Kerri Gallagher surprised the track world by finishing 3rd at this year’s US Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 1500m. She later secured her spot on the World Championship team by running 4:03.56 and winning the Lignano, Italy meet. For anyone who isn’t familiar with Kerri’s story, here is a link to a recent Runner’s World article about her background: http://www.runnersworld.com.
I’ve been lucky to get to know Kerri the past couple of years through track meets and because Kerri lives with one of my best friends and college teammate, Amy Laskowski, in Washington DC. I enjoy watching any strong woman succeed, but I was ecstatic to watch such a humble, thoughtful, and tenacious runner make a break through.
Question: Although the Runner’s World article mentions you are an assistant coach at American University, I don’t think it gives you credit for the all the pieces you juggle while running professionally. Can you give me an idea of your weekly work, academic, and athletic load? How do you maintain enough time and energy for quality workouts and runs?
Right now I’m balancing a job as a full time assistant track coach at American University, training and finishing my masters in Quantitative Analysis. I work about 35 hours a week on average, but the hours are not very traditional which gives me flexibility to prioritize my training which is ultimately my main focus. I train 7 days a week which usually has me running about 10 times a week including workouts and doubles. I made the mistake of taking on too much of an academic load in the Fall 2013 and Spring 2015 so that year I had a much bigger time commitment to academic work. This year I made a point to spread out my credits and make sure I’d be able to train at a high level while still getting the most of my studies. Because of this I’ve had to push my graduation plans to December which was tough to do but extremely important. My first tea of grad school I didn’t have enough energy to maintain quality training and I ended up with a small injury that winter. It was a wake up call that if I wanted to be the best I could be o was going to need to commit. I didn’t need to cut everything else out, but everything has to feed into this goal. I’ve done a better job this year of managing that and I think I’ve found a good balance so that my three main commitments compliment each other.
Question: You beat a lot of really fast, talented women in the 1500m final at US Outdoors in June. Many of these women had more resources than you including salaries for running, altitude trips, and access to the best medical care. One reason it is rare to see athletes make a jump from a pretty good professional to one of the best in their event is the lack of these resources. How were you able to make this jump without the same support as many of the women you compete against?
I may not have the top resources at my fingertips, but Oiselle and NYAC have been a huge support for me in helping me to compete at this level. With their support, I have the resources I need to be able to train and race. I’ve also learned a lot working with Coach Matt Centrowitz about understanding your body and understanding what it is ready for when it comes to training. You won’t be able to compete unless you’ve been able to put the work in. Patience and consistency are extremely important. I have made the mistake of entering races I’m not ready for and forcing workouts my body can’t handle. It isn’t always easy, but it can be worth it!
Question: How did Lauren Centrowitz’s mentorship help you transition to the professional running world? Have you been able to mentor anyone?
Lauren was someone I looked up to even before we knew each other so having the opportunity to get to know her and train with her was incredible. She looked out for me that first year and helped me adapt to life in a new city and training with a new coach (who happened to be her dad ha!). We also trained with Erin Koch, an American University graduate, who finished her collegiate career in 2011 as well. Erin and I learned a lot from Lauren, but it was equally important to have each other as we navigated this new arena. I wouldn’t say I mentored her, but I think we in some way mentored each other the two years we trained together.
Question: Have your goals changed since this summer? What will you have to do this year in order to make the Olympic Team?
I’m just taking this one step at a time. The World Championship is a major event and so all my focus is on that right now. Looking a little ahead to next year, I don’t know that much has to change. Maybe some more competitive races, but as long as I stay healthy I know I have just a good a shot as any next year.
Kerri will race in the prelims of the World Championships at 11:15 am, August 22nd in Beijing, which is 10:15 (CT) on August 21st for us.