“There were days when I was just so exhausted and I didn’t even want to get up out of bed because I didn’t even see the point. There was so much time that I spent wishing that the accident would have killed me because it felt like it was easier than to have to face the pain and face the challenges of everyday life. But then I’d receive a message and some voice of encouragement, sometimes from a dear friend, sometimes from a complete stranger, and it just built this community that I felt that I had near and far and it again let me discover the strength that I had within me, whether or not it was still there. Trail running, I felt, I could experience it in a new way but talking with complete strangers or my friends supporting me, it also allowed me to dig deep and find that within me.”
It was a real treat to sit down with Hillary Allen for this week’s episode of the podcast. Every week on this show I try to glean as much insight and inspiration as possible from some of the top athletes, coaches, and personalities in the sport of running and this week’s guest has those two things in SPADES—and it really comes out in this conversation.
The 30-year-old Allen, a North Face-sponsored trail and ultra runner from Colorado, has made her biggest mark in sky running, which takes place in super gnarly, technical, high alpine environments. She was the U.S. Sky Running Ultra Champion in 2015, and has course records and podium finishes at races all over the world. The crazy thing is: she’s only been in the sport for a few years and rapidly ascended the ranks—quite literally—in a very short amount of time.
But there’s so much more to this special human. Allen has a Masters degree in neuroscience, she’s got a thing for bugs and grew up wanting to be an entomologist, she was a collegiate tennis player, she coaches other runners, and is just one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Allen also has an incredible story about survival—she fell 150 feet off the side of a mountain while racing in Norway a couple years ago—which we covered from a few different angles in this conversation, amongst a slew of other interesting topics, including using running and races as a way to explore places she’s never gone, the issue of burnout in ultrarunning, how she got her nickname, “Hillygoat,” the craziest wildlife encounters she’s had on the trails, running a 2:50 self-supported marathon to see if she could go faster than she did in her first, her love of science and the outdoors and how that’s impacted her life, and much, much more.
Postscript: Allen broke her ankle in late January, just a couple weeks after we recorded this conversation, an injury that required yet another surgery. “Things happen for a reason—if you chose to let them,” she wrote on her blog. “I’m reminded to take a deep breath, feel what I’m feeling and believe. BELIEVE. That this too, will create, reignite and provide an opportunity for growth.” (more…)
“The idea of doing what you love doesn’t happen by accident. Like if I went to drama everyday, sure I’d have fun but it would have been misdirected. And I was fortunate enough to have what I loved and learn it but really cultivate it and really be around other people that loved it. And that’s probably the theme that will come out of this conversation, whether it’s a peer of mine that I’m still friends with because we raced against each other in high school or Mike Fanelli, who was running around the track with me at age 50, or my parents—it doesn’t matter the demographic, we shared that. And I want for our high school kids to have that. They’re coming to practice with two coaches that love it so much, they’re surrounded by teammates that really love what they’re doing, and it’s the culture that we have, it’s the community we’re trying to create.”
Incredibly excited to welcome Jake Schmitt to the podcast this week. The 31-year-old is a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon with a personal best of 2:15:09. He most recently ran 2:18:03 at CIM and has his sights set on competing well at the Trials in Atlanta a little over a year from now.
Schmitt was a state champion cross-country runner in high school and an All-American in track at the University of Washington. Aside from being an accomplished athlete, he has coached at his alma mater, Redwood High School, for the past nine years alongside his mom, Laura—who is also his coach—and they’ve developed one of the top distance programs in California. This mom and son duo also cofounded the Thoroughbred Treadmill Studio just north of San Francisco, which is the first of its kind on the west coast.
We talked about all of those things in this conversation and then some, including Schmitt’s tight-knit family, where he gets his competitiveness from, how his parents taught him to love running without forcing it upon him, why he loves monotony, the importance of restraint in bringing along high school athletes in their training, developing a healthy team culture, and a lot more.
“I just kind of started to give myself a little bit more credit for what I’ve done and stopped having that need to incessantly prove myself. Because nobody else is thinking of me that way, nobody else is quantifying other people that way, it’s just yourself. And so I made the choice to stop doing that to myself because the priority for me is health—because I can’t do the running if I’m unhealthy, and it’s as simple as that. The racing doesn’t matter; if I’m going to race terribly because I’m ill, then why am I bothering anyways?”
I really enjoyed sitting down with Devon Yanko for this week’s episode of the podcast. We caught up a little week before the recent Houston Marathon, where she ran 2:39:34—less than a minute off of her personal best—to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials in Atlanta.
Yanko is a super accomplished athlete who has run almost 100 races of marathon distance and beyond. She’s also won two ultra-distance national titles on the roads, represented the U.S. at multiple world championships, been on the podium at Western States, won the Leadville 100, held the Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim FKT, qualified for two Olympic Trials marathons, and has finished in the top-5 at Comrades. In short: she is a badass across a range of distances and on a variety of terrain.
