UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon!

This past weekend, I took my first trip out to Pittsburgh, PA to compete in the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon, put on by the incredible team at P3R Events as part of the DICK’S Sporting Good Pittsburgh Marathon. It was my first half marathon since January of 2015 after a long string of injuries last year, and I couldn’t be happier to finally get to toe the start line of a major road race healthy and with good, consistent training under my belt. I finished sixth overall and was the Top American finisher with a time of 1:07:07. Overall, I feel that I’m making great progress towards where I want to be and building a lot of confidence as I begin to race competitively again.

Post-race! PC: Pete Madia

I went into the race prepared for the challenging, hilly layout of the course after doing a few key strength workouts in St. Paul over some rolling terrain. After living in Minnesota for a few months now and going to school in Syracuse, I was also prepared for the forecasted weather conditions of rain and potential thunderstorms. Luckily, the thunderstorms held out and rain only came down lightly from miles 3 to 10. The first three miles were flat, and after letting the top group of Ethiopian and Kenyan athletes go a half mile into the race, I was fortunate to work a little with Pal Yak of Hudson Elite, clicking off 4:55 miles. After three miles, things got a bit challenging with the hills and bridges and my pace slipped to just over 5 minute miles. I caught back up to Paul around nine miles and split 10 miles in about 50:40, much quicker than the 10-mile race I ran locally a few weeks ago where I finished in 51:17. From that point on it was a GRIND! From just before 11 miles to just past 12 miles, the course climbed significantly until I reached Duquesne’s campus. I finished the last downhill one-mile stretch relieved that I got through the course strong and with no significant pains other than a set of very sore calves and quads.

Going into the race, I set a time goal of 1:05, but after running the course and experiencing the conditions, I am very happy with the time and outcome. I think I would be a lot happier with the time had it been closer to a 1:06, but I can’t complain with what I think was a competitive, solid effort given the course and conditions. There is no doubt in my mind that I could break a 1:05 on a flatter course in good conditions! As I continue to return to competition an once again get used to “entering the house of pain” as my high school coach would say, I know I am soon going to be ready to take a stab at my half-marathon personal best of 1:03:27.

This race was a great opportunity as well to reintroduce pre-race preparations and get a little nervous on race day. Nothing says race day on the roads like the sound of your alarm clock going off at 3:30 a.m.! On workout days, I have been waking up earlier and going through a regular warmup routine, so getting ready for this race on race morning was nothing new to me outside of what I had been practicing all along. A great piece of advice that I have heard throughout the years form multiple coaches and athletes: nothing new on race day.

Paul Yak and I after a good effort! PC: Pete Madia

Paul Yak and I after a good effort! PC: Pete Madia

Aside from the race, I had a fun opportunity to participate in P3R’s Kids of STEEL Pen Pal Program. For the last two months, I have been corresponding with kids at Waynesburg Elementary School just south of Pittsburgh and I finally had the chance to meet them the Friday before the race for lunch and run with them in the Toyota Kids Marathon 1-mile race on Saturday. As I wrote about in a previous blog post, it was a really great opportunity to give back to the sport by sharing my experiences in running with kids. The races on Saturday saw more than 6,000 kids participate and the kids in the Kids of STEEL program have been logging miles and training hard for the big day! It is something I will always remember and I hope to have similar opportunities to work with kids in the sport in the future. Special thanks to Waynesburg Elementary School’s Kids Of STEEL coordinator Kellie-Ann Maute who did an awesome job with the program.

P3R Events’ professional athlete team gave the elite athletes a top-notch experience, one of the best that I have been a part of. From the hospitality suite to race logistics, they were on their A-game and I think I speak for all of the athletes when I say that we appreciate the support and generosity of their team throughout race weekend. As an American distance runner trying to make it professionally on the road racing scene, I was also highly impressed with the support and exposure that P3R Events gives American athletes through their American Development Program. The race offered a competitive prize purse for American citizens in both the half-marathon and marathon, and the organization also offers a similar prize purse at the Liberty Mile that they organize later in the year. Through this program, the organization also supports U.S. training groups, including Team USA Minnesota, and offers American athletes the chance to compete against strong international competition at their events.

