The Road to Atlanta for Hayley Sutter – Running…

Running a marathon isn’t easy…Qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the Marathon isn’t any easier!

For our Assistant Manager Hayley, all of her long runs, speed work, and hours spent out on the road have paid off. On February 29th Hayley will toe the line with over 450 other women in Atlanta, Georgia and compete in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. We asked Hayley a few questions in regards to the trials coming up in just a week from this Sunday.

Q: When did you run your first marathon? 

My first marathon was the 2017 Houston Marathon. I had thought about marathon running for some time but had it in my mind that I shouldn’t run my first until I was at least 27. My reasoning being that I needed to be mentally and physically mature enough to handle the stress and commitment of the training and the race itself. (And when you’re in your early 20’s, 27 years old seems mature; thus the very arbitrary number.) I think my decision to delay marathon racing was a big part of my success at the distance. Instead of jumping straight into the longer distances, I allowed my body time to acclimate to increasingly longer and harder races and further explore with my coach what worked well for me. By all accounts, my first marathon went phenomenally. I was able to negative split the race and finish well by both time (2:52:32) and place (12th woman overall). My early success in the marathon set the wheels in motion for my desire to attempt the Olympic Trials standard.

Q: Do you have any running superstitions like pre-race food or key piece of gear? 

In high school, I had a ton of superstitions (picking the rocks out of my racing shoes, braiding my hair a certain way, specific warm-up drills, a few moments alone to gather myself) but luckily with age, those superstitions have faded away. I still have traditions – I always eat a big baked potato the night before my race and save time before the start to be alone in my thoughts – but these are just part of my pre-race preparation and not debilitating like superstitions can be.

Q: What’s your training like? Any major changes for the Olympic Trials?

My training for this marathon cycle has been in many ways similar to other marathon training cycles. With each new cycle, my body’s capacity for hard work is expanded, my mind is a little stronger, and my positive self-talk gets more fluid. In accordance, my training gets a little more intense, the miles become a little longer, and my recovery runs get easier. To be honest, I am very lucky to have a coach who figures everything out for me so all I have to do is ‘be dumb and run’. This training cycle has incorporated a lot of elements from past training cycles but more tailored to the things that have worked well for me. For instance, I have done a lot of long tempos and incorporated more hard miles into my long runs.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in Atlanta?

I have very little self-imposed stress regarding my race in Atlanta. As I see it, as long as I don’t finish dead last, I have already done as well as or better than expected. With nearly all stress removed from the race, I am excited to showcase my fitness and intelligence during the race. Aside from the marathon, I’m excited to enjoy the weekend and festivities the Atlanta Track Club and USATF are putting together. Of personal note, this will be the first time my whole family and my boyfriend’s family are together so I’m excited to introduce everyone and have nearly all my loved ones together.

Q: The Nike shoes… your thoughts, are you going to wear them?

I currently plan to wear the Nike Vaporfly 4% at the Trials. I ran my past few marathons in these shoes and found them to be comfortable and fast feeling. These shoes and ones similar to it are not without controversy, but to me (and in accordance with the IAAF’s recent ruling on the shoes and other company’s development of similar shoes) they are an acceptable performance tool. I realize there are differences, but I see their inclusion in my racing as similar to my use of Huma Gels. Without the use of an energy gel, my ability to run a marathon would be greatly diminished, yet few would argue these are inappropriately enhancing my performance. I may run slightly faster in these shoes comparative to a different racing shoe; however, what has enhanced my performance the most are the months of hard miles, hours in the gym, and the decades-long mental training I have engaged in. Finally, I believe in innovation and support the development of tools that help bring renewed excitement to marathoning and introduce new runners to the sport.

Q: Your predictions on the men and women’s Olympic team?

It seems like it’s anyone’s race! On the women’s side, I would place my money on Des Linden and Emily Sisson but I have no idea who the third will be! I’m going to be honest, I have not paid attention to men’s distance running at all. I’ve been so motivated and inspired by the depth of women’s racing in the US that I haven’t given the men any attention.

We wish Hayley the best of luck in Atlanta on February 29th, be sure to watch for her on TV!