Erin McCarey, a senior from Illinois Wesleyan University, is every coach’s dream: the athlete that never gave up, even when her first three years of her collegiate performances weren’t really showcasing her potential. Creeping on TFRRsS, she only ran a 5:41 mile, 11:35 3k, and a 20:06 5k as her starting PR’s freshman year. She now has ran a 4:59 mile, 4:35 1500 meter, 9:50 3k, 17:20 5k, and 36:01 10k. However, this transition has been anything but smooth. In this interview, I ask Erin about how in her senior year she emerged as one of the top NCAA division III distance runners.
In speaking with Erin, listening to her, and reflecting on some of my current thoughts about this matter I think making big jumps in progression, after a certain point, no longer comes down to merely “working hard”, gains in fitness, or running economy. I am convinced that it comes down to deciding, but more importantly wholeheartedly believing, that the possibility and reality of a given goal is going to happen.
Personally, I think back to instances in my own running when I have had success and it was because I had already decided long before the workouts or the races began that my goal of getting a PR or place was already going to happen. There was no ifs, ands, or buts about it. My body did whatever it needed to because my mind willed me to doing anything and everything it took to achieve a new height.
Erin’s words and attitude reminds me that the power of the mind will always be a distance runner’s best tool towards improvement.