Alison Greggor Interview on RanMarin
Interview by Linda Gill
Alison ran cross-country and track at San Marin where she set several school records. She won the MCALCross-Country Championships as a freshman and won three MCAL Track Championship events as a senior.. Alison qualified in the 1600m for the CIF Track and Field State Championships in her final track season. She went on to compete for CAL in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track. Alison qualified in the 10km for the NCAA Championships and she was a CAL record holder in the indoor 3km and 5km. Alison also was a team captain for the CAL cross-country and track teams. She earned the athletic department’s Neufeld Scholar-Athlete Award, which is presented to the graduating senior with the highest GPA.
Could you walk through your high school experience and when you wanted to run in college?
AG: When I first started running, I ran because I couldn’t do anything else. I always knew that I enjoyed running. It wasn’t like I needed somebody to motivate me to do it.I found I was good at it and I like being outside. I was really looking forward to high school to getting to finally run. I knew before high school that I wanted to run. I remember in elementary school when they ran the timed mile and I got so excited and really upset that you had to wait to middle school to be on a team. Even in middle school it was like run twice a week, maybe ½ a mile so it doesn’t really count. I really enjoyed it so it wasn’t really ever a question of should I run or should I not. I always knew I was going to. In terms of running in college…I didn’t really think about college. That wasn’t until the second semester of my senior year. Maybe it was because I hadn’t really seen anyone else do it. When I was applying to colleges it was about applying and running was a second thought. It was not, I am going here (to college) to run here.
So you weren’t taking any recruiting trips?
AG: I did not take a single recruiting trip at all and it ended up spring time and I started running faster and faster and I thought, wait a second, I could actually do this. And it could really be something that I am really good at. So that is when I started thinking more about it and what aspect that running could be part of the process. When I was trying to get into CAL Linda Gill and Robyn Berry were a big help, being supportive and things. It really made such a difference. I went on an unofficial visit to CAL to meet the coaches and stuff. And then it was, wow, I am really doing this. All through high school it wasn’t even a thought of running in college. Honestly, my first couple of years I didn’t know how you even made state. Are you invited? That wasn’t even a goal. I had no idea that it was even a possibility. Track was about going to the meets that the team was going to and running. It was fun and I enjoyed the running.
Was Craig Stern your coach all four years at San Marin?
AG: No. My first two years it was coach Zechlin. He used to be a football coach.My sophomore year I ended up out most of the year because I had a stress fracture. We didn’t know it was a stress fracture. I was told “Well just go outside and run” and I would say I am sorry but it hurts. My first two years at San Marin I was just running when I felt like running. I didn’t know what I was doing
Craig Stern was hired as the cross-country/track coach at San Marin my junior year and that made a huge impact on my running career. I am really grateful for everything that he did.The support that was there and having steady coaching because he cares about you improving. I am someone who needs to be held back and learn that if it hurts then stop running. I think the fact that I am still running is a big testament to his training. A lot of kids get burnt out or injured and they fall off and no one is there. You see a lot of that in college. Some high school kids are already training for 4 years at a college level so they can never get better. Craig left me with a lot of room to grow.
How were your times from when you were a freshman in high school to a senior?
AG: I remember from my freshman year I was so excited because I broke 6 minutes. That was a big thing. Each year I got a little bit faster and a little bit faster but I was never a top recruited athlete. I think my junior year I ran 5:18 and I thought this is great. I remember having a conversation with Linda my senior year and she said that she thought I had a better shot at breaking 5 minutes for the 1600m than most people. And I thought. Break 5 minutes. Oh my God. A five-minute mile?
Going into my senior season the team had gone to altitude training and we wrote down our goals and I wrote down all the San Marin school records. Looking back I had nothing to compare it to so the records seemed impressive. To be able to have the goal of those records, that were attainable, drove me through my senior year. Imagine going to a school down south and the records there are times like 4:48 for the mile. The times are so fast. But this was great at San Marin. If I ran under 11:20 then that was a school record. That was a huge motivator.So I was very lucky.
So did you finish your senior year focused on the mile?
AG: I was always a miler/2 miler with an occasional 800 just for fun. I really didn’t like the 2 mile. I thought it was too many laps. I hated it but I did it anyway. I was so excited about the mile. My best time for the 1600m was 5:00.5.
If you had told me as a graduating high school senior that I was going to run the 10km in college I would have cried. I would have said I am not going to do this. I remember the first 10km that I ran and comparing it to my high school 2 mile time. And the fact that I ran faster than my 2 mile time for every 3km of the 10km. And you think, is that possible? For this race that I was so scared of when I was in high school.
