That’s the story of 2:41 marathoner Meagan Nedlo. In this interview, we’re going to get inside the head of a runner who overcame the mental constraints of meteoric improvements and the questions about just how far she could take her running.
You’ll learn how she overcame the adversity of bad races along the way and how she balances a full-time work schedule and travel schedule that has her on the road almost 20 days per month.
Meagan is going to tell you exactly how she did it and teach you how you can apply the lessons she learned along the way to your running. Here are the actionable highlights from the interview:
Meagan was training on her own with pretty good success when she decided to start working with a coach to see what she could do. This decision lead to her competing in college at the age of 26, winning multiple All-American titles, and completely changing her mindset about what she thought was possible.
While Meagan eventually found herself running her 5k pace for a full marathon, the process didn’t happen overnight. She took very small steps each season she ran and remained patient and positive, even when things didn’t go perfect.
Meagan lined up everything perfectly to qualify for the Olympic Trials at the 2011 Houston Marathon. She had special drinks, great training, good weather and tons of family support, but she ended up dropping out after falling way off pace. Luckily, she mentally rebounded and qualified in less than ideal conditions just two weeks later.
Meagan works a full-time job, runs 100+ miles per week, and travels some 20 days per month for work. She never lets this get in the way of her training and is quick to adapt when things don’t go perfect, and she’ll tell you how she approaches it mentally.
This is an awesome interview, especially if you have doubts about how far you can take your own running. Get ready for some specific and actionable lessons you can apply to your training today!
00:00 Jeff Gaudette: Alright. So welcome to the show, Megan. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to talk with us and share your experiences.
00:07 Meagan Nedlo: Good. Thank you for having me.
00:08 Jeff Gaudette: You’re welcome. So to get started, I actually just want to maybe if we can give our audience a brief breakdown of kind of your running history, kind of where you started, kind of your progression along the way that would be great, so I think it’s an interesting story.
00:23 Meagan Nedlo: Sure. So, I was a pretty average runner in high school as I think of a lot of people where I was… I grew up in a very small town in East Texas. So, I was fairly competitive for where I looked into but I was like a 12-minute, 2-miler so it wasn’t like my parents’ phone was just ringing up with scholarship offers. So I did not go on to running college. Interestingly, I did go to a school with a good Division I program. I didn’t run for them, the track team wasn’t really on my radar and I certainly wasn’t on theirs. So I didn’t run in undergrad. But I would stay active and my dad had become kind of a serious runner because he and I ran a lot just to, you know that’s something I think that a lot of 18 and 19-year-old daughters don’t necessarily have bonding opportunity with their dads, but that was something that he and I both enjoyed. So I would still run with him and do local 5Ks and that sort of thing.
01:16 Meagan Nedlo: And then, after college I sort of realized that I wanted to continue, potentially pursuing a career in the running industry or I was in the health and fitness industry and doors opened up to where I was able to get a job with Mizuno in their running division for a year. And then after that I went and worked for Brooks for two years, also working within the running industry closely and both of those are great companies, both also had a lot of people who were collegiate and even post-collegiate runners. So it’s very much a lifestyle that was sort of ingrained within the job position. So I sort of began to get a little bit more serious about it and thought maybe I’ll actually start training to kind of see what I could do beyond 19:30 for 5K. And so, I guess that was around the time when I’d started dating my current boyfriend Jordan, who I was as you know but obviously our viewers don’t was your teammate in college and so Jordan knew that I was looking to get a little bit more serious and he just said, “Oh, Jeff has nothing better to do, plenty of time on his hands, I’m sure he’d love to punch you in and spend hours per week writing or training so.
02:23 Jeff Gaudette: What I like to do.
02:24 Meagan Nedlo: Yeah, right. Nothing else going on, so I reached out to you via email. I think maybe we’d only met once before in person but just asked if you’d be interested in writing my schedule and you very graciously said you would. And so we started communicating just long distance over a few months with you writing some training for me. Again, we didn’t really see each other in person but I would just kind of report back to you my workout. I guess at some point you discovered two fairly important pieces of information. One, I wasn’t terrible and secondly, that through whatever reason I still had collegiate eligibility and that was relevant because you at the time were coaching under Division II school in North Carolina called Queens University. Division I and Division II have slightly different eligibility requirement and so for various reasons I was still eligible to run Division II. All this was totally unbeknownst to me until one day you called me out of the blue and literally, I think the conversation went something like, “How would you like to quit your job, move to Charlotte, get your masters degree and run track at Queen?”
