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?

 

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