What do you attribute to the progressing levels from high school to college? Were you injury free the whole time. What was it like?
AG: I wish I could say I was injury free but I have had multiple stress fractures, bursitis, and tendonitis. Anything that you can think of I had pretty much go wrong. I was very fortunate to have some wonderful teammates and amazing coaches that have been unbelievably inspirational. Because everybody has those hard times.That is the thing about college, you are going to get hurt if you are being pushed at a high level so being able to handle that is important. I think the fact that I had been through an injury in high school and I came out ahead and running faster afterwards was helpful. I was fortunate in that sense because a lot of people get hurt and see their teammates running and they have to run in the pool and they don’t see anyway out of that. I think that is where a lot of people say “ you know I just don’t want to do this”. I totally respect that from people who make that choice.
How did you stay with the running? How did you find the motivation to keep coming back? Did your coaches play a role in that or your teammates?
AG: In high school with Craig it was very hands on coaching. He would say you need to do this and he was involved. The coaches at CAL were you need to do this, and you have to become an independent person. For me, it got to the point where I had put in so much effort to achieve the gains that I had that I wasn’t going to give that up. I owed it to my team and I owed it to myself to not give up when I had those injuries. The team played such a huge role for me. And also I had goals. I came in as a freshman and I said I wanted to make NCAA meet someday and I want to be All-American one day and I had an amazing trip along the way. I made the National meets and I wouldn’t give up those experiences.
I think more than anything those injuries are where I made the most gains in my personal growth. No matter what I do moving forward in life I know I can get over that hurdle because I have been through rough times where you put all of your energy, time and focus into something and you completely lose it. Once you know you can handle that then you can handle other challenges . In college you have to be self-reliant.
It seems in college that it can be a hard adjustment if you get injured and come back too fast.
AG: I have done that. I have tried to come back the wrong way. You have to really want it because in college there are so many other fun activities to do. A lot of people come out of high school and they really want to be college runners and it doesn’t always work. That is fine. It is important to find something that makes you happy. There is so much joy you can get out of running if that is what you want to do.
Was there an instance in college where it clicked and where you came back the right way? And you thought you were back on track again. Where you learned how to do it?
AG: It was not until my 5th year. At the end of my 4th year I finished up my season when I ran regionals because I made the 5km regional mark earlier in the season and then I got hurt. The same pattern. It was a recurring pattern that by the end of the season I was completely out of it. So I had taken 3 weeks off of running. I did not run a step. We got on a plane to go to Regionals and I ran the worst 5km of my life.
After that it came to me that I had to get back to running what I wanted to run. I had to make it enjoyable because it is so easy to get burnt out and to be running for other reasons besides for yourself. I decided I was going to study abroad in Portugal that summer because I didn’t have more cross-country eligibility left. I had indoor and outdoor left. So I said I am going to go to Portugal and find myself again. I told the coaches I don’t care what shape I come back in, I just want to be happy and running. And I found running again. It became this love again and I learned to tell the coaches, No I am not running any more miles. This is it, my limit. And the coaches responded really well. It is a shame it took four years for that to happen.
My 5thyear I ran a 9:25 3000m a PR at The Huskie Invite at Deampsey.That was a really
fun race. I always had good races there because usually I trained hard in the winter time so when indoors came I was ready to go. And then I would get injured after that. I still struggled with injuries my last season but that ended up being on my terms with it. I didn’t freak out about it. I just said, I can run what I can run. So most of my PRs are from indoors because I didn’t stress out about being injured at that time. I didn’t run the MSPF that year but I came out at Stanford and managed to PR in the 5km. I ran off of 2 to 3 weeks of running. I said, you know what? I am just doing this for me, and I ran a PR. I ran 16:16.
In Portugal were you training and running alone?
AG: I was in a study abroad program that was moving around a lot. It was a challenge to run but I was doing it for me. The first month it was run on days when I feel like it. On days when I can’t fit it in I didn’t run. By the end it was,I feel like doing a tempo run, so the hard tempo run was good and I came back feeling great. So for the first time I was able to get in a healthy solid fall. I had an actual base to go into the spring time and that was awesome. That Stanford race has a lot of emotion for me as well because when I was a senior in high school I ran there and that is where I first met Tony Sandoval, the CAL coach. Craig Stern, my high school coach, found him at the meet and dragged him over and said you have to talk to her. Tony liked what I ran and said we can talk. So I like that meet.
So you mentioned you are racing this weekend.What have you been doing since your 5th year in college?
