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Heather Kampf — October, 2021
Heather Kampf earned the title, ‘Queen of the Road Mile,’ as she won 28 road mile races from 2001 to 2019, including four U.S. Championships, five Ryan Shay Miles, five Bermuda Miles and four Liberty Miles. She is a four-time ‘Bring Back the Mile’ Tour Champion (2014, 2015, 2016, 2019). Her fastest road mile was a Bronze Medal 4:19.7 finish at the 2016 Fifth Avenue Mile. In 2014, Heather raced 1,500 meters at the World Indoor Championships and was part of the Silver Medal, American Record, 4 x 1,500-meter relay squad at the IAAF World Relays. She earned Bronze Medals at the U.S. Indoor Championships in the 800 meters (2010, 2011), 1,500 meters (2014) and mile (2017) and a Silver Medal in the two-mile (2017). Heather placed seventh in the 800 meters at the 2012 Olympic Trials. She competed for the University of Minnesota, qualified for all twelve NCAA Championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, and was a nine-time All-American. She made the finals all eight times, indoors and outdoors, in the 800 meters, highlighted by a Gold Medal indoors in 2006. She won NCAA Silver Medals at 800 meters indoors (2008) and outdoors (2006) and NCAA Bronze Medals indoors (2007, 2009) and outdoors (2007). Heather was a member of the Gophers first ever Big Ten Championship teams in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She broke Minnesota School Records in ten events, five individual and five as part of relay teams. Kampf is famously remembered for tripping in her heat of the 2008 Big Ten 600 meters indoors, falling to last place, and getting up to resume racing and win her heat. At Rosemount (Minnesota) High School, Heather was the Minnesota Class AA State Champion at 400 meters (2004) and 800 meters (2005), while also earning All-State honors twice in cross country. Her personal best times include Outdoors: 800 meters – 2:00.04; 1,500m – 4:04.5 and mile – 4:27.23; Indoors: 600m – 1:28.62; 800m – 2:02.33; 1,000m – 2:40.90; 1,500m – 4:11.27; mile – 4:27.26 and 3,000m – 8:51.27; Road mile – 4:19.7. She was inducted into the Minnesota Hall of Fame (2018) and resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband, Ben and their two dogs, Ellie and Dewey. Heather was kind to spend over an hour and a half on the telephone for this interview in the late summer of 2021.
GCR: BIG PICTURE As a middle-distance runner, you have been immersed in the sport of running for around twenty years since your teenage years. How have lessons you have learned from running such as discipline, steady progress toward goals, teamwork, and rebounding from adversity contributed to and shaped your life?
HK Honestly, the first thought that came to my mind is ‘entirely.’ We can apply so much of what we learn from this sport and, I can imagine, from any sport to life. I’ve always thought of running as a safe incubation place to take risks and to take on challenges to see what I can do. Then I can apply that to how I approach life outside of the sport. Running has impacted me a lot, not only in terms of those values I have learned like discipline, but from the running community I have grown up with. Runners are some of the best people you can find out there in terms of being kind, understanding individuals who know how hard everyone is working regardless of how much success they reach in the sport. I married a runner and most of my best friends are people that were on my teams that I competed on throughout the years, so I’ve been enveloped in the sport.
GCR: At the highest levels of sports like swimming, track and field and gymnastics, athletes set goals to compete in the Olympics or World Championships and to represent their country. Can you describe what it meant then and what it means now to represent the USA at the 2014 World Indoor Championships, 2014 World Relay Championships and to pull on the USA jersey on other occasions?
HK For most of us, wearing a USA jersey is the pinnacle of the sport, regardless of what level of competition. I’ve done a few international cross-country races where I got to wear the team USA jersey and it is such an honor, especially when I realize how much depth there is in my events and in USA distance running in general. We know that, if we are wearing that jersey, it took a lot to get there and it is very special. That can never be taken away from you. I have pride in where I come from, but the jersey is a representation of the level of the sport that we achieve. Something I try to remember is that in some races we don’t have the best results like at the 2014 World Indoor Championships where I fell down during the race. When I stood up after falling on the track and resumed running, my bib that said ‘USA’ was flapping in the wind because it was almost torn off. That was a moment when I realized I was very excited to represent my country and I wasn’t there just for me or my country, but it was all about representing my maker. I carry my faith along with me when I race and that was an opportunity to display resilience and something God has given me outside of my results or my performances. I try to keep in mind that whatever name or country is on my jersey doesn’t take away where I am really from.
GCR: At all levels we hear talk of winning championships like the Super Bowl or NBA title or World Series, but for younger runners, winning State Championships in high school and NCAA Championships in college are what athletes strive to achieve. How exciting was it for you to win the 2004 Minnesota Class AA 400 meters, 2005 Minnesota Class AA 800 meters and then to cap off a three-year championship run by winning the 2006 NCAA Indoor 800 meters as a freshman?
HK In high school, when you are that caliber of an athlete, it doesn’t become an expectation, but what you are hopeful of achieving. It feels great to be standing on the top of that podium and feeling like you gave your best to land there. In college, I truly was so blind to the level up that I made. I ran 2:10 to win the State meet in high school and then my second 800-meter indoor meet as a college freshman I ran 2:04. It was a huge difference in time. I thought I was running to the level of the competition around me, and I expected to win since that is what I was used to in smaller meets. I don’t think I totally appreciated how special and how rare it is for a freshman to come in and win an NCAA championship.
GCR: Twice, so far, you have mentioned strength of competition and it was strong during your four years of competing collegiately where you made the NCAA podium six out of eight times indoors and outdoors. How tough was your competition when we look at women such as Alysia Johnson with five podiums including two wins, Rebekah Noble and Latavia Thomas with three podiums each with one on the top step, and Geena Gall winning twice so that you five women earned nineteen of the twenty-four medals over those four years? How tough was this ‘fab five’ that raced each other over and over?
HK It was tough, but it was exciting. When you show up at that top level of competition, you want it to be a situation where you know you might have to run a time you haven’t run all season to capture that win. I thrived on knowing there were people in the field that would help me better my best. My freshman year, Rebekah Noble and I flipped-flopped. I won indoors and she was second. Then she won outdoors, and I was second. I thought that she would be my nemesis through my entire NCAA career and then we got four more strong competitors. It was amazing how much talent was there. One name that is not on that list is Molly Beckwith, who didn’t have her shining years in college, but we went against each other post-collegiately. It was cool how much talent came out of the Big Ten Conference from those years.
GCR: Part of the excitement of collegiate running is competing in relay races with our teammates. How much fun were the relay races in the Big Ten, at NCAA Indoors and when you were a part of Drake Relays winning foursomes each of your four years at Minnesota at four by 1,600 meters, the distance medley relay and four by 800 meters?
HK Those races were so much fun. I loved running relays. When you are carrying a baton in your hand with teammates that you love, it feels like you are carrying the heartbeat of your team. That is why you are racing, and you can’t fail. When I was racing the four by 800 meters or four by 1,600 meters that I was usually anchoring those events. One race I remember, there was an official standing on the sideline waiting to send me out to be the next person on the starting line. He said, ‘They are making this easy on you.’ My teammates were doing such an excellent job of gapping the field that I would have to screw up to take this win away from our team. They had made it so easy for me. I was so blessed to be part of such a strong middle-distance group on my team to be able to pull off those wins together. In some ways, it didn’t feel like there was much pressure on me because my teammates would give me the baton in such good position on the track.
