Catching Up With Olympian Kim Conley
Kim Conley had one heck of a 2012 season, finishing third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5k, earning a spot on Team USA and competing in the London Olympics. With a career changing year behind her, Conley now focuses forward, looking to take another big step in her training and racing. This coming weekend in St. Louis, Conley looks to make another Team USA roster, as she'll be competing at the USA Cross Country Championships.
We had a chance to chat with Conley this week, discussing her 2012 season, what it took to make the Olympic team and much, much more.
Scott Bush (SB): You're one of the favorites heading into this weekend's USA Cross Country Championships. How is your training going and what are your expectations heading into the race?
Kim Conley (KC): That's a flattering assessment, but it's hard to cast myself as a favorite with Olympic medalists in the race. That said, I haven't modified my approach, and the preparation has gone really well. I'm looking forward to testing my fitness against a great field this coming Saturday.
SB: You haven't run cross country all that much since college. Why did you decide to jump into cross country this year?
KC: I ran US cross in 2010 and '11, and my failure to make the team in San Diego left me hungry for the next opportunity. I have had St Louis circled on the calendar for two years now with the hope of making a World Cross team. I love running cross country, even though the limited options for races in our country make it difficult to focus on a true cross country season. The opportunity to race at Campaccio this winter provided an outstanding chance to encounter an entirely different style of racing, something that I viewed as an important step for me.
SB: 2012 was an amazing year for you. What did you learn about yourself as an athlete after running in the Olympics and having such a successful season?
KC: The 2012 track season was a pivotal year for me. It was the culmination of a plan I had made with my coach three years prior and at the same time opened the door to a new world and changed the way I view my future in the sport. Having the year unfold as it did taught me that belief in and diligent execution of a plan will yield the results I am seeking. Making the Olympic team and competing in London opened my eyes to a new level of the sport and made me very hungry to continue to build and get back to that level and perform better.
SB: Looking forward, what are your goals for 2013?
KC: 2012 gave me my first taste of competing on the international stage and in 2013 I'd like to build off that and continue to gain more experience at that level. The first goal is to make the World Cross Country team and compete at the world championships in March, and then I will roll into track season with the goal of making the world team in track in the 5000m and then advacning to the final at the world championships. Along the way I'd like to race more in Europe to add to the depth of my experience racing international competition.
SB: You've progressed quite a bit last year. What do you attribute this rise in performance to?
KC: There are a myriad of factors that contributed to my rise last year. The biggest component is consistency of training. I haven't had an injury that has set me back and delayed development in over three years, which has allowed for a great progression. In addition, each year I have sought ways to refine my approach to training and competing to make myself better. Last year the big change I made was stepping back from coaching to dedicate myself fully to the lifestyle of a professional runner. After only a few weeks of not spending time in the office, or coaching athletes immediately after completing my own workout, I felt my training on a daily basis elevate significantly.
I stepped back from coaching in January of 2012, and at the time I wasn't sure if six months would be enough time to put myself on the same playing field as my competitors at the Olympic Trials in June, but as it turned out I felt the difference within a month! Everyday I could train at a higher level because I was recovering so much better in between, and stacking better training consistently paid off in June and is continuing to pay off now.
SB: You were a good collegiate runner who's become a great professional runner. What words of advice might you have to aspiring high school and collegiate runners who dream of making it as professional?
KC: The three pieces of advice I would give an aspiring professional runner are to stay in the sport, become a student of the sport, and then have a professional attitude in their approach. As distance runners we don't begin to reach our potential until are in our late twenties or even early thirties, so staying in the sport and continuing to develop is absolutely necessary. However, simply continuing to train and compete isn't enough; you're approach has to be that of a professional athlete. Although I wasn't earning a living for the first couple years out of college, I strove to act like a professional with the purpose I went about my training, racing, and daily life.
Even when I was coaching, we called running my first job and coaching my second. I tried to learn as much as I could about how people like Shalane Flanagan and Deena Kastor went about their daily lives and then I tried to incorporate as much of that as I could into my own life. It meant that at first any money I did earn went directly back into funding training opportunities (such as altitude camps) but I believed that I had to give myself those opportunities to eventually make it.
SB: Favorite food?
KC: Spaghetti Bolognese
SB: Best musician?
KC: Celine Dion
SB: Favorite event?
KC: Falmouth Road Race
SB: Car you drive?
KC: Toyota Rav 4
SB: Best part of the Olympics?
KC: Walking into the stadium for my race
SB: Favorite movie?