AG: When I graduated in 2011 I didn’t achieve all of my goals. I made Nationals in the 10km a couple of years prior but I hadn’t run a fast 10km since that time. I didn’t have a chance to run a fast 10km last season because I ran at Pac 10s but they were in Arizona and it was really hot. I ran a good 10km considering the conditions but it wasn’t fast enough to get me to Nationals. So my season ended with a little bit of redemption needed in the 10km. Especially with it being an Olympic year I thought, If I could make the trials that would be really great. At this point just a PR would be great. This past fall was another emotional break for me. I was researching in Hawaii with dolphins. Since I came back in Nov I have been steadily training. That is the great thing about running though. As long as you are doing some of it and maintaining you can get back into it without too much of a problem.
Are you training with a group?
AG: I am training with Magda Lewy Boulet.
Were you working with Magda at CAL?
AG: She was there for 2 years. She came in my sophomore year and she was there for two years and then she left to try to become a professional runner, be a mother and 15 other things so she needed to step down which I can really understand. She has had a huge influence on me as a runner. She agreed to coach me post collegiate so I feel really lucky.
Is the goal this season to get a PR in 10km?
AG: Yes. The way I look at it is the way my 5km times had been moving, if I had been running 10kms along the way then it shouldn’t be that much of a reach to run something that could get me to the trials. If I can put it all together.
What is Olympic trial qualifying time?
AG: Each cycle is different depending on who is running because you can hit the B standard but it comes down to a descending order list. They will take about 30 runners. It changes year by year depending on how many people are running other events. It becomes very political and it may be down to the last-minute. I would probably be one of the last ones chosen if it came to that.
What would the time be?
AG: probably 33:40
What is your PR?
AG: 34:30 I was a redshirt sophomore at that point, my 3rd year at CAL. So it has been 3 years since I ran a fast 10km so I am just excited to see what I can do and if I can end up with a PR I will be satisfied. I can shoot for the stars (Olympic Trials).
(Note: Alison ran a PR of 33:58 at the Stanford Invitational and will race the 10km again in June.).
You just came back from a trip. Where did you go?
AG: I was just in Madrid for a couple of weeks doing research. The great thing about running is that you can do it anywhere. All you need is a pair of shoes. You don’t need a team. That is part of the reason that running has become such a lifestyle. Even if you are traveling in Portugal, Spain or wherever you can still run. It becomes part of your life. I won’t be competitive forever but I know I will still be enjoying running.
You have had different coaches. Have you figured out what type of training works best for you? Particular workouts? That type of thing?
AG: Yes. It has been an evolution to it. I think for me, the right coach right now is not the right type of coach for me in high school. I love doing long intervals but that is why you have a coach, so somebody can guide you and say “try this” and sometimes you discover new things about yourself. You don’t limit yourself. I don’t think there is a perfect coach/athlete relationship for anyone because that can change so much as you grow. You are a different person. The most important thing is to have someone who you can talk to with that level of communication at whatever point you are in your career, that is what is going to make that relationship work. So you can sit down and say, look this isn’t working or look this is great lets keep doing this.
What phase are you in right now in training? What have you been doing recently?
AG: A combination since I have been playing catch up since the Fall. My long runs are still really long, 15 miles or so. As I get close to racing then I get on the track and put on my spikes to do some hard 200s. That is why I really like Magda’s program because we do a lot of Jack Daniels so that means that through all of your racing cycle you are doing strides. You are still going to get your legs moving so you can target different paces.This is my threshold pace. This is my interval pace. This is my race pace.. For me this is great because I am someone who over thinks sometimes and you don’t have to think about it. Sometimes runners run the workouts too fast. They arern’t getting the correct benefit from the workout. It is hard because the faster pace feels good to them.
In high school many of my workouts were a race for me. I pushed so hard but it worked because I wasn’t running too many races. I could get away with it. But when I got to college and I tried to do that but I was running double miles then I got hurt instantly.
What is your favorite trail in marin to run?
AG: Running out to Arch Rock in Point Reyes starting from Bear Valley.I haven’t done it in ages but I think it is about 9 miles total.
What is your most memorable high school meet?
AG: It would have to be the MCALTrack Championships my senior year. That was just so much fun. It was at San Marin and we had just got a new track put in. My coach Craig hosted the meet and he was stressing out like crazy. It was a lot of fun to be able to run three different events and have fun with them. That is when racing can be so much fun. When you are just enjoying being out there and you don’t care if you are doubling or tripling, you are just enjoying the sport. I won all three races; the 800m, 1600m and the 3200m, so it was a lot of fun.