GCR: Though you were a middle-distance runner in college who competed primarily at 800 meters, you competed in all twelve NCAA Championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. How important was it to you to represent your school, even at the 6,000-meter distance in cross country which wasn’t your strength?
HK The 6,000-meters was a stretch and the love I had for my teammates was what kept me going for those events. I appreciated the difference and the challenge. My coaches taught me, or brainwashed me, that I would improve as a middle-distance runner if I focused on distance in the fall to build my base. So, I was all in on recognizing what it would do for me long term. We had a few positive affirmations that we would write on our hand or arm before every race. And I would tell myself, ‘I’m committed’ or ‘I’m a sticker.’ I knew that I didn’t have the mental fortitude to push myself that long in a race. But I had teammates I could run with. Most of the time they did all the work and I just hung on for dear life.
GCR: There is a saying that ‘records are made to be broken.’ But how neat is it that you set school records in ten events at Minnesota with exactly half of them in individual events and half in relays?
HK I don’t have a long answer, but it is cool. The first record I recall breaking was outdoors in the 800 meters. It was my first outdoor race at Georgia. I got a card from the former record holder for the Minnesota Gophers, and it had been many years, I don’t know exactly how many, but over twenty years since she had set the school record. It was very neat and made me feel a part of history to receive a note from someone who was keeping track enough to know when her record was broken. It is something I am mindful of with the athletes who are competing now, and I make sure they are duly recognized by me when the time comes to break those records.
GCR: After you were out of college, from 2010 to 2015, you had four strong finishes at USA Outdoors, with a sixth place and seventh place at both 800 meters and 1,500 meters, while at USA Indoors you earned three Bronze Medals, two at 800 meters and one at 1,500 meters. Was there something about the smaller tracks indoors and the closeness to the fans that revved you up for these podium performances, was the competition deeper outdoors or was it a combination of both?
HK I would cite much of that to the depth of competition. There are many athletes who don’t put as much emphasis on indoors. So, there are some names that should be at the tops of those lists that aren’t. I’m not about to say that I am magically a better runner indoors than outdoors by any means. I think that knowing there is a little less competition, I sniff a finish line and recognize I can be on the podium. Having that confidence and recognition of my potential within those types of fields might have helped me jump one or two places more than I perhaps would have outdoors.
GCR: Though your primary success in high school and college was at 800 meters, post-collegiately you gravitated toward adding the 1,500 meters and the mile. How exciting was it to have a point of focus the last eight or nine years in racing road miles where you ended up with twenty-eight road miles victories, including four USA Championships and earning the title, ‘Queen of the Road Mile?’
HK It’s true for many athletes that we realize we can’t get much more top end speed, but we can get stronger. That was the decision-making process that I had with my coaches – to try to work into these longer events and thinking that, if I still have some good top end speed, I might be able to do some damage in the last two hundred meters of a 1,500-meter race. So, that was the impetus for moving up. I think back to my first road mile, that was in Minnesota, which was the Twin Cities event. I fell in love with how raw it felt like in comparison to running on the track. We don’t know our splits. We don’t know exactly when the finish line is coming around the corner. It’s pure racing like ‘I can beat you to the next tree.’ You just start eyeballing the finish without knowing if it is three hundred and fifty meters to go. There is something about that which is very special. And I was a gymnast in my younger life and maybe I am a bit more powerful than other milers who excel on the track. I can perhaps put more force into the ground on the road, though I don’t know for sure. Lots of people have asked me this question and I can’t explain the inordinance of how much more success I had in the mile on the road versus the track. I had fun and the pressure felt less because it wasn’t about the time we ran but the competition itself. I seemed to have a knack for finding those finish lines and making the right move.
GCR: This year you had a plan to race one more season and to run a retirement tour of races. When an injury curtailed your racing season, did you think about coming back next year and was it difficult to retire from competitive running or was this one of those moments as John Lennon sang, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans?’
HK It was difficult to make the decision on something that didn’t feel like it was my terms. I was excited and feeling very healthy. Even heading into the Olympic Trials, I thought the pain that I was feeling wasn’t that big of a deal and that I would run through it, take a little time and still finish my season. When I brought it up to my team doctor, she recommended an MRI to check out my bones as well. That seemed aggressive, but it escalated quickly. I was very surprised to learn that I had stress fractures in my pelvis. It was a bummer to not be able to do things on my terms. But, at the same time, the recognition that these past years have been tough for me to stay healthy had meant it was a lot less fun to be working back from longer breaks and to not be able to reach what I thought my true potential could be. When I was getting all these interruptions in training, I felt like it was my body telling me that it was time. During my marriage, my husband has been so supportive for me for all these years, and I wanted to make sure I was thinking future-focused and not making him suffer through this as well. I think I am more resilient than him and it hurt him more to see me to be hurt. It seemed like it was time and I found myself to be a bit more relieved than I expected it to be be once we took that pressure off. I was able to tell myself, ‘Okay, you are able to heal well and come back on your own terms.’ I think there is still a very small part of me that is planning on writing my own training for this next year so I can show up at a few fun road races in 2022 that I planned on running and missed this year. I want to say goodbye to some race directors and people on the circuit that I expected to do that with this year. So, we will see.
GCR: FORMATIVE YEARS AND HIGH SCHOOL RACING You mentioned briefly that you participated in gymnastics. Were you an active child, in what other sports did you participate and how did you start running?
HK I was an all-around active kid. I had an active imagination, and I was active. I remember riding up and down the driveway of our house on my bike and pretending I was in NASCAR. I always had an imagination for myself racing at some level. Gymnastics was my first sporting love, and I did that from third grade until my senior year of high school. I also did some tap and jazz dancing for a while in my younger years. I did swimming and diving for a couple years in middle school. Then when cross country was presented to me in high school, that would have been the same season as swimming, and I transitioned to running. I didn’t even know what cross country was. My teammates my freshman year in track said, ‘Hey, will you run cross country with us next year?’ I thought it meant we would run enough miles to run across the country. That was funny. I always knew that I was a good runner because we would run the mile each year in physical education class and my goal was always to beat all the boys in my class. I had teachers tell me that I should try out for track and that I would be good at it. But I thought it would be so boring compared to gymnastics. In my mind, it was just running in circles. In high school during my freshman year of gymnastics my coach would have us do these sprinting drills as part of our conditioning through the basement hallways of our high school. He was a quick man himself and he liked to give the girls a head start and then chase them down. I was the first girl who came along that could give him a head start and still beat him in an all-out foot race. Again, I had someone that I respected and appreciated in my life telling me, ‘Heather, you might be missing your calling. Maybe you should try track.’ I went out that spring for track and made it on two relays to State. There were three seniors and me in the four by 200 meters and the four by 400 meters. I ran the anchor leg for both relays and was kind of figuring out the sport. There was a sad story as two of the girls on the relays were twins and their older sister had a brain aneurism the night before State and passed away. So, we did not compete. We did not have enough alternates to cover for them both. Obviously, family comes first in those situations, so we stayed home.