I am anxious to get back into training after taking a few days easy after the race and gear up for the rest of the Spring and early summer. This will be the first time I have continued with a training cycle after competing in a half-marathon, and so far the recovery is going a lot better than I expected. In the past, all of the half-marathons that I competed in were the peak races in my training cycles, so I am very happy with how I have come off of this effort. I eased back into things this week with some light runs to get my distance back up and had a “controlled” 200 meter repeat workout this morning. The reason I place controlled in quotation marks is because I did the workout with Heather Kampf – she kept me on my toes, literally!

For my next race, I will return home to my old stomping grounds in New Jersey to compete in the Newport 10,000 in Jersey City on Saturday, May 14. I’m really looking forward to a bit quicker of a race, competing well, and racing in front of my family and friends! After that, I’ll continue to build up towards the Grandma’s Half Marathon in mid-June, where I want to walk away with a new personal best and some confidence heading into the summer and fall. A full marathon is definitely on the horizon, but for now I am enjoying everything and am grateful for being healthy, feeling good in training, and getting back onto the road racing scene! As always, thanks to Team USA Minnesota, Brooks Running, and my family and friends for their support as I chase down a dream. TCB.

Inspiring Youth in the Kids of STEEL Pen Pal Program and Beyond!

From the first time I stepped foot on the soccer field when I was very young, I knew that I had found a sport that I loved. When the whistle blew and the ball went to a corner of the field, there was little doubt that I would be the first person to get to the ball; however, I wasn’t going to be the next Ronaldo. I’ve gotten to the ball faster than everyone else, now what? Frozen in time with stage fright and *perhaps* a slight lack of coordination as the other kids began to swarm around me, it dawned on me: “Hey, maybe getting from point A to point B the quickest is what I’m good at.”

Growing up as a kid, I had a very different childhood than most. I ran by choice as my main sport. I tried basketball, soccer, baseball (well, tee ball), swimming, and other sports, but there was something about running that I was really passionate about. It gave me an abundance of life skills that enabled me to achieve success on the track, in the classroom, and in all other aspects of my life. Youth running was not as well organized as club soccer or playing basketball on a travel team, but it was something that I was determined to find a way to become better at.

I started out with CYO Track and Field at St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Oradell and was immediately hooked. I participated in any event that was offered: the 50 meter dash, the 800 meter run, even the long jump and softball throw (that one I left pretty quickly…). Our head track coach at the time, Coach Janine (who I still credit as my first coach!) convinced me to try the USATF Junior Olympic Series. In my first association meet, I competed in the 7 and 8 year old 400 meter dash and encountered my first experience with nerves. The cure? Coach Janine convinced me to toe the start line by promising a brand new, shiny deck of Pokemon cards. I ran the race, and from that moment on, not every finish was fulfilled with a holygram Gyarados, but my passion and love for the sport grew. I went on to train and race at USATF and AAU events around the country with local New Jersey track clubs Transy East and the Green Streakers before competing in cross country and track and field at Don Bosco Prep High School and Syracuse University.

Running as part of the Green Streakers Track Club in 8th Grade. Fun fact: I was roommates with the guy right  behind me, Andrew Nelson, for a few years in college.

Running as part of the Green Streakers Track Club in 8th Grade. Fun fact: I was roommates with the guy right behind me, Andrew Nelson, for a few years in college.

Now, I look back on those days as a post-collegiate professional distance runner and I am so grateful for the opportunities that I had to run growing up and for the skills that running taught me. As part of my responsibility as a professional in the sport, I want to share my experiences and give kids the same opportunities in the sport that I had and more, which is why I am so happy to be a part of this year’s Kids of STEEL Pen Pal Program, coordinated by P3R Events, as I prepare for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 1.

During the months of March and April, I have sent and will continue to send letters to the kids in the Kids of STEEL program at Waynesburg Elementary School outside of Pittsburgh. I am very excited for this opportunity, because I will have the chance to share my training leading up to the race and help inspire the future of our sport. Through my past experiences, I also hope to show the kids all of the valuable life skills that they can take from running, such as setting goals, how to stay positive and motivated, how to be disciplined and work hard, and leading a healthy and active lifestyle. I wouldn’t be in the position I am right now if running hadn’t taught me these important skills, and being involved with kids at the earliest stages of the sport is going to be a really fun way for me to give back. All of these kids may not go on to run in the future, but what they learn now through the Kids of STEEL program can set themselves up for success in their future endeavors.

