As a child, I just remember how free I felt when I just ran.
Growing up, I was a very active child. My mom and I would often go for walks and bike rides together, and always enjoyed our time together outdoors and being active. When I went off to college at Brown University, I was already very deeply committed to field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse. I played all three varsity sports at Brown.
After I graduated, I witnessed my first triathlon and fell in love with the sport in an instant. Problem was, I didn’t know how to swim or bike, and had only ever run up and down a field. So I had my work cut out for me. But I was ready, and can honestly say I never wanted anything more than to be the best that I could be at that sport.
I remember falling in love with running when I had a dog named Whoopi, a sheepdog terrier mix. I would take Whoopi running with me—she was obedient enough to run off leash. The moment we hit the trails, it was as though anything and everything was a miracle! Inspiring her to produce an obvious smile on her face, a huge consistent wag of the tail … you could just feel her excitement, her amazement and her passion. This rubbed off on me, and together we explored many trails and roads and ran with the same love and passion for being out there and running free.
I retired from triathlon in 2002 as the No. 1 ranked female in the world for the second year in a row. I had achieved everything I wanted to in the sport, and was ready to help others. I had learned so much throughout my journey through all the sports, and I wanted to share this knowledge and my experience with youngsters who had that powerful dream to be the best they could be.
When an athlete comes to me with their dream in their hands and asks me to please help them achieve it, I take this request very seriously. I see this as an incredible honor. I want to give my heart and soul to each and every athlete, knowing that as they move through the sport, not only can I hopefully help them achieve their dreams, but they will also find themselves.
Personally, I train at the most two hours a day because I work about 8-9 hours a day, one-on-one with my athletes. It is important for me to stay in shape, and also to maintain my motivation and happiness through doing what frees me—running!
When I joined the 26 Strong team, I sent out a post on Facebook to my followers, describing the project. I asked for anyone interested to write me something about themselves and why they should be chosen.
My cadet, Lucy Panko, is 16 years old. She lost her father last year and obviously has suffered through his loss. Running gives her time to sort out her feelings. It gives her hope and it gives her comfort. Lucy felt that this opportunity would be a great way to not only help her heal through his loss, but also to honor her dad’s passion, strength, courage and life!
Lucy is in Canada and I am in Colorado, so everything will be done online and through e-mail. Lucy is going to come out to Boulder in July for a week, and during that time we can get to know each other a bit better.
I want to be very conservative in how I train Lucy because of her age. We are balancing the running with swimming and biking to give her overall strength and to ensure recovery from the running.
I am so looking forward to helping Lucy achieve her goal of finishing a marathon. Hopefully, through this process, she finds finding comfort and purpose in honoring her dad. We are both so grateful to Saucony for giving us both the opportunity to take part in this amazing experience together.
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.