IMG_1373Athlete: Alia Gray
College: Chico State
Degree: B.A. in Journalism and Public Relations, Minor in Humanities

Events and Personal Records:
5k: Mt. Sac 2012 16:40
10k: NCAA DII Track and Field Championships 2011 34:31 (Chico State School record)
½ Marathon: Clarksburg 2012 1:17.03
Marathon: 2:44.21

Alia, you made your marathon debut in 2012 at CIM and posted a great time for your first marathon despite torrential downpour. Is your focus for 2013 the marathon?
While I wouldn’t necessarily say my focus for 2013 is the marathon, I am looking at another crack at one in the fall-hopefully in better conditions, and once the qualifying window for trials opens up in August.

Right now, I’m still establishing myself as a post-collegiate runner. I’ve known for awhile that I wanted to eventually make the transition to the marathon, keeping my eyes on the 2016 trials. For experience’s sake, I wanted to get in a marathon early on to get a feel for the distance, so CIM was a great opportunity for me. But in my immediate future, I’m looking at some shorter distances for the spring and an introduction to road racing.

Is there anything about your training that you think you need to change up before racing your next marathon?
This fall segment of training was a huge learning curve for me. I’ve always loved strength work, so the tempos and long runs were really fun. The part that I had a bit of a difficult time adjusting to was fueling while running hard. Coming out of college this past spring, I had yet to race any distance over 10k, so I never had to worry about taking fuel during a hard effort. It ended up working out for me during the race, but next time I will incorporate more practice with taking fluid during my training cycle.

I’m really happy with my progression to the race, and think my coach did a great job in helping to ease me into the transition. We’re working on slowly increasing overall mileage, building toward the future. Next time around, I’ll be ready for more substantial workouts and long runs. I can’t wait!

Obviously the weather played a big role on race day but how did your approach the marathon tactically?
With this being my first marathon, the biggest take-away that I wanted to get from this race was an understanding of the distance, and how my body operates and responds to it. To do this well, I knew that having patience and establishing a strong rhythm from the beginning would be important.

The weather was definitely less than ideal, which made exact times much less relevant. In my final chat with my coach the night before, (as it was becoming increasingly clear that the weather was not going to let up), he emphasized the importance of running by feel. There were sections of the race that were more brutal than others (specifically miles 7-10, with a turn uphill and into the wind), and his advice stuck with me through those slower miles. I did my best to gauge and maintain a consistent effort, knowing at that point that it was far too early to burn my legs, and knowing that I wanted to cruise by the half marathon mark feeling good and locked into a pace, not strung out and wondering how I was going to make another 13 miles happen.

Running that chunk of miles off effort and not exact times allowed me to finish with a strong second half of the race.

You mentioned getting on the track in the spring. What events are you planning to focus on and are there any meets in particular you are targeting for A races?
My coach and I are still ironing out a concrete schedule, but right now I’ll be racing the Gate River 15k with some other SRA women as a team in March, the SacTown 10 in April, and then I’ll look to peak for a good 10k on the track at Payton Jordan.

I’m excited to get on the track for a good, competitive 10k; I feel like I’m due for a PR. I think the road races leading up to that 10k will be good preparation as well.

Are using the track to incorporate speed into your marathon training or to mix up the race schedule a bit?
A little of both! Strength-based work has always been, well…my strength. Conversely, speed has always come a bit more difficult for me, which means that I want to make sure I give it the attention it needs. Improving in the shorter distances will help round me out, and keep racing interesting.