Another aspect of the program that I am looking forward to is getting to meet all of the kids at a picnic outside of Pittsburgh the Friday before the race. I’ll also get to cheer them on as they take part in the Toyota Kids Marathon the day before the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. This part of the program I look forward to because I hope to be inspired by and learn something from the kids. Through my previous job at New York Road Runners, working with Team for Kids and the NYRR Youth Running Series was always a blast, and seeing kids at the different NYRR events racing on the streets and tracks of New York City was always encouraging and motivating. I know that the future of our sport is bright, but it will take a huge effort from the running community to make this a reality.

As for my own training, things have going very well and uninterrupted! I hit 96 miles last week with a solid 20 mile long run on the LRT outside of Minneapolis on Easter Sunday. My mileage has gradually increased a few miles each week, and the quality of my workouts has gotten better with each workout. I am very excited for the half marathon with just over a month until the event, and I am confident that I will have a successful race! This will be my first half marathon since the 2015 Houston Half last January, and I am looking forward to finally getting back to racing and being competitive after a long layoff due to injuries.

20 Miler on Easter Sunday!

20 Miler on Easter Sunday!

Where the sport will continue to take me, I am still not sure of; however, I am enjoying the ride and hope to share some insight and inspiration with kids along the way. I highly recommend getting involved with your running community and any kids programs that they offer, because you never know who you can inspire to do something great. You don’t have to be an Olympic medalist to be an inspiration for kids in the sport. Setting a good example as a role model and teaching kids how they can pursue their dreams can go a long way. It’s absolutely worth it, whether you help to plant inspiration in the lives of 100 kids or just one.

As always, thank you to my strong support system of family, friends, Team USA Minnesota, and Brooks Running for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams, and thank you to P3R Events for the chance to race on May 1. Can’t wait! TCB and Run Happy.


Big Apple Dreamin’ in the Twin Cities

For the last year-and-half since graduating Syracuse University, I’ve been fortunate to call my home New York City–the City of Dreams. The fast paced, high energy lifestyle engulfed by the world’s most impressive skyline has taught me to be a dreamer, and for that I am thankful. If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. Without this New Yorker mentality, I may not have been able to take the leap and make the biggest decision of my life to date: pursuing my professional distance running career in the Twin Cities with Team USA Minnesota. On December 1, I flew out to Minneapolis with two checked bags, two carry-ons, and a renewed motivation to make the most out of my running career.

2015 was by far the most eventful and challenging year in my running career to date. I’ve learned more about myself as a runner and person through the experiences I’ve had over the last year than any other. Although there were misfortunes along the way, the process was something that has made me stronger and more motivated to succeed post-collegiately than ever before. It was a rollercoaster of emotions that I hope to never encounter again, but looking back, I’m thankful for  all of the great things that have come out of it.

Just over a year ago I qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston, recording a 1:03:27 personal best. Unfortunately, since then, I have yet to line up for a race longer than just a few miles. I raced one more time in March in a 5K before a sacral stress fracture sidelined me at the end of the month. As someone who has never before suffered from any serious injury, I was very lost trying to navigate my way back (no pun intended) to full health. When I was finally cleared to run in the middle of June, I upped my mileage too quickly, reaching about an hour run in the early weeks of July, and soon noticed a new pain: stress fracture number two, this time in my right calcaneous (heel). Frustration reached an all-time high, and 13 weeks later in October after countless hours of pool running, biking, and using the elliptical,  I was finally cleared to run again. Just a few weeks into my comeback, I realized my Olympic Trials dreams would most likely have to be put on hold for four more years due to my complete lack of fitness–a very tough pill to swallow after I had put in so much work trying to qualify after graduation. However, I soon learned that qualifying to run the Trials was not the only opportunity I had as a result of my post-collegiate success.

Around the beginning of 2015 just after Houston, I came to the realization that I might regret passing up the opportunity to pursue my dream of professional distance running while I was still able. Although I was very happy in my current situation as an employee of New York Road Runners and an athlete for the New York Athletic Club, my gut was telling me that I could be doing more with my running, an outlet that has already given me so many incredible opportunities in my life. So, at the end of June, just as I was recovering from stress fracture number one, I made the decision that I was going to give running a shot and pursue running as a profession.

