Mar 15

What I Learned Interviewing Amy Cragg, Molly Huddle and Matt Fitzgerald

I love my freelance writing gig. Ok, somedays I hate it and question why I’m doing it, my writing ability and my sanity but, when I get to interview elite athletes like Amy Cragg and Molly Huddle or sports nutritionist and best selling author Matt Fitzgerald, I have a renewed love for my work.

BE HUMBLE

I was nervous to interview Amy Cragg. This is someone I had watched win the Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles in epic fashion. A woman who hangs out and keeps pace with Shalane Flanagan and who has competed at the highest level of her sport. The first thing she said to me when I asked about the marathon was “I have a lot to learn.” This is precisely why she is one of the best female American runners alive.

I admit I was gushing a bit to Molly Huddle. I know it was probably unprofessional but I don’t think some of these runners know what an impact they have on the running community and especially women runners. They do not get the notoriety of most star athletes and, when I squealed to my bestie “I get to interview Molly Huddle” she said “I’m sorry, who?”  So I started the conversation with Molly by congratulating her on setting a new American record in the 10K, placing third in her marathon debut in NYC last year and winning the NYC Half in epic fashion, two years in a row. I then told her what an inspiration she is and how the running community will be watching on March 19, cheering her to a three-peat in the NYC half.

I think she was actually speechless. Either that or my line was muted.

When I emailed Matt Fitzgerald, best selling author of books like How Bad Do You Want It, Racing Weight and The Endurance Diet to ask for an interview for a piece I was writing for Runner’s World he responded almost immediately writing “call anytime” with his number. I promise you he couldn’t care less about being quoted in RW (as he has been many times) for a piece I wrote about Pinterest trends, he’s just excited to be a part of any discussion involving running and nutrition. That is rare. I sometimes email experts and never hear from them or schedule calls they don’t answer or (my favorite) steer the conversation off topic to push their interest.

I wish every expert was like Matt.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

None of the people I’m writing about are especially talented, smart or skilled. They have worked their asses off for each and every goal and never gave up on their dreams of becoming the best. They don’t use any kind of super science, exaggerated nutrition plan or overly complex training regimen, they actually just keep it simple

Amy Cragg told me: 

“I just kind of jumped into the marathon and didn’t necessarily take the right steps, so this year will be a learning year and I will go back to those steps and hopefully become a better marathoner.” 

Molly Huddle said, when asked about race strategy, self talk during the event and mantras:

“I keep my thought process very simple and block everything else out. I focus on one thing at a time like ‘hit the split’ or one word at a time like ‘patience’ or ‘grind’ but I always keep it simple.”

Matt Fitzgerald talked to me about stretching and if it’s worth the time and effort for runners:

“Runners are probably better off stretching for a good five minutes, choosing just two areas that would be most helpful. For me it would be the achilles tendon/calf and hips, hands down.”

TRAINING PARTNERS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER

Who can get the picture of Shalane Flanagan collapsing into teammate Amy Cragg’s arms, after finishing second in the Olympics trails last year, out of their head?

Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan

Cragg admitted the moment she saw Flanagan turn the corner to the finish, she knew something was wrong. She said it was “actually very scary because she was completed dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion.” Now, a year later, knowing how everything turned out she still had genuine excitement in her voice when she remembered that moment saying “winning the Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles was the best moment of my career and having Flanagan there made it that much better!”

The two continue to train closely together although they are pursuing different goals for 2017. Cragg was not training for the Boston Marathon this year since her focus is on slowly building to another 26.2 and Flanagan, who was slated to run her favorite hometown marathon for the fourth time, had to drop out due to injury. I like to think Cragg and Flanagan are talking it out over wine and a cheese platter. Maybe with a side of bananas.

Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson

Huddle mentioned her training partner and friend Emily Sisson multiple times though out our 20 minute interview. When I asked how she prefers to train – – with a group, alone, with one other person – – she did not hesitate to say “I’ve always had another woman to push me at the track or during tough workouts and to keep me company on easy run days.” In addition to Sisson she also mentioned now retired runner Kim Smith and other members of her “solid group of 3-4 women” in Rhode Island.

It takes a village. A village of bad ass female, lightening fast runners, waiting with hugs and wine.

I just made that last part up but you get the idea.