GCR: What were some other highlights of your freshman and sophomore years and what did you learn from racing in the 2003 Minnesota Class AA 800 meters your sophomore year where you placed fifth in 2:15.18, only two hundredths of a second behind Sarah Decker of the strong Rocori team paced by Andrea Wahlin who won?
HK What I recall most about those years is my naivete toward the whole competition. I didn’t know who I was up against. I didn’t do research or look up my competitors’ times. It was before the time when we could find results easily on the internet. I just went in there and competed and did my best. I think I got a green medal for getting fifth place and I was pumped about being on the podium, especially after that freshman year and not being able to compete. It felt like winning just to be there at all. That was very special.
GCR: Your junior year you had a vast improvement at the 2004 Minnesota Class AA Championships as you won the 400 meters by a one second margin in 55.29, but in the 800 meters your fast 2:11.87 was only good for the Bronze Medal as Andrea Wahlin of Rocori won in 2:10.55 and Elizabeth Yetzer of Lakeville was second in 2:10.77 after winning the 1,600 meters in a State Record of 4:46.14. How exciting was it to win the 400 meters and how tough were Wahlin and Yetzer in the 1,600 meters?
HK I thought of myself as primarily a 400-meter runner in high school. The 800 meters was raced after the 400 meters, so I put everything into the 400 meters and whatever I had left for the 800 meters was great. Elizabeth Yetzer is one of my best friends now, so I love hearing about her from my high school days when we barely knew each other. The whole Yetzer family had shirts that said something like, ‘We are the ones your parents warned you about.’ It was an accurate statement because everyone knew the Yetzers, and they were amazing athletes. That is a cool memory from that time. It was her senior year, and she wasn’t back the next year. She was the untouchable foe that I didn’t worry about.
GCR: The following year you switched it up as you won the 2005 Minnesota Class AA Championships 800 meters in a Meet Record 2:10.42 by about a second over Molly Lehman, after finishing third at 400 meters by just over a second in 56.62. What didn’t play out quite right at 400 meters and what were your key moves to win the 800 meters?
HK That was my senior year, and the 800 meters was my last chance. I don’t have a very clear memory of the decisions I made during those races. But I had to pour it out there and see what I could do for my last high school race.
GCR: Were there any other colleges you were considering or was the University of Minnesota always the front runner?
HK Minnesota wasn’t my choice at all which is kind of funny. I assumed that I would want to go out of state and somewhere else so I would be able to experience somewhere new. I was recruited by basically every school in the Big Ten and a few others. When you are a busy high schooler with band and sports and studying, you aren’t there to answer the phone in the evening. So, my mom said that she got recruited to every Big Ten school. She would leave me messages about who she talked to that night, and we would try to reconnect with ones where we had interest. I took a road trip with my mom to visit schools the summer between my junior and senior year. We visited the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Notre Dame, and Marquette in Milwaukee. I wanted to do Physical Therapy for a post-graduate degree and those schools had programs that met my interest. I was so naïve to how college athletics worked that I didn’t call any of the coaches to let them know I was going to be visiting, that I was interested in joining their team and to see if they had time to talk with me. It’s funny that, when I visited Notre Dame, I did ask if the coach was there. But they said he was moving and wasn’t in that day. When we raced at Notre Dame my freshman year in college and I went from 2:10 to 2:04, the coach congratulated me afterwards. I told him, ‘I tried to come here, but I couldn’t find you.’ He just said ‘What?!’ Once I got a few more calls from Coach Matt Bingle at the University of Minnesota I went to hear him out. They had great things to say such as, even when you attend a college in the state where you live, it can still feel like you are getting away because you aren’t at home, you can live on campus, and you can feel as far away as you want to. Then, when your parents want to watch you run at a meet or buy you groceries or take you out to dinner, they still can. That feeling of being far away while having family accessible and close by was good. The first impression I got from visiting the school and meeting with some of the members of the team gave me a good sense of who they were and where they stood with priorities. They put faith and family first, then academics and next athletics. I thought that was very cool to hear from a Division I coach and that aligned with how I had been raised and how I tried to live my life. It felt like a good fit. They were the first school to offer a full scholarship to me. I thought that my mother didn’t raise a fool and I shouldn’t let this opportunity go by. So, I went for it.
GCR: COLLEGIATE RACING You won your only NCAA Championship at the 2006 NCAA Indoors by just eight hundredths of a second over Rebekah Noble of Oregon as you ran 2:05.64 to her 2:05.72. Who led through the early laps, did the two of you trade the lead at any point, and what were your keys to victory?
HK I remember having the conversation with my coach on the way there and he gave me my race plan. He believed in my strength and thought I should take it at 400 meters and lead the second half to be able take the win. I can’t be specific, but I think I led at least the last 300 meters and didn’t look back. At some point, he said I should take the lead, don’t worry about what anyone else was doing and run for my life. There is a video board, and I could use it as a rear-view mirror. I was watching the last 200 meters to see how close people were getting before taking that final turn into the home stretch. It turned out to be a very close finish. That finish photo is tight.
GCR: We spoke earlier about spirited competition and you had some right in the Big Ten with Geena Gall. What do you recall from your freshman year at the Big Ten Championships where you beat her by a second indoors and then she returned the favor outdoors, nipping you by four hundredths of a second in 2:02.73 to your 2:02.77?
HK The indoor Big Ten meet was just a blur, and I don’t recall details from the 800 meters. I remember two things from that outdoor race. First, I do remember how tired I was from running the 1,500 meters, 800 meters and four by four-hundred-meter relay. That was a big triple for me and more high-level racing than I was used to doing. Second, Geena and I were always back and forth in track, and also in cross country. It’s funny when I was deep in a cross-country race and looked to my right and left and, ‘There’s Geena again!’ We were born one day apart. I’m born on the nineteenth of January, and she was born on the 18th or 20th, whichever way it is. We would see each other and exclaim, ‘We’re practically twins!’
GCR: During your sophomore year, Katie Erdman, a senior at Michigan became a nemesis at the Big Ten Championships, beating you indoors at 600 meters by a couple tenths of a second and outdoors at 800 meters by a half second. How tough was Erdman, who was a senior, and did she typically race from the front or come from behind?
HK Based on what I know of myself, she was nipping me in the last hundred meters after I was doing most of the work. I was a courageous and maybe sometimes dumb runner, but I would always try to race from the front.
GCR: In 2007 you scored Bronze Medals both Indoors and Outdoors at NCAAs. How shocking was it when you raced 2:01.05 outdoors, but it was only good for third place as both Alysia Johnson and Katie Erdman broke two minutes?
HK That race went out very hard. The first four hundred meters was the fastest I had ever run. I wasn’t in the lead because Alysia was there, and she was always leading. That was a ‘hang on for dear life’ kind of race. I thought to myself, ‘This is a PR. This is very fast for NCAAs.’ For 2:01 to only get third is crazy.
