Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eager to put my racing shoes on again.

I guess I have taken a slightly different path than your typical pro athlete.

Luckily I’m a runner and not a swimmer, or a Chinese gymnast who hits her prime at what, 12? I wasn’t able to train full-time until after I got my contract with Reebok in 2004. Before that, it was kind of an “intense hobby.”

When I came out of college (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1997), I wasn’t the best, but I was improving.

I was just a late bloomer. In 2004, I just missed making the Olympic team after leading for much of the way. Even though I was probably the dark-horse, it was still a huge disappoint­ment. It’s not fun to finish fourth and get passed in the last 800 meters of a marathon, but that performance helped get me my contract with Reebok.

Had I been a college superstar or known I had Olympic potential, things might have been different.

Right out of college my parents encouraged me, and even offered to finance me, if I wanted to just focus on running. But I wanted to get my master’s in physical therapy and work in the field.

Sometimes I wish I had taken them up on the offer to just run for a few years. When you take those 40 hours on your feet — the time you spend working — out of the equation, it makes all the difference. One of the toughest parts was taking the time off work to fly to races.

In a way, I think I am more appreciative of my contract with Reebok now because of the way I earned it. There is something about knowing you can still fight your way to the top, as opposed to someone who is given everything all along the way.

You know, of all the women running in Division I in 1997 I am the only one still competing. Thankfully, women have established that they can run well into their late 30s. I’m 35, yikes! It takes years and years to develop the stamina in order to race a marathon. I raced and won my first marathon at 28 after

over ten years of competing in cross country and track. I was back at work as a physical therapist the next day, rolling around on my stool because my quads hurt so bad.

Though it was frustrating to take time off to have a baby during my peak years, I would not have changed a thing. My coach and I had talked about options, and the best was to have as much recovery time as possible.

Having a baby right after the Olympics gave me the most time to recover and try to qualify for London in 2012.

Jon, my husband, agreed. It’s a good thing, because I would not have won any mommy comeback awards.

There have been a few bumps in the road, but now things are falling back into place. The U.S. Olympic Trials are creeping up and are only a year from January in Houston. In the meantime, I am deciding on a spring marathon and will use the USA 8k Cross Country Championships in San Diego on Feb. 5 as a tune-up race and possibly a few track races along the way.
I am eager to put my racing shoes on again.

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