At first, I did a lot of research on how to go about this process. Since I was aware that I did not have the accolades that many of the top distance runners have at the collegiate level and beyond, it occurred to me that the search for an ideal training setup would be a challenge; and, unlike sports with organized leagues and teams such as basketball, the structure of professional running is a lot more open to interpretation.  Luckily, there were a variety of great resources that existed where I could gather information to help me choose a set up that was right for me, including attending Run Pro Camp in June of 2015, websites such as RunPro.com, and talking with a number of people in the running community who had gone through the same process.

After reaching out to a few distance running groups, I visited the Twin Cities in October to check out Team USA Minnesota, and I was very drawn to the tight knit running community of Minnesota, Coach Dennis Barker, the members of the team, and the flexibility of the training while holding a part time job and freelance positions in my field of interest. The set up of the group was a great match for what I was looking for in a training environment, and I made the decision within a few weeks after my visit to join the team.

There are many sacrifices and hardships that came along with this decision.  For one, my girlfriend Sarah and I are currently separated while chasing our running dreams with different training groups. Although we have lived in different cities since graduation (New York and Boston), we are now a bit farther apart; however, I am very confident in our relationship and our abilities to make it work. She means the world to me and I know one day we are going to look back when our running careers are over and be even more grateful for the future that we have together and the chances that we took when we had the opportunity. Also, I have never lived anywhere else but the Northeast. I’ve been fortunate to be close to family and friends throughout my life, and moving to a new area of the country is definitely intimidating; however, the community of the Twin Cities is very strong and so far I am enjoying the atmosphere of Minneapolis–it reminds me so much of Syracuse.

SNOW - just like 'Cuse!

SNOW – just like ‘Cuse!

I highly encourage any athlete that is like me and unsure about their future in the sport to consider taking the chance to try running professionally for a period of time. As I stated above, there are many resources available to help navigate the process of determining the best training situation for you. It is a big risk, especially for those in a similar situation to me that were good but not great collegiate athletes, but I believe that taking this risk is what can help a good collegiate athlete take the next step to becoming great.

Am I scared? Yes. Do I have any regrets? No. For this, I am proud of my decision, whatever the outcome may be. I can always look back on this moment of time and be proud of myself for giving myself the best opportunity possible. A few months in, I am still adjusting to my new lifestyle, but things are going well and I am happy to say that I am once again healthy and getting back into training. As always, thanks to all of the support I receive from Team USA Minnesota, Brooks Running, my family and friends, past coaches and teammates, and all who have helped make this opportunity possible, past and present. TCB and Run Happy.

RunPro Camp 2015


This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s RunPro Camp in Arlington, VA outside of Washington, D.C., hosted by the RRCA. It was a blast! The camp helps recent graduates navigate and learn about post-collegiate professional distance running. A series of discussions, led by people from all aspects of the sport, were held during the camp. As an NYRR employee, I have gotten a somewhat behind the scenes look at professional road racing, but it was great to learn a lot of new information and build upon prior knowledge from the perspective of an athlete trying to make it professionally in the sport!


Thank you to the RRCA for putting on RunPro Camp this weekend!

All of the campers arrived on Thursday, and discussions were held on Friday and Saturday. Before the experience took off, I was able to meet up with friend and Syracuse teammate Andrew Palmer for dinner on Thursday night. We caught up over steak fajitas at the Rio–a favorite among the Syracuse squad that have previously lived in or visited Washington, D.C.

Friday began with a group run on the towpath, where our group experienced the speed of old Syracuse teammate and now D.C.-based professional runner Maegan Krifchin doing a workout. She was rolling! As a side note, look out for her in the coming months to post some big results! That day, we heard different talks from Team USA Minnesota’s Pat Goodwin, USATF’s Jim Estes giving an overview on the USATF Running Circuit, ZAP-Fitness professional athlete Tyler Pennel (who has been doing big things lately!), USADA‘s Jennifer Dodd on Anti-Doping Compliance, Jack Wickens on support, health insurance, grants, and being proactive off the track, agent Hawi Keflezighi on hiring an agent vs. self-representation, and Northern Arizona Elite‘s Coach Ben Rosario on building relationships in the running community and branding yourself. The day’s events concluded with a dinner hosted by the RRCA where Tyler Pennel and Team Riadha Mizuno‘s (based in D.C.) Sheree Shea gave a panel discussion on running professionally after college. Sheree also attended the camp last year, so it was great to get her perspective on things since she had previously been in our position. Our group of campers had a fun night hanging out afterwards and getting to know one other. Thankfully, we had Sheree with us to navigate the D.C. area!