This was a loaded conversation and I think you’ll take a lot away from it. We talked about how Yanko got into running after growing up as a basketball player, how the sport of trail and ultra running has evolved since she first got into about 13 years ago, getting over a tough year in 2018 that was full of health issues and injuries, the importance of community, her proudest accomplishment as an athlete, sharing her story of teenage sexual abuse and how that’s impacted her life over the past 20+ years, what can be done to bring more women into trail and ultra running, opening a bakery with her husband Nathan, and much, much more.
“You know, growing other avenues of my life has been really positive, and having an overall balance in my life, and not just having this laser focus on running. Because before, my running and my happiness were tied so close together that it was almost a dangerous thing. If I wasn’t running well, the rest of my life was not going well either and it was nice to be able to separate that and separate different parts of life and get enjoyment and fulfillment out of hanging out with friends, and not being stressed about not running, and stuff like that. So yeah, it was a shift in mindset that was very important—it had to happen.”
I had a blast sitting down with Rob Watson for this week’s episode of the podcast. Watson is a recently retired professional runner from Canada who won two national steeplechase titles and represented his country numerous times in international competition. He also has a 2:13:29 marathon personal best, finished 11th at Boston in 2013, and broke the 2:20 mark ten times in his career.
The 35-year-old Watson, who stepped away from the professional side of the sport after failing to qualify for the Olympic Games at the 2016 London Marathon, where he ran 2:18:45, is a coach with Mile2Marathon in Vancouver, where he’s lived since 2012. He won the BMO Vancouver Marathon last year—the first marathon victory of his career—and his resolutions for 2019 include “learning how to trail run and not fall on head. 2. Learn how to do ultra running shit. 3. After 1 & 2 are complete start crushing trail and ultra races.”
We had a great conversation and covered a wide range of topics, including being mentally done with the grind of training and racing at the professional level; coaching with Mile2Marathon and how that’s fueled his own excitement for running, given him new perspective, and revived his desire to get back into training and racing; learning how to recognize, enjoy, and celebrate his accomplishments rather than always dwelling on what he could have done better; how the business of professional running has changed over the past 10-12 years; the disconnect that exists between the participatory side of running and the competitive side of the sport, and what can be done to close that gap; how he worked through insecurity and confidence issues and learned to trust himself and his training; his new year’s resolutions and why he’s excited to explore trail and ultrarunning; and much, much more.
“Like I want to make people happy, and do the right thing, and be successful. And I think a lot of people end up getting sucked into that and then have to be like, ‘Wait, why am I doing this?’ ‘Do I want to be here?’ ‘Why did I make these choices?’ and you have to rethink it and figure out what actually makes you happy and what you actually want to do. Luckily, just being competitive and wanting to get better and better and better at running has turned out pretty good for me because, when I sit back, I do love what I’m doing. But it is something you have to be careful of—like, ‘Why am I so obsessed at being so good at that? Or not failing? Maybe it’s OK. And I think that’s something I’ll probably be working with the rest of my life.”
Stoked to welcome Olympian Colleen Quigley to the podcast this week. The 26-year-old is a member of the Bowerman Track Club and has established herself as one of the top middle-distance runners in the world, specializing in the steeplechase. She competed in that event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she finished eighth, and has represented the United States multiple times in international competition.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Quigley had a stellar 2018 campaign, winning the Wannamaker Mile at the Millrose Games, qualifying for the world indoor championships in the 1500m, putting up personal bests in the 1000m, 1500m, and steeplechase, winning two race races in Europe, and finishing second to Jenny Simpson in the Fifth Ave. Mile to close out the year.
The nomadic Quigley and I caught up a few weeks ago in San Francisco before she took off for altitude camp and we covered a wide range of topics, including her morning routine, how she’s dealt with injuries throughout her career, what it was like to be coached by her dad in high school and the importance of keeping the sport fun during those formative years, making the decision to postpone a modeling career in order to run collegiately at Florida State, deciding to join the Bowerman Track Club after college, the influence Shalane Flanagan has had on her professional career and how her relationship with coach Jerry Schumacher has evolved over the last few years, fear of rejection and how’s she’s dealt with it throughout her life, her competitiveness and where she gets it comes from, the origins of #fastbraidfriday, what she’s excited about in 2019, and a whole lot more.
“That’s the great thing about competition or even just running in general—it’s all about yourself. And maybe even greater than that, your running community is behind you and they want you to do well or set PRs. But as long as you’re happy or you’re doing things that are of value to you, I think people really rally behind that and I think that’s what’s so cool and unique about the running community. I just focused on myself [at CIM] and was trying to run a big PR for the day and the stars aligned and gave me an extra cherry on the top there to win a national championship, so it was all the merrier.”
