Chelsea! Welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your running background. (Guys! She is super fast. )
I’ve been running since 7th grade, so for about 15 years now. I played a lot of different sports but noticed in all of them that I was pretty great at running and I never despised it like most of my teammates. I also really needed to feel like I was needed somewhere when I was in junior high, so I put all of my heart into running, and with that determination and talent, I had some early success. There were five of us girls on my xc team in high school and about 13 on my track team, and we were state runners-up four years in a row despite our small numbers. From there I went to Arkansas State for track and cross country and excelled in the steeplechase, where I held the school record for about six years. I ran anything from the 1500-5K. I now coach a pretty large team and have been coaching for about four years now.
So, you’re a high school English teacher, (currently working on a novel!), but also a really talented runner. How do you marry those two worlds? (ie. left brain vs right brain)
Part of my job as a teacher is also being a coach. My kids kind of motivated me to keep running and keep running seriously. I’m always teaching kids how to write and how to be intrinsically motivated, and they push me to do the same. Running does a few things for me. One, it helps me destress. After a long day teaching, I can go out with my athletes and run some miles or really hit it hard in a workout and go home feeling like I got everything out of my day that I possibly could. Two, when I run I allow myself to kind of zone out and my mind just gets working. That coupled with the fact I don’t feel stressed out when I get home allows me to really release my inner creativity.
As a book nerd, any running book recommendations?
Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is one that isn’t on a lot of shelves but is perfect for me. It’s just a memoir about Murakami, who runs several marathons a year, but it perfectly marries two of my favorite interests, running and writing. It’s really nothing special and it’s not a typical go-to running book, but it inspires me to do both of things I love to do.
I’m excited for you to become a contributor, for many reasons, but a large one is because of your experience working with high school runners. What is your favorite part about coaching high school/up-and-coming runners?
I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people I run for fun, but I know there are plenty of kids who were just like me: kids who need something they can call their own who may not fit into other team sports as well. Running is for both the introverted and extroverted, and I just like how everyone can define their own success within running. I think it also gives kids an outlet for their energy as well as something they can continue for the rest of their lives. I guess my favorite part is seeing a kid who wasn’t necessarily popular or “good” at something before have a team rally around them when they run a new personal best or come through in a big way. My team is competitive but ultimately so supportive of one another.
If you could tell all high school girls reading this one thing, what would it be?
You are capable of anything you set your mind to. The most important thing to remember as a female runner is that we were not always allowed to run these long distances and we haven’t always had people telling us we could do it. If you want to beat the guys on your team, do it. If you want to set records, do it. Running is a place where you don’t have to worry about your image or anything else society tells you to worry about. It’s a safe space where you can grit your teeth and push your body to its limits. You can spit and fight and challenge yourself without judgment here.
Since you ran division 1 cross country/track and field, I’d love to hear that perspective. Do you have any advice for college runners? Anything you regret or wish you had done differently?
It is so hard to balance running with being social. A large part of college is meeting new people, and sometimes when I’d have to get to bed early or miss football games for meets, I’d feel like I was really missing out. My biggest piece of advice is absolutely find that balance. There were times when I wondered if doing my elliptical workout or core was worth an hour away from my friends, and the answer is that sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not. You really have to define that on your own. I have two big regrets. The first was not feeling like I was good enough as a freshman. What you have to remember when moving from high school to college is that everyone was the “big dog” in their high school or state. Your college teammates may seem like competition at first, but ultimately they will become your best friends. Learn from them and use them as motivation, but never envy them. Running and “getting fast” is a personal journey. Enjoy the ride. Secondly, do those workouts when no one’s looking. I had trouble staying motivated during the summers and only completed my summer mileage before my senior year. The previous years I ran, but not always everything that was on my schedule. There’s no telling how much success I could have seen if I’d just had the motivation to get up early and get those miles in each day. The year I did my mileage, I had so much success and confidence because I knew I’d done the work.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years with running and coaching?
I think I’ll still be running and still loving it, and with coaching, I hope I’ve expanded our community here in Marion more than I already have. When I got to Marion, there were four kids on the cross country team, and since then, I’ve opened it up to 7th and 8th grade, and I’ve had about 80 kids running on the team at once. I hope by then I’ve coached my kids to a few conference championships and inspired them to stay motivated, which is something we’ve struggled with in the past.
Your go-to workout for getting in shape to run a fast 5k? (Her PR is 17:50!)
VO2’s baby! 4 or 5x800 meters (or 1K’s if you’re faster) with a finishing 400. These are definitely the meat and potatoes of my training.
I know you love Mizuno, so tell us your favorite shoes of theirs that they make!
My current favorites are the Inspires. I have a neutral gait, but sometimes I pronate, so the Mizuno Inspires offer me the mild stability I need. I’ve had four pairs of them, and they’ve eliminated my shin splints almost completely. They give me the flexible rigidity I prefer. I would recommend them for anyone who has a narrow foot, too.