GCR: The 2008 Big Ten Indoor Championships included one of you most memorable races as you tripped and fell in the 600 meters with a lap to go, somehow got to your feet and made a miraculous full lap sprint to win by four hundredths of a second. What was it like being in the moment in the race and, when you watch the video, can you believe what you did?
HK In the moment it’s funny that I don’t recall falling the way I did. I speak at events and share this story often. I remember my feet being clipped by the runner behind me as I was cutting into the inside lane and trying to correct for that. I think my other foot kind of got tangled up. The next thing I recall is seeing my hands on the track and thinking, ‘That’s never good. You’re not supposed to have your hands here.’ In my mind, what I thought happened is that I bent at the waist, slapped my hands on the track and pushed myself back off onto my feet where I was and kept running. I was so shocked at how much of a gap had formed between me and the other runners in the field. I thought, ‘I barely fell, and they got so far ahead of me. I need to finish the race because, even if I finish last, I’ll get a point for the team.’ We were chasing the overall team championship for the Gophers that year at home. So, that was very special. I got up and started running and figured I would be last but would finish for the team. I started catching someone on the back stretch and thought, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good.’ I gave myself a mental pat on the back there. Then coming around the final curve in the last fifth of a hundred meters or so of the race I heard the in-house announcer who was there saying, ‘watch out for Heather Dorniden!’ I thought, ‘Watch out for me!’ There was this incredible shift of momentum where I felt like I was speeding up while everyone else was slowing down. I only barely clipped my teammate who had an incredible race that day and showed up big when she thought her leader was out for the count. The aftermath that I thought about was that I didn’t win the six hundred meters and came in second place because a woman, Audrey Smoot, from the first heat won overall. But the sweetest part was that getting second was worth eight points and our team margin of victory was eight points. It felt very serendipitous that our margin of victory was the number of points I earned from that race and knowing that if I had given up or jogged it in that we wouldn’t have been able to get there.
GCR: At the 2008 NCAA Indoor 800 meters it was a five-way race with Latavia Thomas, Geena Gall, Alysia Johnson, Becky Horne and you all running 2:05s. You held off Alysia Johnson by two hundredths of a second but were second to Latavia Thomas by a yard or two. Were there any key points that led to her win or were several of you so evenly matched that any of you could win on any given day?
HK It was at Arkansas and I remember how tight it was. My parents had a phrase afterwards where they said it was like I got squeezed by a tube of toothpaste at the finish and they couldn’t tell where I was. It was very stacked and was tight.
GCR: You won the Big Ten 600 meters indoors and placed second to your teammate, Gabriele Anderson in the mile with a fine 4:49.57 time. Were you mentally preparing for adding the 1,500 meters and mile to your regular racing regimen after you finished your collegiate eligibility?
HK I think I was getting stronger and gaining more confidence. Gary Lawson, my coach, always said I looked like a deer in the headlights when I ran anything longer than 800 meters. I was figuring things out and with experience I was getting better at running championship races.
GCR: The 2009 NCAA Indoor 800 meters was another big mass finish of your collegiate career with Lacey Cramer of BYU winning, but Phoebe Wright, you, Katie Palmer and Latavia Thomas only tenths of a second behind as you all ran in the 2:04s. What do you remember of that race, especially off the last curve when five of you were in the hunt for medals and the win?
HK If we reran the race a few times, we could have shuffled places. That is kind of how my coach looked at it and discussed how it could be. We always tried to have a race plan for success and to pull off the win. I do remember feeling a little perturbed there were more young runners coming into this already deep field. I was thinking, ‘Where did you come from?’ I’m certain that is what all the established runners were thinking my freshman year when I showed up and won, so I can’t talk.
GCR: We spoke about how exciting it is to race for a team in college. How much fun was it to win the 2006 Big Ten Outdoor and 2007 Big Ten Indoor team titles, race the distance medley at NCAA Indoors all four years and to run relays with Jamie Cheever all four years?
HK Jamie was nice to be with. We had similar temperaments and were always roommates together. We would go to the well for the team for the Big Ten Championships. It was no longer about individual success. We wanted to share the success on team events in the relays and that was super special. We were All-Americans at NCAA indoors in one relay race and I remember on the cool down run how happy we were. It was raining and we had a Jamaican teammate that we were having fun with and calling her an ‘All-Jamerican.’ Also, she didn’t want to get her hair wet in the rain and we enjoyed being silly together and celebrating the moment together.
GCR: POST-COLLEGIATE RACING During your three USA Indoor Bronze Medal races, the 2010 Indoor 800 meters behind Anna Pierce and Alysia Johnson, the 2011 Indoor 800 meters behind Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore and the 2014 Indoor 1,500 meters behind Mary Cain and Treniere Moser, did you take out the pace, run solidly in third most of the way or come from off the pace to outkick competitors to earn the Bronze Medals?
HK The most recent race in 2014 ended up getting me to the World Championships as an alternate. I do remember that one because I lost myself in the middle of the race and then kicked very hard to move from seventh to third place. I was disappointed to miss making the team by one place, but they still took me through the team processing as an alternate. I felt fairly certain that both of those women would go and compete. It was probably close to a week later when I had already taken a break from running that I started my long aerobic base running back on the treadmill because it was cold here in Minnesota. I received a voice mail from Sandy Snow with USATF telling me that, if I wanted to run in the World Championships in Poland, I needed to get on a plane that evening and get out there. That was a crazy time to have a complete turnaround from thinking I had missed the team to still going to compete there. That was very memorable for me.
GCR: At the 2014 World Indoor Championship in Sopot, Poland you made the 1,500-meter final but were disqualified for stepping inside the lane when you fell. Did you run strong and where would you have finished without that infraction?
HK I ran a PR in the prelims and led that race nearly wire to wire. One or two runners passed me at the line, but I qualified safely for the final. In my mind, I felt like I could medal. I believed that. The track was very banked. It was the most angled track I have ever run on with a very steep bank. Every time we went around a curve, the race condensed on itself because everyone was getting pulled down by gravity to the inside lane. It was maybe five hundred meters into the race when I fell down. It was one of those incidents on a curve when somebody came down into me and I was kicked to the inside of the track. I felt like I was in position and feeling good, but it’s easy to say you have all the confidence in the world and could have medaled when you don’t have the proof. I can say that I had enough confidence to try for a medal, but don’t know how it would have ended up. It was a big disappointment and a faith finding moment. It was a grace or gift that I didn’t deserve but I had the opportunity anyways. After I made that final, I stopped thinking about how much of a gift it was to be there but how much I needed to medal. I think sometimes it is God’s crazy sense of humor to remind us of who we really belong to. It was important and too much in my head to reach success. So, it was a chance to reconnect with my true goals.
GCR: Let’s step back a couple years to the 2012 Olympic Trials where you had a good shot to make the team and you were seventh in 2:02.86 while the top five all ran in the 1:59s. Were you in peak form, do you feel you ran well and were there too many competitors under two flat?
HK It’s hard for me to say. I thought I was getting close to being a sub-two athlete, but through the rounds I wasn’t strong enough to be a sub-two finalist in that race. I wasn’t developmentally there yet.
GCR: In 2013 at the USA Outdoor Championships, you came close to breaking two minutes as your 2:00.68 was good for sixth place. Was the competition just unbelievably strong even when you were at your best?
