We first spoke with this week’s guest, pro distance runner Alia Gray, in person during Olympic Marathon Trials weekend in February in Atlanta. She’d chosen not to run the race despite a qualifying time and an injury-free stretch—a choice made from joy rather than fear, she says, and one she describes at length in this episode.
Instead, she’d set her sights on some different competitions, including the New York City Half Marathon in March and the Olympic Track Trials in June. They were challenges that excited her, in part, because her last couple of injuries—a sacral stress fracture in 2018 and a torn meniscus in 2019—gave her a much-needed rest and also helped her understand and address underlying weaknesses that were holding her back.
Of course, since then, the coronavirus pandemic has upended most of those plans. So, we caught up with Alia again in late April to find out how she was faring. Though she’d gone through ups and downs like all of us, she—like so many other athletes we know—has found the same mental techniques that helped her cope with injury useful in navigating this stressful and ever-shifting time.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- How injuries are viewed in pro running, and the “unifying factor” they represent
- Why she chose not to run the Olympic Marathon Trials, even though she’d been thinking about it since 2016 (10:32)
- Speaking of 2016—how she came in 10th place in the Marathon Trials that year, despite having broken her fibula three months earlier and training almost exclusively on the Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill (14:52)
- Her sacral stress fracture—the most serious injury of her running career—and what it taught her about rest and recovery (19:23)
- Why she decided to seek psychological therapy during that tough time, and how it’s also helped her improve her performance when she’s healthy (24:00)
- The fear, anxiety, and lingering pain she felt after recovering from the stress fracture, and how she coped (28:44)
- How she navigated her relationship with her husband/coach/sports doctor—Dr. Richard Hansen—and her advice for other injured athletes about communication and relationships (31:31)
- The way she came to understand her entire injury cycle, and the steps she’s taken to “bulletproof” herself as an athlete since (39:24)
- What self-care means to her, and her advice on using it as an injured athlete (46:38)
- How her plans changed due to the pandemic, and how she’s navigating the new normal using mental skill honed through injury (48:18)
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Resources/links we mention:
- More background on Alia’s coach Joe Vigil
- The Roots Running Project, Alia’s team
- About the Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill
- Alia’s Instagram and Twitter
To access more resources for injured athletes:
- Join The Injured Athletes Club mailing list, for weekly news and updates
- Join The Injured Athletes Club Facebook group, for support and camaraderie
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, guest suggestions, or other feedback
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