runner before joining Moms on the Run? What sorts of races have you done?
A: I started running in my mid 40s (I’m 52 years old right now). I was walking so much that I finally decided I should see if I was capable of running and I realized that I was. My early years of running were on my own with no instruction or coaching. I ran multiple races during my first year in MOTR: 5k, 10k, 2 10-milers, and a 50-mile relay with other MOTR runners.
Q: I heard that you have already PRed in a half-marathon and 5K this season. What’s next?
A: Twin Cities Marathon! I am registered and am just starting my marathon training. Honestly, I am scared to death, but I just want to experience a marathon before I get too old. Our MOTR coach, Beth, is just amazing. She said I need to focus on completing the race and at this point, that’s enough. Without the insight and encouragement of Beth, our other coaches, and the other MOTR women, I don’t think I’d even try to run a marathon.
Q: You have an interesting career in a male-dominated industry. Tell us what you do and what it’s like to be one of the few women in that industry?
A: I own a precision sheet metal fabrication company that employs about 55 people. I’ve owned the company for the last 24 years with my sister, Lori, who just joined MOTR. We were still in our 20s when we became the owners and it’s been quite a journey working in this male dominated field for all these years. I can tell you that we have attracted a lot of attention and we’ve had opportunities to do some amazing things. I was invited to attend President Obama’s Upskill America Summit at the White House and I’ve been to the White House under the Trump administration. In May, I testified before Congress on the skills gap that is impacting the workforce all across our nation. I am very thankful to have had so many amazing opportunities and for the chance to demonstrate strong female leadership to my two daughters.
Q: You recently recruited your sister to the MOTR family. What would you share with someone who is curious about MOTR?
A: Yes, my sister is a new MOTR and she is loving it. My 20-year-old daughter also joined MOTR. I think she is the youngest woman in our group! My sister told me that she was going to start running again and I suggested that she join MOTR or at least check it out. The training plans and coaching making it possible for anyone to improve their fitness. The “team” atmosphere that comes from running as part of a group is just awesome. I think this is the best part. I have learned so much about providing encouragement to others and about being gracious and accepting of the encouragement I receive. The value of this alone is priceless.
Q: Besides running, of course, what do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I just finished a two-week family motorcycle trip with my sister and both my daughters. We are a Harley Davidson-riding family and we put on just over 4,000 miles during our trip. One of our biggest challenges was riding our motorcycles up 14,000 feet to the summit of Pike’s Peak.