RunningLane Athlete Highlight: Kelsey Hodges
At RunningLane we don’t get to boast about our athletes enough. This week we are highlighting Kelsey Hodges. Kelsey has been a RunningLane athlete for about the last 8 months. This past December Kelsey qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2020 in Atlanta. She ran a 2:43:53 at the California International Marathon (CIM) (for those of you wondering that is 6:16 pace!). This was only her fifth marathon and she ran a personal best by over 16 minutes. Most recently she was invited to be part of the elite field at the Road to Gold 8 mi race in Atlanta that previewed part of the Olympic trials course. At Road to Gold Kelsey ran 47:09 (and ran a 10k pr in route).
Kelsey has only been running consistently for about four years. She was active and athletic in high school and college but never participated in an organized running team. Kelsey is obviously a quite gifted athlete, but she is humble, hardworking and quite insightful when it comes to the big picture of the sport. Take a minute to learn a little more about Huntsville and RunningLane’s own Kelsey Hodges.
What did your athletic background look like before you started running?
I was always active growing up – I played basketball, volleyball, and softball all up through high school. I probably should have known I’d end up running when I got put in the power forward position on our basketball team because I’d always try to get down the floor before anyone else.
How did your running career begin?
I started running a different couple times right before and right after I graduated college and then would inevitably stop again. I didn’t think too much of it until I watched my now-husband run the Boston Marathon. Everybody says this, but it’s true - the atmosphere is contagious, the whole city is out supporting and cheering for the runners, and it feels like something really special. It just made me want to be part of it. I think I made it a week before I started researching marathons. Once I started training in earnest, and especially once that first marathon didn’t go as planned (I walked, lots!) my competitiveness got the best of me, and I decided I had to train for another one. Somewhere over that second marathon training cycle, I fell in love with the grind. I run in the morning, and I loved having a non-negotiable routine, and I loved the linear relationship I was seeing between my effort and my results – the more time I put in, the better I got.
How long have you worked with RunningLane? What made you decide to get a running coach?
I’ve been with RunningLane around 8 months – I realized after Boston that just because I had been fortunate enough have a few years of steady progress in marathon training didn’t mean that was guaranteed looking forward. I wanted to start working with someone I trusted to handle my training before I hit a plateau. It’s great not to have to plan my workouts and schedule, but it’s even more valuable to have feedback from the sane voice in the room when the tough weeks and the heavy legs inevitably come. Running can be emotional, especially when it involves such a long lead up to a single performance and being able to trust someone to handle the big picture so that you can just focus on getting yourself out the door is a necessity some days.
When did you realize you could achieve the OTQ standard?
When I finished Boston in 2018 in 3 hours with what felt like a lot left in the tank, I started to dance around aiming for an OTQ in a few cycles. Before that, it wasn’t even on my radar as something that might be achievable. Even after, I didn’t feel comfortable committing to actually going for the standard until I raced the Indianapolis Monumental Half in 1:18, which was about a month before the marathon. That was the point where it felt like something that was within grasp, but it still didn’t feel real until I was turning towards the CA capitol building at mile 26.1 and could see the clock.
What was the CIM race like?
For me personally it was different from previous marathons in a couple ways – This was the first marathon I raced with a Coach Will, and it was such a boost to my mental strength to have a base of training and a plan developed with someone experienced and knowledgeable, rather than a training schedule I put together myself and would constantly second guess. It was also the first marathon where I let my husband run with me and having him help to set the pace and comment on the weather and make jokes made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.
Tell us a little about running with your husband.
Andrew’s been supportive in a thousand different ways right from the beginning - he’s literally why I started running! It’s a lot easier to get up in the morning when you have a human alarm clock, and it’s a lot easier to motivate yourself to go on a run when you know your spouse is going to. It’s been really fun this last year or so to get fast enough that we can actually run together without him having to slow down a lot. Having a guaranteed workout pacer and vacation run buddy is great, even if it’s a little demoralizing to be working really hard on a tempo run as he effortlessly speeds up to check if the road crossing is clear…
What goals do you have set for yourself over the next year with running?
There are a lot of things I’d like to work towards, like lowering my 5K and 10K PRs and focusing on form and strength training a little more. I have a tendency to move the goalposts on myself, though – work towards something, reach it, just move to the next – so my biggest goal for 2019 is to take a few moments every once in a while to look around and realize how lucky I am to be out there and moving forward. Big goals are good and necessary, but there’s a lot of little victories along the way that I want to make sure I’m finding too.
Why do you run?
Originally, I ran for the relentless forward progress, towards the first completed marathon, the sub 1:40 half, the Boston Qualifier. At some point along the way, the positive attitude I had to force on myself to make it through tough runs began to stick. Looking at my run as a treat, as something I couldn’t wait to knock out in the morning, made it resilient to whatever excuses I could throw it at, and when you repeat something like that to yourself enough times, you start to believe it. It took a few years, but right now I love the routine, the grind and the process. I run for the chance to get outside and explore on foot, for the energy post jog and exhaustion post workout, for the conversations aided by elevated heart rates, for the largest post-run brunches, and really just for the love of it.