Marathoner In The Making: Exclusive Interview With Lisa Koll

Former Iowa State standout Lisa Koll thinks the marathon will be her best event, but she still has some unfinished business on the track. Photo:

The Oregon Track Club’s latest addition thinks the marathon will be her best event–but not so fast.

Interview by: Megan Whitney Kinney

Former Iowa State standout Lisa Koll is embracing change.  The 2010 NCAA champion in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters recently signed a contract with Nike and moved to Portland, Oregon to join the Oregon Track Club – arguably one of the most elite distance running groups in the country.  With a new coach in Jerry Schumacher, new training partners and new running routes, a lot has changed for Koll in the past few months, and she’s enjoying all of it. caught up with Koll a couple weeks after she took trip to Maui, where she vacationed with her Oregon Track Club teammates, including training partner Shalane Flanagan, the newly-minted marathoner who finished second at New York City in November. First, how was Maui?

Lisa Koll: Oh, it was a blast.  We got back from New York from the marathon on Monday evening and we left on Wednesday for Maui, so it was really quick turnaround.  But yeah, we had a blast.  Everyone brought their families, like Jerry’s [Schumacher] whole family was there, and everyone’s wives and husbands, so we all just hung out and enjoyed each other’s company and laid on the beach.  We still got some good training in, but it was a really good time.

What’s your training load like right now?

Training has been a lot of base.  I mean, right now, I’m running at least 100 miles a week, pretty much consistently every week.  So, high volume, lots of strength workouts like long tempos.  Pretty much all the efforts are more sustained efforts than anything too quick, too hard.  So, good volume and then that core, general strength stuff too.  I’ve been doing some more of that than I did in college.

How are you feeling so far with the high mileage?

I think it’s really manageable.  When I was in college, I was running between 90 and 100 miles a week anyway.  Since probably my fourth year at Iowa State, I was running at least 80 miles a week. I was already kind of high mileage runner anyway, and even though we’ve upped the volume, I think it’s just the right amount.  It’s enough that it’s hard, but I can handle it, and I can recover from it and I can still work out on it.  So I feel like it’s a really good balance for me.  Not having to deal school and stuff now, I can focus on recovering.  So I think I can afford to up that mileage and still get recovered from it enough that I don’t sacrifice my workouts or worry about getting hurt.

Do you ever take a day off?

When I was in college, I took a day off every four weeks.  Ever since I moved out here, I pretty much run every day unless I feel really worn down.  And then I’ll just take a day off.  Or if a little thing pops up, like for example my achilles popped up when I was in New York, just one day, it was kind of bugging me, so I took a day off.  I’d rather take one day off and let something kind of heal itself, so I’m not worrying about it or dealing with it for like the next month as a nagging thing.  I’d rather just resolve it in one day.  So I guess I don’t work days off into my schedule, I take them off as they come.

How is life different for you now that you’ve become a professional athlete?

Life is completely different now.  I mean, my number one priority is running, and it’s really my only priority right now.  So, I get up in the morning, go run, do a general strength session.  Go home around noon.  And then, take a nap, or just kind of relax in the afternoon or go get massage therapy or any kind of therapy I need.  And then around 3 or 4 p.m., I go for a second run.  And then come back, stretch, have a good dinner and go to bed early.  It’s a very simple lifestyle.

When I was in college, I’d get up at 6 a.m. and go run, and as soon as I got done, I’d go to class – all day.  And as soon as I’d get out, I’d go run again.  And then I’d go home and have to do homework.  It was very stressful.  I mean, I enjoyed what I was doing – it was just a lot.  And so now I feel like everything’s a lot more manageable.  I’m really able to dedicate myself 100% to running.  Where as before, I was splitting myself between school and running and trying to be successful at both.  And now I really just have this opportunity to make myself the best athlete I can be.

Your fiancée, Kiel Uhl, is getting his Masters in Architecture at the University of Oregon, two hours away.  Is it hard having a long-distance relationship on top of all your training?

Besides the transition from not having to worry about school to just worrying about running, that’s the number two thing that’s been a big change in my life – is not being around him all the time. When we were at Iowa State, we never lived a mile apart from each other.  We pretty much saw each other all the time.  And now we just see each other on weekends, which is fine but it’s taken some adjusting for both of us.

Luckily, I’ve had kind of a support group with the team that I have people to hang out with and take my mind off it.  But, I guess we both just think of it as a workweek.  So, it’s like we work from Monday to Friday, and then we get to hangout on the weekends and that’s our free time to spend with each other.  So it’s not really that bad; he takes the train down from Eugene to Portland to come visit me and he’ll stay for the weekend and then go back.  Actually starting this next trimester, he only has class Tuesday through Thursday, so the majority of the time he’ll be in Portland.  And then he’s going to start taking classes at the U of O [University of Oregon] in Portland in March.  So, starting in the spring he’ll be in Portland full-time.  So we’re through the worst of it.

Last month you watched the New York City Marathon from the lead vehicle.  What was it like to see teammate Shalane Flanagan take second, especially because you had done some of the training with her?

It was really exciting.  I think the one thing that sticks out to me most about watching the marathon and riding in the lead car is that was the fastest two-and-a-half hours of my entire life.   I couldn’t believe how fast it went by. I was so involved in the race, it was just so much fun to watch.  And the women’s race was really cool because everyone was in it until like five miles to go.  So that was really exciting.

Shalane looked great the whole race.  I mean, I knew she was fit and ready to go coming into it, and so I knew she was going to run well.  But the way the race was run, and with how good she looked, and when that front pack just kind of dropped everyone and it was just those three, it was really fun, it was really exciting.  And to have watched her do a lot of her hard workouts and (see) how much hard work she put into that marathon, and see all that hard work come to fruition, it was such a cool thing to be a part of and celebrate that with her.

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