Name: Katie Watson
Instagram handle: @kwatsrun
Day Job: Counselor at The Settlement Home for Children
AER: Let's just dive into it, we want to hear everything Olympic Qualifier! Can you take us through a little bit of your background and how long you have been chasing this goal?
Katie: I started running in 2008 to say in shape for basketball. I was still under the illusion that I could join the Lakers as a 5'3'' female. A month or so into my first season of spring track, I had two stress fractures, one in each of my tibias. I was out for 4-5 months because of the severity of the fractures, but I went to every single practice and meet. My teammates called me "Stat Girl" because I'd be on the sidelines recording all the race times while supporting their efforts. It wasn't long before I fell in love with the sport.
That same season, I watched Jordan Hasay qualify for the Olympic Trials in the 1500. I remember making a packet for my mom and sister with a list of all the events at the Trials, the athletes and their PRs, so that we didn't miss a beat when the races started. When Hasay toed the line that summer, and the announcer spoke of her accolades, I vowed to be in her position one day.
AER: What was it like the moment you knew you had OTQ'd?
Katie: When I crossed the line, I saw the clock and knew I had hit the qualifying time. Hilariously, though, I still didn't believe it. While resting my head on a gate near the finish line, I turned to someone standing there and asked him if I made it. He said, "yes," and I said, "okay, cool," and put my head back down on the gate. When I finally came out of my delirium, I cried. I thought, I did it! I almost didn't because the pain was unreal for the last 7 miles. I almost didn't even make it to the starting line because only a few years ago I almost quit the sport for good. But I did it, and I cried the happiest tears the moment I knew I qualified, knowing all it took to get me to and through the race that day.
AER: Did you do anything special this time around in training going into CIM? How confident were you going into this race that you were going to qualify?
Katie: Interestingly, the two best races of my life had similar precursors. The first was at the 2011 Meet of Champions where I ran a 4:58 mile for a runner-up finish and 15-second PR. Before that race, I ran two days a week and swam and ellipticalled on the others to prevent yet another stress fracture. The second best race of my life, CIM, followed minimal mileage as well. In fact, I ran fewer miles this year than I have the last 4, averaging only 41 miles per week. I had two jobs and was in school full-time, so I had to work with the time and energy that I had.
However, the difference between my best races and all the others was not only my ability to have more consistent training with lower mileage, but it was also my decision to race with love and not fear. Too often, I have raced in fear of not reaching internal and external expectations instead of focusing on my "why" - my love for putting one foot in front of the other, fast. I honestly had no other choice but to be confident going into this race because, otherwise, I would have carried fear for 26.2 miles. I knew that weight would only slow me down.
AER: For someone starting out and chasing a huge goal, whether it be finishing their first 10k, a BQ, or an OTQ, what would be your words of wisdom to them?
Katie: Two things:
- The love for what you do is overshadowed when doing becomes a plan to prove your worth. For a variety of reasons, I've had to learn that there are not conditions to my worth. My OTQ does not make me any worthier of a person. I am worthy just the way I am. You are worthy just the way you are. It's when you know and feel that fully that you reach your goals.
- Value each and every easy run, workout, and race for what they are instead of what you wish they could be. Be hopeful, but be present and patient.
AER: When you are in the middle of a speed workout, what is going through your head? Is there anything in your past that use to drive you through? Anything you envision?
Katie: When I am doing a legitimate speed workout - say, 10x200 - I'm just thinking, "Woohoo this is fun!" When I'm doing a longer workout, I try to remind myself who I am and who I'm not. I am that girl who would shovel the track in the winter so that I could still do workouts back in high school. I am the girl who endured 10+ stress fractures and various other injuries. I am the girl who persisted when doctors, trainers, and coaches told her to give up. I am not a quitter. Despite wanting to drop out of workouts on the daily, that is not who I have ever been or will ever allow myself to be.
AER: If you aren't running, what would you say are some of your favorite hobbies?
Katie: I love basketball. I secretly still believe in my ability to play for the Lakers. Just give me a foot of height, and I'm there.
I also have a deep passion for my work. I currently work at a treatment center for adolescent girls in foster care, and I spend an immense amount of time researching and volunteering to better myself in my work.
AER: Preferred fueling for long runs?
Katie: Espresso GU Energy Gel - need that energy boost!
AER: Do you find balance through running? If so, how?
Katie: I believe I have been able to endure in my line of work because of running. Without it, I think it would be easy to consume myself with thoughts of my clients' painful stories and with doing more and more in order to empower them to make changes in their lives. It brings stability to the chaos that is my professional life.