Ahead of her run on the indoor track at Boston University on Dec. 4, Annie Rodenfels was nervous. The competition director had hired Rodenfels and his teammate, Abbey Wheeler, to serve as rabbits for a top-level 5,000-meter race. Their job: to establish a steady pace for the first 15 laps of the 200-meter track, with a goal of over 3,000 meters in 9:09 am before giving up.
Rodenfels, 25, knew she was as fit as she had ever been, but reaching 9:09 for 3,000 meters would require taking almost 10 seconds off her personal best.
It was his first stimulus job, and it was a guaranteed salary, unlike the rest of the competition, which did not offer cash prizes. Before the race, his training with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) High Performance Team was going well, so she and her coach, Irish Olympian Mark Carroll, talked about finishing the race and saving some time on her personal 5,000-meter best of 15: 35.18. But that would be a game time decision.
“I thought I was going to feel good during 3K and then run two more laps and die,” Rodenfels said The world of runners.
The race had bigger names, such as Whittni Orton Morgan, who won the NCAA Cross Country Championships for BYU two weeks earlier and was running her first post-college race, and Courtney Wayment, two-time NCAA champion. on the inside track for BYU. Rodenfels didn’t want to let them down, nor their trainer, Diljeet Taylor.
“I feel really bad,” Rodenfels said. “Coach Taylor asked if we were going to go through 4K at the Rabbit, and I looked at her and thought, ‘No, I’m not good enough to run at this pace for 4K. “” She believed him at the time.
When Rodenfels and Wheeler hit the 3K mark near their goal, Wheeler retired from the race, as planned, while Rodenfels continued. She fell back behind Orton Morgan and Wayment and continued doing 36 second laps, but Rodenfels said she was “notoriously bad” at math while running, so she had no idea how long those lasted. deviations.
With one spin to go, she realized she had a chance to win, a thought that hadn’t crossed her mind before this point. “I played soccer for 13 years and I really don’t like losing on a kick,” said Rodenfels. “So I ran with everything I had. “
She took the lead with 100 meters to go and held it until the finish, winning in 15: 08.80, more than 26 seconds faster than her personal best. Rodenfels and Orton Morgan, who finished second in 15: 09.47, ran under the world championship standard of 15: 10.00, meaning that if they finished in the top three in the selection race of the next summer they can represent the United States in the event at the world championships. Wayment, third, ran 15: 15.46, placing seventh on the collegiate all-time indoor list.
“I was expecting 3:20 pm, within seconds,” said Carroll, his trainer. “Honestly, I didn’t expect less than 3:10 pm and a world championship standard. I knew she was ready to run really well and do a lot of PR, but she surprised everyone.
Another running star with roots in football
Rodenfels is recalibrating her expectations for what she can accomplish in the sport, while also letting in what happened in Saturday’s race.
She had an unconventional path to professional racing, in part because she attended Division III Center College in Danville, Ky. After years as a footballer, Rodenfels began to take constant running and training seriously in the middle of her freshman year of college.
In the beginning, Division III was the perfect place for her to develop her talent. But at the end of her college career, in which she won three NCAA Division III titles and became the first DIII runner to beat 10:00 am on the steeplechase, she had fewer opportunities to be thrust during races.
When Rodenfels graduated in the spring of 2019, she knew she had untapped talent and wanted to race professionally, but it was difficult to convince professional teams to give her a chance.
“I was rejected by, like, all the running clubs in America,” she said. (She said she contacted NAZ Elite, Puma Elite, Minnesota Distance Elite, the Atlanta Track Club, and Mary Cain’s group Atalanta, among others.) It was also more difficult for her to compete in the more races. competitive, as it lacks some of the connections and notoriety of those who competed in Division I.
One team that was ready to give him this opportunity was South Carolina-based Greenville Track Club-Elite. Rodenfels spent her first two years as a professional runner there, lowered her personal bests and qualified for the 2021 Olympic Steeplechase Trials. But just like she did in college, she did most of her tough races, either alone or with the men’s team.
Last summer she was ready for a change. She jumped at the chance to train with the BAA high performance team, coached by Carroll and 2012 US Olympian Morgan Uceny, and was encouraged by the success. Erika kemp had run for the team. (On Sunday, December 5, Kemp was crowned USATF racing circuit champion, thanks to her consistently strong performances.)
“I came to Boston so Erika could kick my ass every day,” Rodenfels joked.
One of the most important things Kemp has taught him in his first three months of training with the team is the importance of recovery. Watching Kemp run at a relatively slow pace during his easy days helped Rodenfels understand that it’s good to relax at times.
Although her mileage, of 70 to 80 miles per week, remains unchanged, she believes part of her recent success is the result of less intense training than she did in South Carolina. “With my old team, I had the accelerator pedal full all the time,” said Rodenfels. “Back then I thought it was cool and good because I was like, ‘I’m going so hard, I’m working harder than anyone right now. But I think in retrospect, that was too much.
To supplement her BAA income – living in Boston is expensive and she still has student loans to repay – Rodenfels recently took up a position as an assistant cross-country and track coach at Wellesley College, in Division III. She also appreciates having something to focus on beyond her own running, and the school understands that there are times when she will have to get out of town to train at altitude and run errands. Rodenfels had considered becoming a long-term coach and also said doing research on women and sport would be a dream job.
But for now, she hopes to have a long career as a professional runner, and she thinks the marathon could possibly be her best event.
“I’m trying to do the Des Linden thing where she was obviously really good in college but she wasn’t winning it all,” Rodenfels said. “She has stuck around and been consistent long enough to become a staple of our sport. This is what I’m going to look for.
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