Take 5: An interview with 11-year-old running phenom Alayna Szuch
Special to the Daily
Carter Park 8K/14K
What: The fifth stop of the Summit Trail Running Series, featuring a challenging 8K/14K course beginning at Carter Park
Where: Carter Park, 300 S. High Street in Breckenridge
When: Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m.
Cost: $5 (ages 10-17), $22 (ages 18 and older)
If you want to see Alayna run in-person — and test your legs against hers — head to Carter Park. To register and view course details, see www.townofbreckenridge.com or call 970-453-1734.
Alayna Szuch is one of Colorado’s brightest young running stars. At just 11 years old, she has already left a mark on the sport, regularly beating runners twice her age to finish as the top (or one of the top) females in almost every race she enters. She took first overall at this year’s Run the Rockies 10K in Frisco and is a fixture on the podium at the Summit Trail Running Series.
And, that’s just the beginning. She took seventh overall at the U.S. Mountain Running Championships on July 25 in Bend, Oregon, winning recognition on a national level. It’s truly a spectacle to see such a remarkable talent at such a young age, and fellow competitors can only wonder if they will be seeing her on TV — or maybe even between the Olympic rings — in the near future.
For now, though, she is just living the life of a elementary schooler, and, of course, running on her favorite Gore Range trails before class starts again in late August.
The Summit Daily caught up with the young running machine to talk about training, the Bolder Boulder and how she wants nothing more than pickled beets and kefir before toeing up to the line.
Summit Daily News: You’ve had a lot of success in the past year, especially this summer. Can you name one race you did particularly well at or just really enjoyed?
Alayna Szuch: I felt like, this year, the Bolder Boulder was a turning point in my running. I was hoping to break 40 minutes and surprised myself with 39 flat. I enjoyed it because it was such a big race and I felt really confident when I was racing. I felt like everything clicked in that race.
SDN: You also just had a remarkable finish at the U.S. Mountain Running Championships. Tell me about that experience.
AS: This was my first time running in a professional level race. I flew to Bend, Oregon, in hopes of making the national team to compete in the World (Mountain Running) Championships in Wales. USATF takes the top-four women on the USA team. I felt a little weird since I was the only kid, but I decided to roll with it and give it my all, even though I knew I was the underdog.
The race was two loops on Mount Bachelor. I knew that the uphill was my strength, and the downhill was my big-time weakness. I feel like the Summit trail race series set me up well for this race. Running with the pros gave me a rush of excitement that kept me going throughout the race. I was in contention for Wales at the top of the last climb, but I lost my position on the descent to the finish. Overall, it was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to next year, especially since it will be a climbing year instead of an up-down year.
SDN: Often, you are competing against runners twice your age and with twice as much experience. Does this ever get intimidating?
AS: No, I don’t pay attention to the competition much. I just try to do the best I can do for me and not worry too much about other people.
SDN: Where’s your favorite place to run in Summit County, and why?
AS: We live in Silverthorne, so we run in the Gore Range a lot. We like the Willow Falls loop because of all the water and scenery. I try to do my speed work on the bike path next to the Blue River, or at the Rainbow Park track.
SDN: Do you ever get side aches or cramps while running, and, if so, how do you get through them?
AS: Heck yeah! But I ask myself if I’m a man, or a Muppet? (Laughs.)
SDN: What is your favorite pre-race meal?
AS: Good ol’ pickled beets and kefir.
SDN: What runners or other athletes do you look to for inspiration?
AS: I met Chrissie Wellington at an Ironman, and I’m inspired by her because she is a killer athlete and, also, a nice person. Steve Prefontaine’s words inspired me to “run without limits” and changed the way I think when I race. I believe anything is possible if you believe it.
SDN: Where do you hope running takes you?
AS: I would like to run for the University of Oregon, and after that I would like to focus on the marathon. I would like to find my limits and compete at the highest level that is possible for me.
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