Ardrey Kell (Charlotte, N.C.) sophomore Alana Hadley made her marathon debut May 19 in Cleveland and came away with a sixth-place time of 2:58:22.
Call her bold, call her crazy, call her remarkable – whatever the word – she’ll likely not notice, as her attention is on running. And it has been since age three.
Hadley recalls watching her dad get ready for morning runs, which first sparked her interest for the sport. After pleading to take her along, she ran a mile around her neighborhood. From that moment, she was hooked.
At 6 years old, Hadley completed her first 5K, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, finishing in 29:13. Thereafter, she said she ran up to 10 races a year, one every couple of months.
These days, 5Ks are a breeze – Hadley’s distance has grown far more serious. She runs twice a day, six days a week in addition to one long run reserved on Sundays. Hadley averages up to 110 miles weekly, enough to frequently break down her three pairs of Mizuno’s, which she rotates wearing to extend each shoe’s life.
Hadley is on a mission – one she’s hoping will take her to the Olympics in the future. She admits while it would be “awesome” to make the 2016 U.S. team for Rio, her goal is to simply be a contender for a spot, as she revealed to us, along with a few other details, when we caught up with her before her 8-mile afternoon “easy” run.
A first race experience is always special. Tell us what you remember about yours.
Hadley: I was excited, and my mom had to make sure I didn’t start too fast. The race was so crowded, I ended up getting my shoe knocked off at one point. The whole thing was entertaining. I had so much fun.
You started running at a young age. At any point, did you feel like turning away?
Hadley: I’ve never taken a break from it, but I have tried other sports like soccer and swimming. I never found a sport I liked as much as running.
My parents were constantly asking and letting me know that if I wanted to stop at anytime, I could. They wanted to make sure what I was doing was what made me happy and what I wanted to do.
Why does running intrigue you so much?
Hadley: I have a younger brother and sister. When I was younger, running with my parents was my time with them to really talk and hang out. As I’ve gotten older, when I’ve had a stressful day or needed some time to get away, I always knew I could go out for a run and feel so much better. When I’m out doing a long run, I get locked in and feel like I could go forever. It’s just my dad and I on the trail, and it’s nice and peaceful.
It takes a certain mentality to withstand long distances. What do you think about as you’re running miles at a time?
Hadley: I’m off in my own little world. For my morning runs, I plan my day. I think about school, things I need to get done. During my afternoon runs, I’ll think about something I read.
What’s the last book you read?
Hadley: “The Running Dream”.
What do you think about when you envision your running career in the future?
Hadley: Different scenarios go through my mind. I like to think about winning major marathons and meeting different people. I try to imagine what it’d be like to cross the finish line at the Olympics.
After your first marathon, you could well be on your way. Tell us about running the Cleveland Marathon.
Hadley: I expected to feel pretty comfortable up to 15 to 20 miles. I’d done a 15-mile simulation run, and that went pretty smoothly. I started getting a little tired around mile 10. After the halfway point, I hit a curb and pothole and slightly strained my right hamstring. I’d never not finished a race before, and I didn’t want to start then. I knew there were so many people looking to see what I would do.
I kept half an eye on the pain. If it got really bad, I’d slow down until the pain subsided, then I’d speed back up. It never got to the point where I felt I was going to end up doing permanent damage. I felt, “I’m going to finish this race, even if I have to walk it in.” Quitting just wasn’t an option.
On a scale of one to 10, how painful was it?
Hadley: Around six or seven. At certain points, an eight or nine. I had to slow down a lot. One mile was seven flat, the next mile was 7:40, then 7:10, then 8. I could see the back and forth I had to take to find a balance.
Most major marathons require an age minimum of 18 to participate. You are 16. What do you make of this rule?
Hadley: I don’t like the rule. What if there are those people who are ready? Sometimes I feel they shouldn’t have it, but I understand why they have it.
To be honest, I feel like so many people are used to the norm that if teenagers want to run, they run for their high school. After that, they’re free to do whatever they want. I almost feel as though they’re worried to have younger kids try to do a marathon. I understand they don’t want kids pushing themselves that distance when they’re not ready, but that’s something a parent has to monitor.
Being subjected to criticism comes with being in the spotlight. Mentally, how do you manage?
Hadley: I stay away from all message boards. The only time I know about them is if my parents tell me, which is not very often. I know there are criticisms, which sometimes pushes me forward, to be honest. You want them to see that they don’t have a say in what you do and how you do it because it’s your life. You have to find a delicate balance because sometimes it can go to your head.