Saturday began with another fun run. The guys ran on Theodore Roosevelt Island before heading to the National Mall to climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We then heard talks from Elite Athlete Recruiter Bill Orr on professional athlete recruitment and prize money and RRCA Executive Director Jean Knaack on taxes and finances and other races and resources our group could use to advance our running careers.

Before heading back to New York City, our group of campers hung out some more and explored the Georgetown area and Arlington, VA a bit. Yes, Georgetown Cupcakes was worth the line! I made some great new friends, and I am excited to see everyone at different races around the country!

Here are a few takeaways from the experience that really stood out to me that are beneficial for all up-and-coming professional distance runners:

1. Be cognizant of what you are putting into your body and understand USADA’s role in the sport: Now, more than ever, is an important time to be aware of the dietary supplements you are taking and make sure that you are following the rules of clean sport. It is the athlete’s responsibility to do their due diligence and follow the rules of USADA. USADA offers many resources for athletes to make sure that athletes are following the rules carefully. I am a huge advocate for clean sport and cannot stress the importance of being proactive with USADA and WADA enough!

2. Think outside the box for sponsorship opportunities and capitalize on what you use and know: Support can be hard to come by in our sports through sponsorships, but there are other avenues of sponsorship an athlete can take in addition to a mainstream shoe company sponsorship. Do you often use a different product or brand for your training that could be a potential sponsorship opportunity? Let companies know you are interested in product or brand endorsement! And, this doesn’t just have to be in the form of monetary compensation–it could be free product, equity, etc. Athletes have the ability to market themselves to new audiences through products they use in their training everyday.

3. Be Memorable: This was the first point Ben Rosario gave our group in his talk. It’s important to produce more than just results. Successful professional athletes are proactive off the track by giving back to their communities, being personable, and making great first impressions. How you represent yourself in the community outside of running fast is an important factor in being successful on the professional stage. Interact with others, make a lasting impression on your audiences, and be unique to help build your brand identity. It also important to be transparent about your journey through all of the ups and downs, not just the successes–be human and down to earth!

4. Be professional and personable with Elite Athlete Recruiters: Elite athlete recruiters work very hard to support professional athletes and they are extremely passionate about the sport. Developing relationships and being transparent with elite athlete recruiters for different races goes a long way. They want to see the athletes do well and work tirelessly to ensure that athletes have a great experience. If you connect with an elite athlete recruiter about a race you are interested in competing in, offer more insight about yourself than just your times, present your running resume in an organized manner, ask how you can help during race week or race day, and always give a personalized thank you. Which leads me to my final takeaway…

5. Say thank you!: Countless people in the sport spend a lot of their time and effort to elevate the sport and increase its visibility. Without these individuals, athletes would not have the opportunity to pursue their passions and dreams. Always let these individuals know that you are appreciative of their dedication, and make it personal and meaningful! A thank you can go a long way in establishing strong relationships with others and lets individuals know that there efforts are very valuable. You can say thank you in all experiences, especially since these experiences serve as steps, large or small, to achieving success in your professional running career.

With that said, thank you to everyone involved in this weekend’s RunPro Camp! I am so grateful that a program like RunPro Camp exists to elevate our sport to new levels and teach up-and-coming athletes the ropes of professional distance running. I would highly recommend this camp for anyone coming out of college who has a desire to continue their running careers. At first, I was nervous coming into this camp since I am a year out of college; however, there were many other campers in my position, which goes to show that there is always something new to learn and improve upon, regardless of experience level. If you are interested in running post-collegiately, be open to these kinds of experiences and know that there are so many people in the running community who want to see you succeed!

I’m excited to continue my running career, and as always, I am thankful for the support of the New York Athletic Club (NYAC), Brooks Running, Coach Fox, my teammates, colleagues, family, friends, and all who help to promote the sport of running and share its benefits with millions around the world.

