At the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, Morgan Uceny cemented her status as the best 1,500-meter runner in the United States, winning the event in 4:04.59 to qualify for her first Olympic team. At the Games in London, however, tragedy struck Uceny for the second straight year in the final of major championship, as she was tripped with one lap to go, falling to the track and ending all hopes of securing a medal. The same thing happened to Uceny at last summer’s World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, leaving a large dark spot on an otherwise successful season in which she finished as the number one ranked 1,500m runner in the world.
We recently caught up with Uceny, an adidas-sponsored athlete who is coached by Terrence Mahon of the Mammoth Track Club, and asked her about the Olympics, her current training and future goals
It’s now been a few months since your unfortunate fall in the 1,500m final at the Olympics. How are you feeling about it now that you’ve had some more time to think about the race?
I think I will always feel a bit sad when I think about that race. Of course the intensity of my frustrations are less now than they were [then], but they are still there. I’m now looking forward to next season and am going to do my best to get back on the 2013 U.S. team and win a medal.
Did you take a training and mental break after the Olympics? Did you go on vacation to unwind? If so, where?
I vacationed in Maui with my brother for a week, which was awesome. I also spent a week at home in Indiana visiting friends and family, a lot of which I only get to see once a year. My family is my rock and they have been a huge support and reminder that there is more to life than running!
My brother and I went on a few really amazing hikes [in Maui] that were preceded by equally amazing scenic drives. I had rented a convertible Ford Mustang, so we were really able to take in the views and let the wind blow through our hair. We also had a blast snorkeling and boogie boarding and just being in the blue, crisp ocean waters. I have always been really close with all of my family, so being able to have my brother with me on my vacation was a lot of fun. My family have always been supporters of anything that I did.
The support also came in the form of financial assistance. My first professional contract was pretty meager and it was impossible to pay all of my bills, student loans and other expenses on that income alone. While I did work part-time, my parents knew that getting a full-time job would sacrifice my ability to train and compete, so they stepped in and helped me pay some of those expenses until I was able to earn more.
Is there anything you are going to do in training or future racing to prepare for avoiding trips and falls or is it just a matter of luck? If yes, what are you working on? If no, why do you think this is happening to you?
I was asking myself that same question a lot after the fall. But I always came to the same conclusion: that I didn’t do anything wrong. Because of the fall last year, I was more conscious of being on the outside near the front in the Olympic final. Getting clipped from behind was completely out of my control. There is no good answer for why this keeps happening to me; I just know that I’m not going to let these incidents define my career.
What are your upcoming goals for the indoor season? Where do you see yourself positioned for the 2013 outdoor season?
My indoor goals are always just to compete! I am always preparing to be in peak shape for outdoors, so indoors for me is about getting in some fitness. In the past I have focused primarily on 800s for indoors, but this year I would like to try my hand at some 3Ks. Running the 3K is just a way for me to work on fitness and strength for the 1,500. I know I have a lot of untapped potential in the 1,500 and am nowhere near ready to give up on those goals. If anything, good results in 3Ks will only fuel my fire more for fast 1,500’s.
I have no doubt that Terrence [Mahon] will get me in shape to be a sub 4-minute 1,500-meter runner. I have realized that a major concern for me is keeping my feet and body free of injury so that I can have a consistent training and racing schedule.
What do you think it will take to win gold in Rio in 2016? Will you focus on the middle-distance events or are there plans to move up?
I don’t think it’s a secret that like any major championship it’s going to take someone who can handle the grueling three rounds and has the ability to run 3:58 or faster. I’ve never run a 5K, so it’s difficult to envision myself as a 5K runner. I am still relatively new to the 1,500 and feel that I have so much more to accomplish in this event, and in the 800 as well.
About The Author:
Duncan Larkin is a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released in July.