18-year-old Alana Hadley is the top-seeded American female runner going in to Sunday’s New York City Marathon, and she’s getting really excited. “There’s been so much press around it,” explains Hadley when asked about how amount of interview requests she’s received. With just about three and a half months between NYC and the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon, she is eager to test her training through the five boroughs, then again in February through the streets of Los Angeles. Women’s Running caught up with Hadley before she headed to New York to settle into the final preparations before Nov. 1.
Women’s Running: How are you feeling overall, physically and mentally, going into Sunday’s big race?
Alana Hadley: Physically I’m really ready now. Last weekend I got sick, so I’ve been getting over that. Finally I’m back to 100 percent healthy, so that’s really good. I got a touch of bronchitis, so my breathing had been off. But I was able to do my run this morning, and I had four miles at marathon pace—no problem at all, my breathing was back to 100 percent.
Mentally I’m super excited for the race. Obviously there’s a little bit of nerves just because how big it is. But I’m just so confident in my training that at this point it’s just nerves more than anything.
WR: You’ve been sharing some details of your training on social media, explaining how you simulate race-day conditions in most of your runs. How important is that to do during heavy marathon training?
AH: For me, it’s important just because I need to get a feel of what I’m doing [on race day] so it’s not totally different when I’m at the race. If it’s a flat race, I don’t do as much. I’ll train on rolling hills just so I know the race will be easier course-wise than what I had trained on. But when I have the different hills, especially because they’re bridges [in New York], I don’t want to be going in it completely blind. My dad has helped me a lot; he’s looked at the elevation of the different areas in New York and compared them to hills I would normally run on just to give me a better idea. So when I get there, I think, Okay, this is like this hill or that hill that I’ve run on.
WR: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another runner who’s run the NYC Marathon before?
AH: To make sure my shoes are little more cushioned. The roads of New York have concrete underneath the asphalt, so there’s more pounding on your foot. Sometimes if you wear too minimal of a shoe, your feet start to hurt at the end of the race. Your feet already hurt as it is after 26 miles, so you don’t want any extra to add to that. I’ve also heard a lot about coming off the Queensboro Bridge, when you hit the wall of sound around mile 17, 18, they say a lot of the time you tend to want pick up a lot. So they’ve said to make sure you don’t go too fast. You don’t want to use all of your energy in that part and still have 8 miles left.”
WR: That’s great advice about the shoes! Which ones will you be running in on Sunday?
AH: I’m running in the Mizuno Sayonara.
WR: All the press and attention you’ve been receiving aside, as a runner, what does running New York mean to you?
AH: It means a lot to me, especially since I’m finally old enough to do it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve had to wait for, so it’s awesome it’s finally here. And it’s one of the biggest marathons in the world, so being part of the elite field is just insane. Not just being the fastest time for the American woman, but just to be there is absolutely awesome.”
WR: That’s so exciting! Are there any other elites you’re particularly excited to toe the line with?
AH: Mary Keitany [who won last year and is the second-fastest marathoner behind Paula Radcliffe] is gonna be there, so I’m going to be with her. Sally Kipyego is making her debut, so those are two names I hear, and I think, I know those names! Then it’s crazy, I think, you’re going to be right next to them!
(Editor’s Note: 2015 Boston Marathon champion Caroline Rotich will also be running this year’s race.)
WR: Can you share a little bit of your race-day strategy, given that New York can often have weather woes?
AH: I generally have an idea for the weather. It’s the reason why you go and train no matter the weather—you can never know for sure what the weather will be on race day. If for some reason it gets way windier than normal or colder than normal, I’ll have to make adjustments to my time and the pace I’m going out at, but that’s something that really can’t be determined until the night before, whether or not I’ll have to make an adjustment. But because I train no matter the weather regularly, that helps me mentally to be able to race in different conditions.
WR: The trials are hardly four months after NYC—what are your thoughts on running two major races in that time frame?
It’s enough for me. I still have time to take the downtime I need after New York and still have a good chunk of time for solid training. For some people it’s shorter than they would like, and more people on the American side did Chicago than New York just for those extra weeks. But for me, I’m not too worried about. Obviously Meb has shown up that that’s not a problem!”