03:28 Meagan Nedlo: And I’m pretty sure that it was a few minutes of silence on my end, so I would just like to process everything that you were saying. And it was just such a ludicrous yet appealing offer that I went like, “Sure, why not? I’ll quit my job and go to Charlotte and I don’t even know what Queens is but I’d love to… ” In all seriousness I knew at some point I’d like to go back to school and get a graduate degree and have the opportunity to do it in that way and just sort of see what may be my potential could be as a runner. It was just a great opportunity to pass up. And in hindsight, that really was the moment when if you hadn’t believed in me or… And then later, Coach Simmons, who was then the coach… The head coach at the time. But you believed in me and seen some potential that I certainly did not see in myself, we’d probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.
04:18 Meagan Nedlo: So that’s kind of where I would say my running took a turn, sort of the tipping point if you will, from just kind of a recreational but fairly competitively-minded runner but certainly with pretty recreational times to becoming what I would say, I am now a more competitive, I believe maybe you would say, type of runners so that was really kind of the point that transformed my mind a little bit.
04:43 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah, and so you ran at Queens for two years?
04:45 Meagan Nedlo: I ran at Queens for two years. I had… With the way the eligibility worked, I had this season with eligibility which was back, or excuse me two tracks and one cross-country sandwiched in the middle. I ended being entered for the cross countries so that was a pretty underwhelming experience. But the first season I think my PR… I think perhaps my PRs going into it were something like I’d run in the 18:20 to 18:30 range for 5K on the roads and I’ve never run a 5K on the track, and then 10K again on the road, both 38 minutes one time. I mean I was really pumped about that was at the time a really, really best time.
05:20 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah, it’s a good time.
05:22 Meagan Nedlo: So then my first season at Queens, I improved to 17:27, which I ran indoors and I ran around 36:10 outdoors, which at the time again, for me were huge improvements but were not fast enough to even qualify for national. I think they were maybe provisional qualifying times but…
05:42 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah, I think so.
05:43 Meagan Nedlo: I think that actually got me to the national meet. But I was encouraged and I’ve seen that I will still improved quite a bit from… Certainly, from what I had thought my original capabilities were. So then, as I mentioned that next cross country season I was sort of injured, didn’t really do a whole lot. I came back just in time to compete with the team for Nationals, and I placed an astounding 102nd place or something at Nationals so, again, still not really turning any heads in the running scene, but I knew that there was more in me than that, of course. And so, I then went on in the next track season, I believe, my first indoor race in the 5k, I somewhere out of nowhere to me, 16:54 which was a huge PR on that qualified me automatically for Nationals. I went on to get 5th place at the indoor national meet, which was All-American.
06:38 Meagan Nedlo: Definitely for me, that was my first really successful nationally competitive meet in that race with Tanya Zeferjahn who was my teammate who would go on to be a two-time outdoor champion, Neely Spence, who I’d figure you would probably know, had a very decorative career and just signed with him, Sara Porter, who went on to become a DII, 10k national record holder, Lauren Kleppin, who’s the current DII national record holder in the 10k. She just ran a 32:49 at Stanford. So, I was with a lot of pretty talented girls and kind of held my own, so that was again, another point where I realized that there was gonna be more to it and more to my potential than I had ever originally thought.
07:23 Meagan Nedlo: So after that, I went on to 10k outdoors less than a month later at the first Stanford meet. At the time the automatic qualifying time for Nationals was 35:50, no, excuse me, 35:30. It would have been, from a 45-star from what I’d run before, but I thought I was fit, I thought I could do it. If I went to the race and ran 35:29, I was going to be ecstatic. And I went in and ran a 34:37, which it ended up being for the next month or so, the number one DII time in the country. And, honestly for me in hind-sight, on the track that is probably the best race that I’ve ever run. It’s one of those races where you feel… I don’t think you appreciate those enough at the time.
08:11 Jeff Gaudette: Right, right.
08:11 Meagan Nedlo: You know, than not, it’s the opposite, or you’re struggling your work. That was just one of those magical Stanford nights when everything goes right.
08:20 Jeff Gaudette: Right.
08:20 Meagan Nedlo: And so that season, I then went on to run 16:35 in the 5k and ended up becoming a two-time All-American outdoors as well. I doubled in a 10k and a 5k, was started a 10k and then came back a couple nights later and was… It was a 5k, I believe. Tonya and I actually, collectively ended up placing 5th as a team, which was sort of funny, also funny because it was the highest that any sports team in Queens’ history had ever placed, you know, Nationals or anything, and it was me and Tonya out there. So that was really special and I remember, Jeff, when you asked me if I wanted to come to Queens and after we had sort of worked out the details before I came, you told me that you felt that I could be a national champion in the 10k.