I hope I continue to have the opportunity to interview these great athletes and experts in running and racing. Like Amy Cragg, I feel I still have a lot to learn.

 

 

Who would you like to interview and why?

Have you learned anything from these three?

 

29 comments

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  1. To the average runner, all 3 of these runners make it all look so simple. I like to hear that it is a struggle at times. And that it takes a village to be a healthy, strong, firmer with runner. I fully agree. And I agree about the wine and cheese too. Cheers!!!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…Running Tidbits, Lessons Learned and Foot DramaMy Profile

    1. It makes them seem more human!
      Thanks Angela.

  2. This is amazing and they all have such wisdom to share. I think it’s great Shalane mentioned she has so much to learn. Even as an elite! She is an incredible inspiration.
    Hollie recently posted…Brooks Launch 4 Shoe ReviewMy Profile

    1. It was actually Amy Cragg who said that but still…I mean she WON the Olympic Trials! So humble and definitely part of what makes her great.

  3. I want to be them. Any of them. Do you think that they need to tap out ever??
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted…Make the Most of A Snow Day (for Runners!) (Coaches Corner)My Profile

    1. Unfortunately, no but, should they need a sub I know you are their girl!!

  4. I am always surprised at how humble and approachable professional athletes are when I email them for a quote or a few pictures! I’m going to feature Dean Karnazes book on my blog in April, and he just emailed me this week to make sure I received his message! LOL! I’m humbled and awed by how nice these guys are. Bart Yasso was amazing. Even when I met Meb last fall, he told me to contact him and he’d “set me up” with a copy of his book for my book club. I didn’t take him up on it, but I need to do that…

    I’d love to freelance…this medical gig is getting old!
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Don’t Poke the Injured Runner: 10 Dos and Don’t That Can Make or Break Their RecoveryMy Profile

    1. I feel the exact same way! Most of them (including all the greats you mentioned) are so approachable and willing to help which just makes me feel more warm and fuzzy about the running community.
      And you could absolutely freelance! You’re writing is on point and you have so many great adventures coupled with a wealth of knowledge…not including your medical degree. Go for it!

  5. Well, now I’m a little star struck with YOU, knowing you get to talk to these elites! Holy smokaroonies! Who would I like to interview? Andrew’s ex wife. But only if I knew she was telling the truth in her answers. MAN would I ever learn a lot, eh? Ha ha ha! I love Chris Farley but I don’t really want to interview him. You know what? I’d love to interview a really old lady, and ask her for all of her secrets.
    Suzy recently posted…Pregnant and Running: Weeks 1-14My Profile

    1. You are so great! I want to interview YOU and ask just how in the hell you do it…and now being pregnant.
      And yes, we need to interview lots of great old ladies and make them tell all the secrets 🙂

  6. Love it! I love how down to earth each of these amazing athletes were… it’s a pretty cool job you have! And I love that you told Molly how much she is admired, too. She’s amazing.
    Laura recently posted…How does the taper affect you?My Profile

  7. I would have been totally starstruck interviewing any of these – what incredible opportunities! Matt Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors in the world of running and sports nutrition because everything he says is just so accessible. There are so many experts who became experts just for the sake of being an expert, and it’s so refreshing to see people like Matt who are experts out of passion for knowledge and helping others. Molly Huddle just amazes me – she’s definitely an inspiration and I am so rooting for her three-peat at NYC! I can’t wait to read your articles, especially the one with Molly (I did already read the Pinterest one – great piece!!).
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Half Marathon Training and Racing GuideMy Profile

    1. Thanks so much Laura! I was super excited to talk to Matt as well since I had just listened to How Bad Do You Want It. It was insane talking to him because he also narrates the book – weird. And I’m rooting for Molly this weekend too – cannot wait to watch…or read on Twitter? Whichever, it should be great!

  8. What an amazing moment between Cragg and Flanagan — I think I’ll never forget it. You hit the jackpot being able to interview these elites! So much fun reading about your experience. You will absolutely get more experiences like this because you are amazing 🙂
    Nellie recently posted…3 Reasons I Absolutely Loved The Beauty And The Beast Movie – A ReviewMy Profile

    1. It was definitely a moment in sports history and just one of those embedded images! I gushed a bit to Amy too – I couldn’t help it 🙂 Thanks so much Nellie. You’re support means A LOT!

