Weâ€™re trying something different here, something that we hope youâ€™ll enjoy. Instead of our usual Q&Aâ€™s, weâ€™re going back and forth with athletes for something that we hope comes across as more conversational. Itâ€™ll be a good way to get to know the athletes we feature a little better. First up is former Boston University standout and current BAA High Performance Team member Katie Matthews.
Katie ran a 33:38 at the Beach to Beacon 10k, and followed that up with a 37:51 at the Falmouth Road Race (4th US woman) this past summer. But itâ€™s been a while since sheâ€™s been On The Level, so hereâ€™s our conversation with her:
How have you adjusted to life as a professional runner?
Adjusting to life as a professional runner was definitely just that - an adjustment. I went from having 100 things on my plate to really just having one main focus, and that was the biggest change. I can now put running first and make it the focal point in my day and then do other things too of course, but I donâ€™t need to worry that my eggs are in too many baskets, or thereâ€™s too many eggs in too small of a basket. I can have just one egg in one basket, and then peripheral eggs just for funnies.
The biggest thing for me is learning to be okay with having an afternoon just sitting on the couch watching trash TV or reading and relaxing, and not only being okay with it, but learning that those things are an important part of physical recovery from the increased mileage and intensity. In grad school I never really got to enjoy those times (when I even had the time!) or benefit from them without thinking of other things I could be working on or doing in that moment.
Was it the most fun summer of your life or what?
This was definitely one of the best summers of my life - especially because I took college courses the past few summers- but I was also injured for a lot of it so in other ways that was disappointing and I didnâ€™t get to do some of the races that I had been planning for and looking forward to. Last summer was my first summer as a professional runner but I was also completing clinical hours for grad school so this was the first summer I was a full time runner.
Early in the summer when I was injured and not worrying about being “sharp” I was able to do some little vacations and spend down time outside of the city with friends and family but honestly, I would have loved to have been healthy and racing well too! Later in the summer I had a lot of fun getting back into shape and racing Beach to Beacon and Falmouth.
I also loved getting to be a part of getting the new team together, hearing who was going to be joining and moving to Boston, and then helping them learn about the team and the city. That made me very excited for September 1st and now this whole upcoming fall season!
What was the highlight (of the summer) for you?
The highlight of my summer is a tough question! I guess I would have to say when I raced Beach to Beacon, because although it wasnâ€™t a stellar performance, I had only been training for a couple weeks of actual running (not water running) and it was a positive, pain free experience that helped me gain confidence going forward in training and racing.
What are you doing besides running (any part time work)?
My coach has encouraged me to take up some other activities/part time work besides running, especially to keep myself mentally engaged. I can enjoy a lazy day doing nothing but really I like to have a sense of responsibility and achievement elsewhere. So, I am assistant coaching under Bruce Lehane at Boston University for the cross country program. I basically drive the big vans a couple afternoons per week and take awesome action shot pictures for the athletes to Instagram. I also have babysat for the same two boys since my Sophomore year in undergrad so I still see them a fair amount and do some sitting, mostly because they are awesome and future running stars. Itâ€™s hard to commit to a real “part-time” job because 1. I already have a job and it is my priority, and 2. We will be traveling to some altitude/warm weather camps and races.
Whatâ€™s been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge so far was dealing with my most recent injury. I started working with Terrence in mid-December and found out about my stress fracture when I was out in California for Payton Jordan. So the challenge with that was mainly in questioning how/why I became hurt, and learning to trust a new coach and putting my faith in him that even though I did get injured during the ‘new coach adjustment periodâ€™ I had made the right decision to work with him and the new team. He, along with other specialists, helped me to see that my injury was most likely due to running mechanics and that there were fixable changes I could work on and positive lessons to be learned about my body and future training. In college it sucked to miss a season or be injured but in professional running it is harder in a different way because itâ€™s what you are supposed to be doing every day and there are people literally paying you to perform and improve, etc. Luckily, the BAA is such an understanding company and my bosses just wanted to see me get back at it and improve. We have a great team chiropractor/ART specialist in Ian Nurse who helped me get back to running as soon as possible. Also having the support of experienced teammates who have been through so much and have seen it all in terms of injuries and coming back from them successfully was huge.
Glad to see youâ€™re on the mend. I wasnâ€™t aware of the extent of your injury. That mustâ€™ve sucked!Â How big of a challenge was it to correct your mechanics? Was there any trick to it? Or was it just a matter of correcting imbalances? And how long did it take for you to get comfortable with the new stride?
Correcting running mechanics is one of the most challenging parts of being a runner and I cannot say that I have corrected them. I think that is a long term thing that runners who are in their 30s and 40s are still working on. I am trying to get better though in the areas that I need help in. Itâ€™s basically a lot of new strengthening, lifting, and drill exercises that are specific to areas that I have weaknesses in. Itâ€™s one of those constant process things that I will be working on.
When will you be going to these altitude camps? For how long? Where a bouts?
We are still working on all the planning for altitude camps and booking flights soon but we are all very excited to go! It will probably be during the winter and for a few weeks or a month or so depending on what races we plan on running.
Can you give us your list of the 5 ugliest runners in the area? Okay, I was only joking about that. But it would be pretty funny. So it looks like you placed 6th at the CVS Health Downtown 5k (the US championships), running a 15:50. Not too bad considering the injuries woes you dealt with earlier in the year. Are you pleased with the effort?
Haha! Thanks! So I was actually 5th in the championships. One of the women was not American so she didnâ€™t count for the US 5k Championships results. Thatâ€™s my fastest time on that Providence course so I was happy with it.
Do you think you couldâ€™ve run much faster in less soupy conditions?
The race directors had to modify the course a bit this year and add a couple turns so I wasnâ€™t expecting a super stellar time.
I see that you were even ahead of Mary Cain, a young phenom who gets a lot of media attention. Were you aware of her during the race? Was there a little extra motivation to take down a big name?
I just went into the race with the mindset of competing with as many of the women as I could and trying not to let the lead pack get too far away. Mary Cain was ahead of me for a lot of the race, but like you said I finished ahead of her. I didnâ€™t pass her until about 150 meters from the finish line up the last big hill. I hadnâ€™t really out kicked anyone in awhile so I think my motivation was more about trying to go to the well and pick off other racers if I could. I donâ€™t really think thereâ€™s anything different in Mary from the other top runners in the race so I didnâ€™t feel some specific need to try to go for her, no. Sheâ€™s also not a 5k or distance specialist so she wonâ€™t be someone who I will probably see in my races too much in the future.
And with fall finally officially upon us, which are you more eager for: pumpkin beer or pumpkin coffee?
If that answer to that last one is neither then I might need that list of ugly people after all.
I am more excited for the fall coffees and lattes but Iâ€™m not a crazy pumpkin drink girl. I like to pretend because I seem like the kind of girl who would go for the Starbucks PSL craze but I usually stick to the olâ€™ Americano or maybe a mocha when Iâ€™m feeling indulgent!
Jeez, we tried to stir things up and get some controversial comments out of her, but I guess the question about ugly runners was too obvious and she saw right through it. Anyway, best of luck to Katie as she continues in her still relatively new career as a professional runner in Boston. Feature image and photo embedded here are courtesy of Scott Mason Photo and were from the CVS Health Downtown 5k. Next up in the series…TBA…but coming soon.