Run Happy!


A New Beginning


This feeling is hard to beat. Cheering on teammate Chris Bendtsen after the 2015 USA Half Marathon Championships where we both earned the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials standard.

It’s been a while since my last blog post. Since the Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, so many inspiring and unconceivable events and moments have taken place in my life.

I experienced the joy of working the TCS New York City Marathon–seeing more than 50,000 professional athletes, charity runners, celebrities, triumphant stories, and people from all over the world finish the world’s largest marathon in history. There were many late days in the office leading to the outstanding New York City celebration and many stressful situations, but it was all worth it.

Riding the press truck at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Riding the press truck at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

I finally realized my dream of qualifying for the United States Olympic Marathon Trials, running a huge half-marathon personal best of 1:03:27 in January at the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston,TX to secure my ticket to Los Angeles this upcoming February. The feeling of achieving a goal that I’ve had since my start in the sport of running, crossing the line with best friend and longtime Syracuse University teammate Griff Graves, and the overwhelming feeling of success still puts a huge smile on my face. There were many cold, bitter winter night tempos and morning runs, weeks of four to five doubles to and from work, and nights with friends not had because of the intensity of training, but it was all worth it.

I became more engaged with the electric culture of New York Road Runners, where I transitioned into a full-time employee in December as a coordinator in the media and public relations department. I have truly found a family and team of colleagues who support my dreams and who I can work with everyday to spread the gifts and benefits of running. I am learning many lessons, handling job roles I could have only imagined I would get to call my career, and taking on new challenges, and it is all worth it.

It’s also been a while since I have run. About a month after Houston, I focused my attention on bigger goals, including competing in my debut marathon to gain experience before the trials. Mid-March, during a long run in my favorite training spot, Central Park, I noticed a sharp pain in my left glute and lower back within a timespan of 10 minutes. After many visits to the chiropractor and numerous cross training sessions on the bike and in the pool, an MRI three weeks later confirmed the worst–a sacral stress fracture.

I’ve been very lucky in my running career to never experience a serious injury. Outside of mental struggles and minor setbacks, I have never had a long-term injury or experienced life without running for an extended period of time. Was the mental break and extra time on my hands fun? Yes, but not as fun as sharing a 10 mile run with friends or finishing a challenging training session. Running is something I’ve missed the last two months, but I am happy to say that I am back on the horse and ready to take the next step, albeit slowly.

Last Thursday, I walked to the bridle path of Central Park from our office, and I was nervous for more than just the first few strides of my first 10 minute jog back. I was nervous about the cloud of doubt that suddenly came over me. Will I ever get back into the shape I was in six months ago? Will I ever experience the adrenaline rush of a good tempo run? Am I going to be able to rekindle the motivational fire that fueled my desire to compete throughout my entire running career? Most importantly, will I enjoy this first run back?

Griff, Sarah, and I after achieving U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers at the 2015 USA Half Marathon Championships. TCB.

Griff, Sarah, and I after achieving U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers at the 2015 USA Half Marathon Championships. TCB.

Just 10 steps into my run that cloud of doubt dissipated and elation took over, though I must say that my legs became foreign to the biomechanics of a stride from the time off. That moment of cresting the hill to Tavern on the Green, running with a friend again (shoutout to Matt Forys!), and gaining back all of the confidence that I thought had left me upon hearing the diagnosis of the MRI took over. I was on cloud nine and nothing could shake me.

In a 10 minute run, I experienced more than I had on my furthest Sunday long run. I envisioned Los Angeles, became excited again for new challenges, and noticed each step I took on the path beneath my feet. But, most importantly, I realized all of the knowledge I learned about myself and the growth I had over the last two months and I saw the fun I was having–the intangible reason I started running in the first place. The journey continues, and it doesn’t stop in February. It lasts for life.

It’s a new beginning, and it will, and always will, be worth it. Run Happy!

Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

This past weekend, I competed at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Philadelphia in pursuit of the Olympic Trials Marathon standard of 65:00. Overall, it was a great experience, and although I came up an agonizing 10 seconds short of my goal, I was able to leave with my head held high with a nine second personal best and a 16th-place overall and sixth-place American finish. I felt great going into the race, and now have all the confidence I need to know I can run 64:30 to 64:00 on the right day. It’s frustrating to be so close to a goal I’ve had for such a long time, but I am proud to say that I stayed mentally tough in a race I could have easily given up on eight miles in.