Really excited to welcome reigning U.S. marathon champion Brogan Austin to the podcast this week. For those of you who don’t know, the 27-year-old Austin won CIM in early December, running in 2:12:39 to claim his first national title, set a massive personal best, and make his case as a contender for the 2020 Olympic marathon team.
We had a great conversation a couple weeks ago and I’m stoked to share it with you. I got to learn a lot more about who Brogan is, where he came from, how he trains, what it’s like to train and race at a high level while holding down a full-time job, why he loves breakfast cereal, what life has looked like for him since winning a national championship, and a whole lot more.
“I think sometimes someone tells you their story, and you’re listening to it and that’s a value; other times you need to tell people about it in advocacy; and other times you need to do something about it to help create change. I kind of see Girls Gotta Run as an extension of that, really working to bring those stories, bring the experiences of the girls to an elevated level where more people can understand that, see that, and support them in making change.”
It was a real treat to talk to Kayla Nolan, the executive director of Girls Gotta Run, for this week’s episode of the podcast. Girls Gotta Run is the only non-profit organization in Ethiopia using the national sport of running to create safe spaces, end child marriage and expand access to secondary school for vulnerable girls.
Nolan and Girls Gotta Run are doing some amazing things for women in Ethiopia using running as vehicle to drive positive change. We covered a lot in this conversation—from how Nolan first became connected to Ethiopia, to how she became involved with Girls Gotta Run, how the organization and her role within it has evolved over the last several years, the unique challenges women face in Ethiopia, how GGR is helping create opportunities for women through running, the rich running culture in Ethiopia, the importance of advocacy, and much, much, more—and I am super excited to share it with all of you.
“The number one thing is really taking ownership of what you do with your body and understanding that our ideas on strength and exercising, it’s not the multivitamin. I can’t eat like crap and take my daily pill and think I’m good. Strength doesn’t work that way [either]. It’s not like I can run like garbage, never stretch, ignore all these signals that my body is giving me all the time, but do this one exercise, and think everything is going to be OK. It needs to be flipped around.”
It was super fun to sit down with my friend Nate Helming, co-founder of The Run Experience, an online community that helps runners train to become stronger, faster, and more well-rounded athletes. He is also my personal strength training coach and has helped me become a healthier, more resilient runner over the past few years.
Nate and I caught up recently after a run and talked about his evolution as an athlete and a coach, how his own injury frustrations led him to think differently about his approach to strength training, and how all of those things intersected to land him where he is today.
This was a great conversation and there’s a lot to take away from it, especially if you’ve been dealing with injury issues of your own. Subscribe and queue it up wherever you listen to audio content.
“As far as balance goes, and how do you make it all work, some people call BS and say balance is not attainable, and I think there are moments in life where it feels like it’s not, but I think if you can really hone yourself in on the things that are important to you at different parts of your life, it can be.”
It was super fun to sit down recently with Lindsey Hein, host of the popular I’ll Have Another podcast, for a wide-ranging exchange that got into the weeds of podcasting (of course), including the origins of her show, how it’s evolved over the past 150+ episodes, what makes for a good conversation, and more.
But that’s not all! We talked about Hein’s introduction to the sport back in high school and how her relationship with running has changed over the years. We also discussed the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy after she found out she was positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation—a story that caught the attention of Women’s Running magazine and landed her on on the cover back in 2014—and why she doesn’t really talk about it all that often.
Hein is also a mom of four young boys and shares what she’s learned about running during and after pregnancy. She also explains how she and her husband Glen, who is also a competitive runner, have raised their kids in a two-runner household and make it all work. Along those lines, we got into the myth of balance and how it sways depending on what’s going on in your life.
And there’s a ton more. We covered a lot of ground in this conversation, from personal to professional and all sorts of stuff in between, and I think you’ll take a lot away from it.
“I talk about why I had success in Boston—it’s a 26.2-mile race that this year felt like 30, right? You add in the wind, and the conditions, and it suddenly feels longer, which is part of why I have this advantage in my mind. And so why not test that theory out in the actual distance? I think I can finish a marathon feeling like I can probably go another 10 miles, I just couldn’t go a lick faster, so let’s see how far we can extend that. I think those are all intriguing to me.”
I’m super excited to welcome my first returning guest back to the show: 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden. Linden and I last spoke on Episode 3 in late January, a couple months before she won the race that changed her life. A lot has transpired since she broke the tape on Boylston Street in mid-April, including the launch of Linden & True Coffee, a coaching change, more media appearances than she can remember, and a sixth-place finish at the New York City Marathon a little over a month ago.
Linden and I caught up recently at The Running Event in Austin, Texas and talked about all of those things in great detail and then some, including where her scrappiness and competitiveness come from, why her win in Boston was so validating, the importance of having confidence, trust, and faith in yourself on race day, the advantages of training in a group versus training alone, how her training has changed since leaving the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, what the rest of her competitive marathon career looks like and why ultra-distance races appeal to her, what’s exciting her in running right now, why it’s important to tell your story, and a lot more.