Friday, January 20, 2017

Time to Start Over

This is a photo of one of the best days of my life so far. It was just hours before I qualified for the Olympic Trials at the age of 16,and the 2 people with me, well those are my parents. They are 2 people who mean the world to me.  We have your typical young adult - parent relationship, where we love each other but don’t always see eye to eye and we do have our arguments. They are the people who first introduced me to this wonderful world of running.  It was our special thing growing up, sharing the joy of running and being able to go on runs and talk about anything my heart desired during it. I lived for those moments when growing up. They are also my biggest supporters; no matter what i decide to do with my life they will always love me and support me. It’s a thought that makes you feel lighter.  They won’t always agree with what I decide to do but I know they will still give me their full support.  My mom is that person who will talk me through my decisions and give me encouragement all throughout my journey.  My dad is the one who will just dive right on into what I want to do and find out all the information he can in order to help me accomplish my goal or dream. They each show their support differently and I love them for it because I need both types of support. I don’t know what I would have done or who I would be today if I didn’t have my parents around so much when  I was younger.  They are my backbone and they people I’ll call crying or frustrated after a bad test or a rough day at work.  They talk me through everything and give me the advise I need or just simply say words I already know but need to hear come from their voice.

One thing I can always rely on is if I want to accomplish something but am unsure as to how to get there my dad is always right there with the information; he learns anything and everything he can to be the wealth of knowledge I need.  I believe that’s part of what makes him such a good coach.  He saw my passion and want to be a runner and so he learned everything about running he could get his hands on, books after books, articles everywhere; all so he could help me. And yet by doing so has put himself in the hot seat in the eyes of naysayers. My running career thus far has been anything but typical, I ran in my first collegiate track meet before my first middle school meet. I forwent high school running to pursue half marathons and marathons because the mile was too short for me.  I ran my first marathon when I was 16 and qualified for the Olympic Trials 5 months later. I chose to break out of the box of the typical running progression and like a great parents they supported my decision and my dad started designing training programs to get me where I wanted to go. But suddenly that made my parents the bad guys. People started posting and commenting about how terrible my parents are for “forcing” me to run longer; that just because my dad was a marathon coach he was pushing me to follow his dream and not mine. No one ever stopped to think that maybe he became a marathon coach to help me become a marathoner.  No one ever stopped to ask my opinion of things. Everyone just assumed it was ludicrous for a teenager to actually like running distance and would actually want to run a marathon.  

Posts on message boards and comments on my own social media had people screaming their opinions at my dad and I.  My parents tried to hide it from me but I would still go on late at night and find pages and pages of posts about how my father was a terrible person, that he was forcing me to do all this running, and even some threats of calling child services on him.  All of this from anonymous users, people who talk such a big talk but too cowardly to actually claim their opinions as their own.  All my father wanted to do was be a good dad and help me meet my goals and by doing so people began to hate him.  All because I decided to go outside the box and follow my own path. No person no matter what age should have to read people hating on their parents all because their parent was trying to help them accomplish their dream.  After those posts came the ones about me specifically, people who have enough free time to tear apart a teenager trying to go after their dream on the internet.  I would read posts about how stupid I was for going professional at 16, people telling me I wouldn’t make it to 20 running marathons, people saying I’ve ruined my life forever.  Who goes out of their way to tell someone they are waiting to see them fail, that they already know it's going to happen, that I should quit now while I still have use of my legs.

I’ve always prided myself on not letting what people say get to me.  But I’ll be completely honest, your teenage and young adult years are very vulnerable years, you can’t help but be insecure about yourself and what you do.  And after you have been hearing people telling you you will fail year after year it starts to become that little voice in the back of your head that you hear whenever things get hard. Running was my sanctuary, it’s what I would do when I was stressed or angry or just super emotional that would help me to feel better. I used to get so excited for 800s and long runs, I would racing to get out the door to go to races with my family. I would have an okay race and it wouldn’t be a big deal because there was always the next one. Then suddenly it began, all it took was one bad race and seeing all the I told you so's people would comment with. I slowly began to dread races and with more dread came more bad races. Then I saw it happen, every time I ran a bad race the posts about my dad started to increase and a slight drop in my dad’s coaching business would happen. Then came dropping out of races and such bad anxiety that I made myself sick. I became terrified to race not wanting to do badly and give people more fuel for the fire they used against my dad. All I could think about how those people were right, that I wasn’t cut out to be a marathoner, that I wasn’t good enough to accomplish my goal.  Eventually I had enough, I was constantly sick and always on edge and so I stopped running after the Akron Marathon in 2016.  I was done, I didn’t find joy in running anymore and wanted to get myself put back together. Something that my dad had shown me, a love that we shared together was utterly destroyed by a bunch of people who use their free time to destroy people and tear them down. People who are cowards and do even have the balls to post with their own name.