The conditions were a bit sub-par, with about 70 to 75 percent humidity, yet a cool temperature. The biggest obstacles I faced in this race were pacing and pack running–the top group made it known early on that they were gunning for quick times, and it was hard not to get dragged along in the first few miles of the race. After a brisk 4:45 first mile, I forced myself to settle into a rhythm of 4:55 to 5:00 miles to ensure a strong performance, sacrificing running with the front 20 to 25 competitors from the get-go.

The race became a game of catching runners falling off the fast early pace of the race, and while I tried to latch onto groups and zone out at my goal pace, competitors began to either drop out or fall off fairly quickly in the middle miles of the event. I used the runners coming back to me slowly as a tool to steadily move up from miles four to eight. By mile nine-and-a-half, I had caught the 16th-place runner, and found myself chasing my dream over the last four miles all alone, with the next runner about one minute ahead.

To say that the the last four miles was a daunting task requiring intense mental focus is an understatement. There were very few spectators and fans from nine to 12 miles, and I was fighting hard to stay on pace. With each passing stride from 45 to 60 minutes of the race, I faced the challenge of pressing on, yet staying composed, as I approached the finish. With 1.1 miles to go, I knew it was close and that I would have to close a bit harder to get the standard.

With about 800 meters to go, I hit a huge wall and fought a burning sensation in my quads and calves approaching the hill to the finish. I had about 20 seconds to get to the finish from the 13-mile mark, and unfortunately came up just 10 seconds short of securing a spot at the 2016 Olympic Trials  in Los Angeles. The immediate aftermath of the race was painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching. To train all summer long for this day and come up short was depressing. I could barely stand, heart-broken and exhausted, knowing my best wasn’t good enough to achieve my goal on that particular day.

After regrouping and letting off some steam, I have had some time to evaluate my performance and take away a number of positives:

  • Finishing 16th overall and sixth American: In a loaded field of sub-60:00 caliber runners and some of the country’s best road runners, I felt I took a step towards becoming great. I got to race in a very talented field and placed well against some great competition. Witnessing some of the better competitors finish 30 seconds to a minute off their personal bests gives me a lot of hope that I am right where I need to be. I was glad I was able to be competitive given the conditions, as I anticipate the Los Angeles weather will not be forgiving for a marathon. I felt I raced smart by conserving energy after a fast first mile and moving up slowly throughout the duration of the race.
  • A personal best: My training has been slightly different going into this half-marathon than it was for my debut in Brooklyn this past May. I did more mileage, quality long runs, and great strength based workouts, such as tempos in fartleks, in comparison to the training I did this past spring, which consisted of high-volume intervals and 10,000-meter based training. A personal best of nine seconds is something I am proud of given the circumstances, and I have gained a lot of confidence from this personal best that I can attribute to the training it took to get me to this point.
  • Consistency: A few years ago, I may have been the most inconsistent runner I know. I’m glad that recent maturity through mental preparation and trusting in my training has given me strong, consistent results since last fall. To be disappointed in a personal best is a huge testament to the consistency I’ve experienced in race results over the last year, and I’m confident that the breakthrough is soon to come.

I want to give a huge thank you to Coach Fox for guiding me with training during this summer, and to the NYAC (New York Athletic Club) crew for giving me great support and teammates to train with. I’m very excited to continue to improve over the next few months and compete soon in one of my favorite disciplines of running–cross country at the Club Cross Country Championships! To everyone at New York Road Runners–thanks for all you do for the sport and I’m extremely grateful to be a part of an incredible organization with unbelievable support.

Until then, time to gear up to put on a great TCS New York City Marathon with the best running organization in the world, New York Road Runners! Seeing thousands cross the Central Park finish line in November will be all the motivation I need to have a break out performance in the half-marathon, most likely at the Houston Half-Marathon in January.

Run for Life.