HK Yes, it was very strong and tough to make in on the podium.
GCR: That same year you won a close 800-meter race in Lignano, Italy over Phoebe Wright and Lea Wallace in a personal best time of 2:00.04. How exciting was it to win a big race in Europe, but was there a measure of disappointment to miss breaking two minutes by such a close margin?
HK There were mixed emotions. That summer was my sub-two-minute quest. I was racing often and running close to two flat many times. Three or four days prior to running that two flat point zero four, I ran two flat point four, which was my PR at the time. I thought that I just needed another race. We got into the Lignano meet and I felt good. I raced well. Coming off the final curve into the home stretch, there was a girl who nearly tripped in front of me. I had to go wide. I think back to that moment and there is nothing else I could have done. But that’s easily a ‘point oh four’ in my mind and I maybe could have snuck under two minutes that day if it was a clear track for me to get to the finish. It was a bummer because that was my last race in Europe. I flew back to the U.S. and there were no more 800-meter opportunities that summer. I felt like I was in the best 800-meter shape of my life but didn’t get to produce that sub-two time that I was hoping to have on my resume.
GCR: How much fun was it to run at the 2014 World Relay Championships in the Bahamas and to help set an American Record in the four by 1,500-meter relay with Kate Grace, Brenda Martinez, and Katie Mackey of 16:55.33 while winning the Silver Medal?
HK It was so much fun. That was the most rowdy, loud, amazing crowd that I ever raced in front of. They were amazing and I loved being there. What you don’t see in the results is we ran that American Record with a fall. In the handoff between Katie and me, I was handing off to her and she was looking back to get the baton. She totally ran into Zoe Buckman from Australia and practically bearhugged Zoe as she took them both down. Zoe had just finished running and had handed off her baton. They both ended up flat on the track. Katie somehow kept the baton in her hand and had to get up and then she ran her leg. Besides the fact that the crowd was being wild, and it was so much fun, we handed off half of the legs on the curve because we each ran 1,500 meters. That handoff was kind of crazy.
GCR: Over the next few years, you became more of a 1,500 meter and mile specialist on the track. Speaking of great crowds, what are some takeaways from the excitement of racing the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in 2015 and 2016 with sixth and fourth place finishes against stellar competition?
HK Those races were very fun. I know the historic appeal of that event and how long it has been contested. The New York Road Runners do such a great job of putting us up in these beautiful hotels in the city and I felt like I had made it as this big-time pro athlete. I felt good about finally getting to race in the mile because I had paced it a couple times prior to those years. They had told me that, when I was good enough, they would let me in the field, but for those years I would have to be a pacer. I felt like I had arrived to be on the starting line for the race.
GCR: How amazingly strong was the competition when you raced in Europe and were there mixed emotions as you could race fast like at the Rome Diamond League where you ran your 4:04.50 personal best for 1,500 meters, but only finished in thirteenth place? How tough was it to pour your guts out, run the equivalent of a sub-4:25 mile and you were back in the pack?
HK I had run the Shanghai Diamond League 800 meters in 2012 and that race in Rome was my first time back racing a Diamond League event. Being able to be in the race at all was an honor. I knew that I had to be in a fast race to run fast and I wasn’t getting those opportunities stateside. I wanted to make the most of those, put myself out there and ride the wave and see what I could do. I was pumped about my time. I was in a totally different league from those runners who were winning in sub-four minutes or just over four minutes. It was fun. I remember warming up and hanging around Jenny Simpson a lot that day before the race. I was trying to glean every last bit of wisdom from her that I could.
GCR: We mentioned that you won an amazing twenty-eight road mile races. From your multiple wins at the Live Well Liberty Mile, Ryan Shay Mile, Bermuda Mile, Grandma’s Minnesota Mile, Navy Mile, USA Championships and four Bring Back the Mile Tour Championships, which races stand out due to fierce competition to the wire, challenging weather conditions, or coming from behind with a strong kick?
HK The Bermuda Mile was in January, and it was right around my birthday. One year I was on the front page of the Bermuda News-Gazette the next day with the headline, ‘Birthday Girl Wins Mile.’ I thought, ‘Those people are so nice.’ That was very special. The Twin Cities Mile also doubled as the U.S. Road Mile Championship. There was one year that was raining cats and dogs. There were also some sort of protests going on at the time and suddenly the race was pushed time up earlier than when we were going to run because they were anticipating some interruption of the racecourse later in the evening. For all the athletes that were racing who came from out of town, it was easy to get over to the course. But I was driving in rush hour traffic from home to get to the race and there was scatterbrained parking. I barely got to the starting line and ran in this crazy rain. It was terrifying, but a very happy ending. The Liberty Mile is one of my favorites. I love the organizers of that race. I always felt like I was an honorary ‘Pittsburger’ every time I went there because they would have the elite runners come in early to do events with kids before we got to race. I would speak at schools and play with Elementary School kids in their gym classes or at recess. I felt like I had fans that I made real connections with. Gabe Grunewald and I had gone back and forth a few times at that race. I think I won the first year we faced each other, and she won the second year. Taking back that victory again felt special because of the way Pittsburgh was rooting for me. Being able to be in a lot of those races with Gabe was so special because everyone knew she had this amazing kick and we totally had to be prepared to run bravely and put ourselves out there to try to shake away or otherwise she was going to get you at the end. We had a great rivalry.
GCR: Hopefully, you will be able to go back as a race ambassador like Malcolm East that I interviewed who won Pittsburg’s Great Race 10k four times. He still holds the course record and says they treat him like a celebrity when he returns, and they want him there every year. Would that be exciting to go back to some of these races as a race ambassador?
HK There is a master’s mile and Ryan Hogan, one of the elite athlete coordinators who would recruit us to run the race, was one of the first persons to send me a personal message when I announced my retirement and it made me bawl. I said that ‘You haven’t heard the last of me and there are masters’ races.’
GCR: TRAINING What are the primary concepts of mental and physical training that you learned from your high school coaches, and could you give at least one big principle or idea you learned from each coach that molded your development as a runner?
HK In high school my track coach was Mary Eigner. We called her ‘Mama Eigs.’ She was that motherly type of coach who made it very fun to be at practice and was so good with the girls on the team. What I learned most from her was patience of development. She could have pushed me a lot more than she did. I was a low mileage and low training type of athlete. I had enough talent to get by. She saw the potential for my future and that I could be running for a while and wanted to protect that. Both she and my cross-country coach, Chris Harter, were very intentional about my mileage and keeping things light. I think that is a big part of why I had longevity in my career. Cross country wasn’t my best sport, but it was one where I could place well. One thing Chris Harter said to me was to expect to be up there. He always told me I should expect to be up near the front of the race. To have that type of mentality going in was important because you can get lost in a big cross-country race and think that you are racing the right people after you come off the start line a little slowly. But you need to put yourself in the right position, so you are racing the right crowd and you get more out of yourself.
GCR: What did your college coaches do to build on the foundation your high school coaches built?