  9. Love this so much! I had the chance to do a Google chat with Amy right before we both ran the Chicago Marathon in 2014 when she was still with Brooks. She is such a lovely person and I use some of the mental advice she shared myself and with runners I coach. Also, I’m a MASSIVE Matt Fitzgerald fan. Glad to hear he is as great as I envision him to be. It’s so funny how no mainstream people know our idols 🙂 People still ask me who Meb is. WTF 🙂
    Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted…All I “Knee-d” {Training Update}My Profile

    1. That is SO great!! Don’t you wish we could just chat with these people on the regular? I was also so relieved to know Matt was such a great guy and so willing to help, talk, etc.

    • Dani Kennedy on March 15, 2017 at 3:10 PM
    • Reply

    I am such a running dork. When I saw the one of the questions you asked Molly Huddle was one I submitted to you when you asked for suggestions via FB, I got shivers. LOL. I am so glad you took the time to tell Molly what she and the other ladies mean to us. You are right. I’m certain that they do not hear it nearly enough in this land of football-baseball-basketball. As for Matt Fitzgerald, if I never read a single book he wrote (I have and loved them), I would admire him for putting it out there that there IS such a thing as race weight. It’s a pretty taboo subject these days.

    1. I’m SO glad you noticed! I’m going to post to FB when the article is live on Women’s Running (should be Thursday) although I didn’t get to ask all the questions of course. And yes, as I wrote, I completely geek out on elite runners and fitness/nutrition/mental strength writers of all kinds and couldn’t agree more about Training Weight – TRUTH!
      Thanks Dani.

  10. lucky lady you!!!! that’s so awesome and amazing. i’m a fan of so many people. i’d love to interview Alex Jamieson because i think she’s amazing, and Danielle La Porte. they help my heart and brain feel the all the feels. i love amazing women. and men of course, i would LOVE to pick Tim Ferris’s brain one day…. and Rich Roll. just curious. actually i’d rather have a glass of wine.. or kombucha with them. i’m fascinated by so many people.
    i have a few Matt Fitzergarald books and somehow i think everyone who has run more than a 5K ends up with one of his books. for some reason i’m surprised he’s not old as moses since it seems like he’s been around and effing super human forever. are you sure he’s even human though???? hmmmm 🙂
    danielle recently posted…WIR sleep less play moreMy Profile

    1. Ok now I have to Google like all those people you mentioned!!
      And no, I don’t think Matt is completely human 🙂 LOL!

  11. Isn’t it wonderful when people come across so genuine and approachable? That has been exactly my experience as well with every elite runner I’ve met, from Deena to Meb to Ryan Hall. It makes me love running even more. I’m bummed Shalane won’t be toeing the line in Boston this year.
    Marcia recently posted…How to Get Your Health Goals Back on TrackMy Profile

    1. Yes, exactly! I couldn’t agree more and I think everyone is pretty disappointed to not see Shalane tow the line in her favorite race this year. Let’s hope she has a quick recovery and is back out there! Thanks Marcia.

  12. I don’t know why, but I actually randomly was thinking about who I would like to interview the other day, and Amy Cragg immediately came to mind. It might be because we have the same maiden name (Hastings) but I have always just thought she seemed like such a fun person to talk to. I loved watching her win the trials after finishing fourth at the last one and I have so much respect for her for pushing past that heartbreak to get the win!
    Danielle @ The T-Rex Runner recently posted…Upping My Mental Running GameMy Profile

  13. Dude, so awesome that you got to interview them!! They are all amazing but I love how humble they all are and how hard they actually work. I would love to pick Matt Fitzgerald’s brain…

    1. I had to really hold back on the call with him and now I want to call back just to chat. That’s not weird, right? hahaha!

      1. Not weird at all! I would want to also!

  14. True that!! Not only running but in course of each and every fitness training being humble and keeping it simple helps. I being a Yoga instructor have noticed that people who do Yoga alone tend to loose motivation where as people who choose a training partner are able to continue the practice for a long period of time.

    1. Having a training partner is invaluable. I really miss the days of running with my friends toward a common goal. These days it’s pretty hard to ride and swim and have a conversation…

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