A Call To Action: NCAA Sports Psychologists

During the first two seasons of my junior year at Syracuse (2011-2012), I experienced the biggest slump in my running career to date. In cross country I couldn’t break 25:00 in the 8K, and in indoor I struggled to run in the 8:30s and 14:50s in the 3K and 5K after running 8:17 and 14:22 the previous year. Nothing physically was wrong with me and it took me a long time to admit to myself that I wasn’t mentally approaching the sport from the right perspective. I faced anxiety related issues pertaining to my training and racing, put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, and was no longer enjoying the sport.

I broke down and sought a different kind of therapy—sports psychology. Yes, maybe I had overtrained a bit and was too obsessive with certain aspects of the sport; however, I was mentally drained and frustrated with my mental weakness and inability to push past the pain. For the last few years of my collegiate career, I have been seeing a sports psychologist weekly on balancing life as a student-athlete and approaching my competitions and training the correct way. At first, it was not something I wanted to share with many people because my ego and confidence got in the way. The negative connotation associated with seeing a psychologist made me feel embarrassed.

I want to take this moment to express the importance of seeing a sports psychologist for ALL student-athletes in the NCAA, and not just for those who are struggling or feel depressed. It is okay to see a psychologist when everything is going well. Too many times I have seen athletes and teammates in my sport suffer set backs related to mental struggles, and in most of those cases the athletes were apprehensive to seek help or want an outlet to express their frustrations…not that they could get any help anyway due to a lack of resources provided on this issue in the NCAA.

As a disclosure, I am not familiar with other NCAA institutions and their backgrounds in staffing sports psychologists, but I can speak for the lack of staff at the Syracuse University Athletic Training Department dedicated to sports psychology and nutrition. Currently, there are no members of the Syracuse Athletic Department who play a role in the mental health and well-being of the Syracuse student-athletes, and its a shame and an embarrassment that they are unwilling to staff such help. I firmly believe that full-time staffed psychologists and nutritionists in the athletic training department would be exponentially successful towards long term success for all programs in the athletic department. Student-athletes need an outlet to express their frustrations and concerns, including performance in competition, the stress of balancing academics and athletics, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health aspects. The athletic training facilities at Syracuse, a member of one of the big 5 conferences in the NCAA, does only so much to support athletes physically, but NOT mentally.


I don’t see any sports psychologists in this photo.

I like to think that my sport is more mental than physical. The training requires all the physical strength put forth by an athlete, but when the time comes to step on the line and produce results, the mental side of the sport kicks in and reveals the true will of an athlete to perform to the best of their ability. It is easier to think of sports psychology as training, but for for the mind. When your sport requires a substantial amount of mental focus and energy, wouldn’t you agree that you need to train that portion of your talent as well? No one sees the hard physical labor that gets an athlete to the physical fitness they are in. They are only able to see the results produced on the day of competition when your mind is in control of how you perform. Unfortunately, many athletes are evaluated solely by results on the day of competition, unaware of the physical labor put forth by the athletes in periods of hard practice and training—which is why it is extremely important for all student-athletes at NCAA institutions to have required access to sports psychologists to train their minds and mental capabilities.

It’s time to make sports psychology and seeing a psychologist a norm at NCAA training facilities and take away the negative stigma associated with it. Many are too quick to stereotype psychiatrists as an outlet for those with ‘mental problems’ rather than a positive outlet to build upon the strength of the mind. Because of this, student-athletes suffer and are not willing to seek mental help; however, this is also a result of the lack of resources provided to student-athletes for mental health.

To those reading who can help to do something about this dilemma, you have the full attention of a student-athlete graduating in one month who wants to see something change in relation to sports psychology as a part of NCAA institutions. I am proud to say that I could not have accomplished what I have done in part to the sports psychologist I have been seeing over the last few years, Dr. Jeff Pauline, a member of the Syracuse University Sports Management Department, unaffiliated with the athletics department.

Syracuse University members who are reading this, its time to speak up and get someone on staff to service the mental needs of student-athletes on campus. Up to this point, I am sorry to say that the training facilities at Syracuse have been subpar during my experience at the university. It’s time to put the student-athletes first on this issue.

And to those reading who are apprehensive about sports psychology, seeking mental help, or just having an anonymous outlet to talk to—don’t be turned off by ‘going to therapy.’ Train your mind the same way you train your body, speak up, and don’t let your pride get in the way of something beneficial. Confidence is a double-edged sword. Be careful and wary about the stubborn and egotistical side of it.