The steeplechase is one of those events that either confuses people when I describe the race or, if they are familiar with track, I get a lot of admiration for taking on such a notoriously difficult event.  “How did you get into the steeple?” many people ask, not bothering to hide their incredulity.  Well, I tried out track my freshman year of high school because my parents, both who ran in college, encouraged me to give it a chance.  I thought, like many athletes with a team sports background, I would be a sprinter.  And I was, for one meet, until I got decimated by the girls from the other city schools.  The coaches convinced me the added discomfort of being a mid-distance runner would be worth the glory of excelling at an event.   I was lucky enough to enter the University of Minnesota with a group of extremely talented women, many of whom were mid-distance runners as well (Heather Kampf and Gabriele Grunewald have continued their dominance in mid-distance events to this day).  Coach Wilson made the decision that since I had played soccer, I’d probably be coordinated enough to jump over obstacles while running fast.  Steeplechase has been my favorite event ever since because it takes coordination, a high pain tolerance, and strong muscles.

Another common question is, “how did you become a professional runner?” I have been fortunate enough to stay healthy and have the resources to garner success at each level of track.  In high school I ran 2:12 in the 800m and 4:51 in the 1600m, which was fast enough to be recruited by the University of Minnesota.  In college I was a three time All-American, and dropped my PR’s to 2:06 in the 800m, 4:39 in the mile, and 10:11 in the steeplechase.  I took a year off competitive running after college; trying to race for nine months out of the year while dealing with serious depression had taken its toll, and I was burned out.  Yet after a few months away from competitive racing, a fire rekindled, and I felt a desire to better my PR’s.  I was fortunate to live in a city with a professional track team, and I convinced Team USA give me a chance as a professional athlete.  Over the last 4 years, I have dropped an average of 10 seconds off my steeplechase PR.  My PR, 9:29, ranks me as the 7th fastest American woman in the event’s history, and I finished 4th in the event at the US Outdoor Track and Field National Meet.  My goal is to be part of the United States Olympic Team in 2016.

If people are bold enough, they will then ask, “How do you make money?” The toughest part of professional running is maintaining the resources and support necessary to push the body to its limit.  Support includes money for traveling to races, medical support to keep the body healthy, and funds to cover daily expenses.  There are three main ways distance runners are able to do this: 1.) Signing a contract with a running shoe company; 2). Being part of a club team; and 3). Prize money from races.  Runners will try to get funding from as many sources as possible.  Shoe contracts, while they are often the most lucrative, can also be the most fickle – most shoe companies will cut an underperforming athlete as soon as possible regardless of injury or other extenuating circumstances.  I appreciate being a member of Club Northwest because I know the members want me to succeed, and will support me through the ups and downs of professional running.  This year the club has provided funding for me to travel to meets necessary for me to qualify for the Outdoor Track and Field National meet.  The club has also provided money for meet entry fees and the opportunity for coaching, workout partners, and we are developing a medical support system. 

Few people ask, “Why are you a runner?”  They seem to understand that even though I hardly make any money, I get stressed out about racing, and I beat up my body every day, making any Olympic team is my dream, and it can only be chased for so many years.  I appreciate all the support I’ve received in my pursuit, including from Club Northwest.

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