HK Coach Matt Bingle primarily coached me my freshman year at Minnesota when I was redshirting cross country season. What I recall from him was that he kept me humble. I had a lot of great track races early on and was NCAA champion right away and he would call me ‘Slick.’ ‘How’s it going, Slick?’ He would tease me and keep me grounded. He never treated me differently than my teammates who maybe weren’t having as much success just yet. I appreciated that and I think it kept my head on straight. After that, I still interacted with Coach Bingle as our Head Coach, and he had several memorable speeches before Big Ten races and meets that he would give to the full team as kind of the mantra and motivation for all of us. Coach Gary Wilson was the coach I interacted with the most. Once I started running cross country, he kind of took over with me as a true distance-focused middle-distance runner who would still run on the four by four-hundred-meter relay here and there. He was a remarkable coach and is still a close friend and mentor. When I think about being coached by him, I love it and can get choked up talking about it. After every racing season he would meet with each of us and ask, ‘What did you learn? What can you apply?’ He kept me focused on every race being a learning opportunity and every season being on the growth line and that there was more to discover and more we could do to improve. He encouraged me to put myself out there in races and to trust my strength.
GCR: How about when you graduated from Minnesota and had to select a post-collegiate coach and program?
HK I joined Team USA Minnesota straight out of college and was coached by Dennis Barker for all that time until the fall of 2016, which was much of my career. Dennis had this unyielding optimism and belief in my abilities. Sometimes I would laugh and think he was crazy when we were making a race plan for the Olympic Trials. He would say, ‘I think you can win.’ I would say, ‘Dennis, there is nothing on paper that says I should win, but let’s try and make a team. What should I do here?’ I loved how much he believed in me and the talent that he saw within me. He encouraged the front running and that every race was honest. That is something I’ve heard from a lot of my competitors – that they always appreciated racing me because they knew I wouldn’t dilly-dally, and we would get the most out of ourselves on that day.
GCR: What were some of your favorite strength and speed workouts in high school, college and afterward?
HK I don’t remember much about high school training except I always did repeat 300s as my workout a couple days before the big meets. If I could run 300s in fifty seconds and was relaxed, that told me I was ready to go and race. We did a bunch of hills in the woods outside the grounds of Rosemont High School for cross country. In college for the 800 meters specifically I did what were called Uncle Marty’s where we would do 300-meter repeats starting at a certain pace and trying to cut down on the next one. He always said that if we didn’t get faster on a subsequent one that meant we had to tack on another one. But I don’t think he ever followed through with that threat. For strength, I think back to what we did in cross country like repeats of one kilometer or two kilometers. Coach would put some of the slower people in front and we would try to chase them down. That kind of cross-country work was very hard, and I felt like I would pee my pants (laughing). I was losing control of my body. Coach Barker had me gradually move up with my mileage. He was an interesting coach because he never wrote what we should do on our recovery days. So, he wasn’t in control of my weekly mileage other than that I would do long runs and my track workouts. He had us work quite a bit with intensity. In the fall we would do 1200s or mile repeats on Mondays. Later in the week, we would come back and do threshold work. We would also do a sub-threshold day with moderate work which was faster than running easy and still pushing and then come back another day and do twenty-four by one-hundred-meter hills. There were four quality days in each week and then whatever we could survive on the other days. It made me feel very strong. Once we worked into the season, there was a short and fast workout where we ran 200, 400, 300 and 200 meters all at 800-meter race pace or faster with an equal walk rest afterwards. That was one where I would remember my times like ‘I hit fifty-seven on the four hundred meters last time, so I want to hit fifty-six seconds this time.’ Once you get past the 400 meters, it is always downhill with the 300 meters and 200 meters after that so you try to push through the beginning of the workout and, when the lactate starts building, see what you can do to close it out.
GCR: As a coach, I worked with an 800-meter runner who was right where you were, trying to break two minutes. We did pace work every Monday in a four-week rotation that was all at two-minute 800-meter pace. The first week we would do five 300s in 45 seconds with a three-minute rest. The second week we would do four 400s in sixty seconds with a four-minute rest. The next week we would do three 500s in 75 seconds with a five-minute rest and the final week was two 600s in 90 seconds with a six-minute rest. Did you do anything like this?
HK We did a lot of two-minute pace work or a bit faster. I had the ability to run faster than that. I remember running 600 meters in 1:28. We would do 450s where I ran through the line in sixty seconds and then finished by pressing. We did ‘broken 600s’ where we would run a hard 400 meters, take a thirty second rest and run a very hard 200 meters. We did a lot of pace work and intensity. Slowly but surely my husband had built up to ten miles of running a day, so I ran ten miles with him on my recovery days so we could run together. So, I was also building strength. I felt like I was always ready to race, but never totally peaked. I never had that big breakout race that I had hoped to find.
GCR: As a professional runner, did you incorporate weight training, cross training, chiropractic care, ice baths, massage therapy or other additional items in your regimen?
HK I would be in the weight room once or twice a week. I did plyometrics and explosivity type exercises once a week. I saw a manual therapist/chiropractor usually once a week to ensure everything was up and running smoothly. I never loved ice baths, so didn’t do them much. I had access in college and could just do an ice bath easily in the training room while at home I had to fill my tub with ice and water. As a former gymnast, I loved to work on my pull ups. I figured if I could do fifteen pull ups, then I could do anything on the track. Those were supplemental areas I used.
GCR: WRAPUP AND FINAL THOUGHTS Since you have had success over your running career at the 400 meters and 800 meters in high school, primarily 800 meters in college and then 800 meters, 1,500 meters, and road miles afterward, what is your favorite racing distance and venue and why?
HK For road miles, I liked Pittsburgh. That might be my favorite because of the success I had and the confidence I had there. It brings back that feeling I would have when I felt like I could win any race there when I stepped to the starting line. I loved some of the beautiful places I got to visit in Europe when I was racing on the track. Lucerne, Switzerland was like Disneyland to me. It was so beautiful with these super clear blue-green lakes with these swans swimming over them and the reflection of the mountains. I would think, ‘Is this a real-life place?’ There were also several places in Italy that were beautiful and created moments for me to step back and realize that this was an incredible opportunity that someone was paying for me to be there to run in circles. I tried to remember how special it was to be in those far-off places that I probably never would have seen otherwise.
GCR: We talked a bit about cross country, but not at length even though you raced it in high school and college. What was it like as an 800-meter specialist moving up to 4,000 meters for cross country in high school where you had a very respectable fifteenth place at State your junior year and then running 6,000 meters in college at all four NCAA Championships topped by an eighty-fourth place finish your senior year?
HK I ran as hard as I could in high school, but my senior year I was focused on getting All-State, tripped and freaked out. Collegiately, most runners compare themselves with where they land with their teammates and if they are in the top seven. That was a big goal of mine, to remain in the top five and be a scorer and to contribute to the team results my senior year. I got side aches my freshman, sophomore and junior years at the NCAA meet. Finally, I had one race where my body didn’t hate me and that was a good mental overcoming because I had started to wonder if it was all in my head that I wasn’t able to run well at NCAAs. It was nice to break into the top one hundred even though I had to dig very deep to find that result.
GCR: We discussed many of your races from your entire running career. Are there any top races that we missed where you beat a tough opponent, came from behind with a great kick, ran a big personal best time or all three that stand out?