Well I’m done with it. I’m done with letting those people rule my thoughts and dictate how I feel about myself as a runner and as a person.  I’m taking a stand against them and anyone else who fears change. Just because someone does something differently than you doesn’t mean their way is wrong.  There is never just one path towards success, everyone has their own path they have to follow to get to where they want to go as no 2 people are the same. These single-minded people have destroyed my sanctuary of running and now I’m taking it back. I’ve hit as low as I can go and all I can do is go up from here. I refuse to let people bully me and talk bad about my parents any longer. It will be a long journey for me to get back into the shape I was in before but I am stronger mentally than I’ve been before with this new attitude.  I’m tired of being broken and I’m tired of hating something I used to love all because of some jerks on the internet who think it’s okay to tear people apart and crush their dreams, all because they fear change and people who think outside the box.

I am writing this blog as my stand against people who think it is okay to tell people they will never succeed. To put out the truth about my running struggles and to let everyone know just how wonderful my parents are. I refuse to let my parents be hated any longer all because they support me on following my dream. No one should be hated and talked down to just because they support those that they love. If you have a goal or dream go after it, chase it down, no matter what anyone says. Because it is your life to live not theirs and if people spend their time tearing down someone else’s dream it’s because they are too scared to go after their own.

It’s time to spread you wings and fly. Be free to chase your dream, no matter what path you take to get there.

I'm getting back into running and I'm honestly not sure where it will take me, if I'll go back to marathons or just stick with some shorter races. I just want to go back to that time when I was excited to go to the track with my dad and have long chats with my mom on long runs. While my parents maybe in Oregon now and I'm still in Charlotte I can't wait to go home over spring break and once again share with them the joy of running in which they showed me all those years ago.


  1. You are a strong girl! Hang in there! Celebrate every accomplishment and don't let the internet get to you anymore. You've accomplished so much already!

  2. I am so proud of you. Call me for the fun runs. We'll chase some trails on your journey back whenever you want.

  3. We love you Alana and wish you all the best in your new pursuits!

  4. What a thoughtful and inspirational essay. Alberto Salazar said runners will be injured about 15% of the time, on average. You've had a great start. Now go girl! - Joe Mcmullen, Chicago

  5. Good for you, Alana. It's been fun watching you mature; keep marching to the best of YOUR drum and know most people are cheering you on!!

  6. Alana, you are really growing up. To seek perfection (your God) in whatever you decide to do with your life is the true race we all have. Remember control the things that you can control and accept the rest. Grampy Tom

  7. I've been following your journey for the past 5 years and I'm really proud that you are standing up for yourself and your family. Don't let anyone take running away from you! This is a great post-- keep up the great attitude, Alana.

  8. I'm so sorry that anyone made you feel this way. You are wise beyond your years in many ways, and you WILL succeed.

  9. An unfortunate aspect of social media is that a few negative voices can drown out a strong majority of people who enjoyed, applauded and gained inspiration from your running quest (and your Dad's obvious love and dedication). We look forward to continuing to celebrate your journey on AthleteBiz...and we will share your blog with our audience. Stay strong!

  10. Hi Alana,

    Two lessons I've learned that apply to your situation:

    1. Ignore internet jerks & ignoramuses.

    2. Do what you love.

    Great to hear you're not letting the turkeys get you down any more! Hope you find your running passion renewed!

    Big Dave (a far slower but still enthusiastic runner)

  11. Just read the Observer article about you and found this blog the write referenced. I, for one, was always amazed at your accomplishments no matter what your age was. Our world is twisted and hate has overtaken common love for one another. People that enjoy success of most any type these days must face the backlash and jealousy of those who could not accomplish those successes. You were/are an incredible runner. That took focus and determination the rest of us just don't have. You proved you can accomplish almost impossible goals with your running, so you can do the same with other parts of your life. Best of luck to you in college and your career. If I'm ever in Concord, would be an honor to meet you.