HK One time period is the 2016 season leading up to the Olympic Trials, because I had run a little faster for 1,500 meters. I did 4:04, just a bit faster than the 4:05 in Rome. I also ran a two flat point something a couple weeks later. I truly felt I was in the best shape of my life that year and, unfortunately, I tweaked my calf about ten days out from the Trials and did not perform up to my ability there. I came back very well in road miles after the Trials. I was third to Jenny Simpson and Laura Muir in the New York City Fifth Avenue Mile to cap off the season. As far as performances that stick out in my mind as very special, running 4:19.8 at the Fifth Avenue Mile and placing against two of the medal contenders from the 2016 Olympics was a sign to me that, if everything had gone well on the day, I would have had a shot to make the 2016 Olympic team.
GCR: From your many years of racing, who were some of your favorite competitors in high school, college and post-collegiately due to their ability to give you a strong race and bring out your best?
HK In high school the one name that comes to mind in the 400 meters is Vanessa Clarida. She had more talent in her little finger than I probably ever had. Every time my parents talked with her coaches they would say things like, ‘She hardly works out, she eats fast food and she shows up and races like this.’ Unfortunately, she had a similar coast through academics and didn’t run in college. She was incredible. She would run the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters and I would meet her in the 400 meters. She was very talented. In college, Geena Gall and I had a rivalry back and forth. I would know where she was in the races and key off that. I tried to make sure I was competing appropriately with her. Post-collegiately, I started to realize that I might be on a team, but everyone travels through Europe together and we were all competing against each other. Molly Beckwith, now Molly Ludlow, was one of my favorite people on the circuit. We could love each other in the warmup and the cool down, but everything in between we would compete hard on the track. She is a good friend and a great competitor and did some great racing despite never making an Olympic team. I think she missed making an Olympic or World Championship teams by a couple hundredths of a second four times.
GCR: Your competitor, Alysia Johnson Montano, was in the 800 meters at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics, where athletes who finished ahead of her were disqualified quite a long time later for PEDs. Alysia tried to stay with them and faded and, after they were disqualified, she ended up being awarded the Bronze Medal for her 2011 effort. But, if they weren’t in the race, Alysia may have won Gold Medals. What is your take on how later athletes are upgraded, but the race can’t be run over and the athletes who were disqualified changed the whole nature of the race?
HK She wouldn’t have to have gone out so hard if she was racing real humans instead of robots. Athletes may get a medal, but they are robbed of memories. When I think back to running the NCAA meet my freshman year, the memories of celebrating with my family and crossing the finish line without seeing anyone in front of me, is something that can’t be recreated even if you are given a Gold Medal after the fact. In the professional world it also takes away opportunities for sponsorships and endorsements. Companies aren’t excited to promote you now though they would have been very excited to promote you then. I think it changes the trajectory of your career a lot. It’s awful.
GCR: What is your current fitness routine and some of your goals for the future in terms of staying fit, working with the running community, charitable work and potential new adventures?
HK I tried to give myself a lot of grace coming off this injury. I also realized this was the end of a career and I could start fresh. I took some significant time off and was mostly resting. I walked my dogs and walked on my treadmill on an uphill incline, so I felt like I was doing something. I have an ElliptiGO I’m using as a transition and plan to start running soon now that it’s been a while. My approach is to be patient, take my time and get back to a good base like before. Then I may develop some workouts for myself so I can come back for those road miles that I missed this year. Those are my short-term goals for running. Long-term, I don’t think my husband will let me quit until I run a marathon, so I must run one of those with him at some point. I wouldn’t mind exploring road racing a bit more. I worked for a running shoe store, Mill City Running, from when they opened in 2013 until now. They have a racing team that is awesome and does a lot for the community. I want to join that team now that I’m not on my professional team anymore. I think that, despite whatever goals I missed in professional running, I can run on a local circuit and be successful. That will be fun to not have to work my butt off and be up there in some of those races. I just signed a new contract for a new job, and I will be working in the world of Finance moving forward for a friend of ours who was our financial advisor for many years and who started his own firm this past January. I’ve been coaching him privately for his own running for the past couple years and got to know him well. He talked to my husband when they were out for beers one time and said, ‘You know, whenever Heather retires, I would hire her in a heartbeat.’ I don’t know much about his world but will help with operations and client relations. So, I am embarking on a new career adventure and maybe pulling my identity from running at least in the short term and investing in a new challenge and being okay with not being ‘Heather the Runner.’ There are many opportunities, including one in particular called ‘Mile in My Shoes’ that supports people coming out of recovery centers and incarceration get connected to the running community. There are running mentors who help them get impowered as to how running can change your life and show you that you can accomplish goals you never thought you could. So, I hope that over time I can be a run mentor there and support that group and keep love going strong.
GCR: We started off talking about how running impacted you. When you are asked to sum up in a minute or two the major lessons you have learned during your life from the discipline of running, being a part of the running community, mentoring teenagers, balancing life’s components and overcoming adversity, what you would like to share with my readers that will help them on the pathway to reaching their potential athletically and as a person that is the ‘Heather Kampf Philosophy of Life?’
HK Over these past few years, I have emphasized my story of resilience, especially since people know of that video so well of me falling in the 600 meters and getting back up. We should recognize that our biggest obstacle is often our greatest opportunity to do things we never thought we could do. We should approach every challenge we face like that because we don’t know until we get to the other side. Whether we are successful or not, what we glean from that or learn from it or what new connections we make in the world that we wouldn’t have made otherwise are important. That is part of the message I share with those I coach and when I speak to groups.
  Inside Stuff
Hobbies/Interests I was involved in music in school and thought I would be going to college on a music scholarship before I got a running scholarship. Well, that worked. It’s hard to have a lot of physical activity hobbies, but I love going boating with my family and waterskiing and tubing. We go downhill skiing every winter in Minnesota and I would like to try out in Colorado. My husband decided that he wanted to go skydiving a couple years ago, so we make an annual trip to go skydiving. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and like jumping off high places
Nicknames ‘Slick’ from Coach Matt Bingle. Most people in college called me ‘Dorny’ since my last name was ‘Dorniden’ at the time. When I was very young, I guess I was a big slobberer, so my parents called me ‘Goobs’ or ‘Goobers’ or ‘Goobeejuice.’ My husband uses my middle name and will call me ‘Heather Rae’ or ‘Heather Rae Rae’
Favorite movies I am a sucker for an inspiring sports movie. My parents used to call me ‘Seabiscuit’ after I sprained and tore ligaments in a single, slow gymnastics pass my junior year in high school. I came back and had a great track season, and my parents would say, ‘Look ‘em in the eye, Seabiscuit!’ They gave me horse metaphors. When I babysat often, I would watch ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ almost daily. We love ‘Pitch Perfect’ and will put it on in the background
Favorite TV shows In my young. young years, I loved the ‘Garfield’ cartoon. I didn’t watch much TV in high school or college. I was much too busy. Now I will dabble and watch new shows. I finally finished ‘Game of Thrones.’ I was a little late to the party and had to hide from all the spoilers out there
Favorite songs I am constantly listening to a new song that I find. I’ll listen to it a couple hundred times and then move on to the next song. I’m kind of a teenage girl at heart and like the pop sound and a little of hip-hop. I’m not embarrassed to say I like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande
Favorite books I have transitioned a bit more to listening to audiobooks in recent years when I am driving or running or cross training. I just finished ‘A Promised Land’ from President Obama and that was a good book. I liked Marla Runyan’s ‘No Finish Line.’ I read memoirs of people who inspire me. That is the genre I like
First car My parents were kind enough to gift me a car once I started doing some internships in college. It was a 2003 Buick LeSabre, so it was a boat
Current car At the end of 2017 and going into 2018, I was complaining because my heater didn’t work, so Ben and I went and bought a Ford Explorer
First Jobs I nannied for a few summers for three kids. It was within biking distance. The only food place close to my house, because we were kind of in the burbs, was a Subway, so I worked there for a couple years part-time
Family My parents are Frank and Connie. We talk about what we learn from the sport, but I think I was already a disciplined, diligent kid from my parents. They were intentional about putting in hard work for the things they cared about. I gleaned a lot of that from them. My dad is funny. My mom is too, but dad took the humor role in the family. My mom wants to be involved in the lives of my sister, Kara, who is four years older, and me. She is the glue of the family and is always checking in on us. My sister was very different than me in terms of he interests. She is the artistic, family oriented, good cook and I was good at academics and sports. We align on our morals and our upbringing and our basic values and care about each other a lot. But we don’t have many of the same interests
Pets When I was growing up my mom was allergic to fur and pets of all sorts and we didn’t want them anyway, so I had fish. There was one time we bought some new fish and killed the whole tank, so we gave up on that and didn’t have fish anymore. That wasn’t too long-lived. My husband, Ben, and I got married in 2010. He always had a dog when he was growing up so he was trying to convince me that we should get a dog. There was a Pomeranian dog in our neighborhood that I thought was adorable. So, I would purposely plan my run routes around it so I could look at it if it was in their yard. Our first dog, Ricky, was a rescue Pomeranian. So that was our first dog to get me warmed up. After he passed, we have Ellie and Dewey now. Ellie is a Shepherd mix and Dewey is a little Pomeranian. They are both rescue dogs as well. They are an improbable pair, but thy do very well together. I’ve been petting Dewey for the last half hour
Favorite breakfast I make a lot of smoothies for breakfast, but I do love a good scramble or hash with eggs and potatoes and meat and veggies
Favorite meal Maybe tacos. I make some amazing guacamole, so anything with guacamole
Favorite beverages I will have tea every morning. I like Good Earth Sweet and Spicy Tea. It’s the only kind of hot drink I enjoy. I’m not a coffee drinker. I very, very rarely drink alcohol because I don’t like the taste of most alcoholic drinks. But if there is something sweet enough that I don’t taste the alcohol, like a Moscato wine, I’m down for that
First running memory I kind of remember running in my neighborhood. We had a steep hill close to my house and I liked to run down it very fast to see how fast my legs could move
Running heroes I didn’t follow the sport super closely in high school, so I didn’t have anyone other than teammates on my team to look up to and my mom because she started running around the same time. My mom and I would run together a lot. Those were my early inspirations. In college, I still wasn’t following the scene too closely. But Alysia Johnson, Montano now, was such a brave front runner. I’ve always looked up to her. She has been an incredible athlete. I mentioned how I liked Marla Runyan’s book about overcoming adversity and running while legally blind and doing the things she did in Paralympics and Olympics Games which was very amazing. In Elementary School we had a person come in who would re-enact the story of a famous person as if they were that person. Wilma Rudolph was the athlete who she did. I thought her overcoming polio was very cool and she was an amazing runner as well
Greatest running moments Because I’ve got to retell the story and recognize how widely relatable it is, the time in the 600-meter race where I came back from a fall and won the race. I think everyone has been at some point in their life flat on their face whether it is literally or figuratively. I’m proud of the way I responded to that. The 4:19 mile I ran at the Fifth Avenue Mile was a special day for me. As a professional runner, I think it was my best earning day ever which felt cool. I had bonuses clauses in my contract if I broke 4:20. I finished in third place and that was another bonus. Also, John Legere, the T-Mobile CEO, had added another premium for that race that any woman who broke 4:20 would get an extra five thousand dollars directly from him. It was basically my entire year’s income in a day. When I ran 4:04 for 1,500 meters in Rome was very special because that was a big jump for me. Those are three moments that stand out
Disappointing running moments One is the race and the aftermath at World Indoors in 2014. I fell and hurt myself and got disqualified. Then I had to get drug tested. It was a miserable day. In 2016 for the Olympic Trials, I was so disappointed that I couldn’t quite align my peak with the right day and moment. That was the most confident I had been, and I had run personal bests in both the 1,500 meters and 800 meters before that race. When I think back to things, I wish I could change, that is one that stands out to me. If it had been a couple weeks later or if I hadn’t had an injury at all, it could have changed my course a little bit. My most serious injury I got after basically thirty years of being injury-free was a sacral stress fracture that I’m sure was caused by falling on the ice when I was walking my dogs one winter day. I think about that too because, coming off that great 2016 year, running 4:19 at the Fifth Avenue Mile, I was thinking, ‘Okay, I didn’t make the Olympic team but I’m going to make the World Championship team.’ But I barely got back on my feet enough from the time of my sacral stress fracture to the U.S. Championships to be able to race at all. Obviously, you don’t make teams off that
Childhood dreams I kind of remember writing a paper for school about wanting to be an Architect. I loved watching the Olympic gymnastics because that was the sport I was doing at the time. So, probably an Olympic Gymnast or an Architect
Funny memories In college I let my teammate cut my hair once and it turned out disastrously. That stands out as my hair kept getting shorter as she was trying to even it out
Embarrassing moment The memory that comes to mind is when I was cross training for my injury and going to Lifetime Fitness every day to use their pool. I came back from the pool and could not find my key for my locker. I was convinced that I dropped it in the pool or lost it somewhere. I had to call someone to help me get into my locker. When they opened it, I discovered it wasn’t my locker and I had left my key in another locker. I usually used this one locker, but it was already in use that day, so I was trying to break into the wrong locker. Then I realized I used this other locker and had left the key in it. We opened it and, thankfully, all my stuff was still in there
Favorite places to travel I’ve tried to make a mental list of places I have gone that I would like to go back to and take Ben with me. Sopot, Poland, where the World Indoor Championships were in 2014, has this amazing forest. I kind of fell in love again with running there after falling in that terrible final and that is a place I would like to go running again. I loved Switzerland. It was beautiful everywhere and I would like to explore more of that country. I love Italy too and have been to three or four cities there I liked. In the U.S., the Washington area and the city of Seattle are beautiful. Falmouth, where I ran the road mile and jumped into the seven-mile race, is beautiful. I’ve always loved training in Flagstaff and Boulder and those altitude trips, mostly because it was an opportunity for me to not be working three jobs, to be there and only be a professional athlete and train. All the places I want to revisit are places I want to go run again. I guess that’s what I’m into