09:15 Meagan Nedlo: And I remember seeing that… It was one of our text message, and literally just laughing out loud at how absurd of an idea that was. At the time I was a 38-minute 10k runner and it just seemed absurd that you would even be saying something like that. And then ultimately, it came within a couple of seconds of being a reality, so I think that is definitely a testament to just how much your own expectations and your own perception of your capability can change within a relatively short period of time.
09:48 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah, because that was in about two years, you’ve pretty much dropped your 5k PR by two or three minutes and your 10k PR by a good five, four minutes or so. Did you feel like every step that you took was kind of natural in terms of, you kind of made gentle progressions or did you feel like… Especially, in that first indoor meet that you talked about and then the outdoor 10k’s. Did you feel like when you got to that level, that you weren’t ready or that you weren’t ready to run with those? Did you have that confidence?
10:22 Meagan Nedlo: Have you ever… On both? Certainly, if you look at the two years that I’m in, or the 18 months as the whole span of it, I think you would see a natural progression. At the time, I think, and I actually talked about this a couple of weeks ago, I think the two that stand out for me as what I’d call breakthrough performances were the 16:54 that I ran indoors and then the 34:37, the outdoors. Just because at the time, again, that indoor 5, I’d been coming off a winter and a fall of just being injured. I think I had taken… I’d missed like nine weeks of running or something, which may as well be a life time within the career season, so I had missed so much time, and when I went to the 5k, my PR again from the previous year was just under 17.
11:10 Meagan Nedlo: I remember asking Jordan, my boyfriend, what he thought would be a good goal for me at that rate, and as you know, Jordan is very honest. He’s not going to be the person that’s gonna pat me on the back and tell me I’m doing an awesome job when I’m not doing an awesome job, and so I thought he would be pretty objective with what he thought my fitness was at the time and he said 17:15 would be a great goal. That would be a nice improvement given what you’ve come from and your injury, and so for me to go through the first mile of that race in the low 520’s, I think my eyes were just about to pop out of my head. It was one of those times where I knew I was out of my depth, but I was going to just latch on and hang on for as long as I could and had a great, surprising result. Having the same with 10k, you know, at that time… Again, Jordan had thought you could run 35 flat if you were having a good day. Even at the time, I thought, “No. 35:20, that’s a good goal.” And for me to go through a 5k and 17:20, or whatever, and feel like I’m getting stronger, I’m not more tired. It’s one of those things where you’re sort of noting special that’s happening and you don’t want to jinx it, and you don’t want to over think it. So, you just kind of go with it and let it happen. And I think that’s what those two races were for me.
12:32 Jeff Gaudette: Awesome. And then, how did you move kind of into the marathon?
12:37 Meagan Nedlo: I did…
12:37 Jeff Gaudette: How it’s moving about… How was that experience went, in terms of training and obviously, your progression as well. It started in the… Technically.
12:46 Meagan Nedlo: Sort of, yeah. Well, what I’d do coach me originally… I was gonna train for a marathon just because I thought that’s what people did. If you were an adult, and you didn’t run in college, you probably just ran in marathons. That was my rationale for awhile. I was going to become a marathon runner, which is probably the same for a lot of people incidentally. So, when I first started thinking about doing a marathon, when Hugh began started coaching me, whenever that was, 5 maybe, in my mind a good goal was to break 3 hours. That was going to be something hard, but attainable. Something I felt was there was time that I would love to say I ran 2:59 in the marathon.
13:25 Meagan Nedlo: And then, when I finished in and was still kind of riding that fitness and had again totally transformed as a runner within the past few years, I think I knew almost immediately the next logical goal for me was to try to qualify for the Olympic trials. I hadn’t run that sub-3 marathon yet, so for people that would seem like a pretty ambitious goal. But again, my mindset shifted as what my capabilities were, and not just what I was capable, but what I should expect myself to do. And I felt that qualifying for the Olympic trials was an amazing achievement, but something that you sort of took the times I’d run at Queens, the type of training I was doing should’ve been well within what my capabilities were. So, that I set as my next goal for… Because that was in 2011, was to run a marathon and qualify for the Olympic trials.
14:20 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah. So, kind of going into that experience, you first tried to qualify, and that didn’t really go well. I only bring it up because I think the marathon is a really tough event, and you run a few now. And perfect, even when you’re really, really fit is difficult. And I think a lot of… Run about 4-hour marathon for the elite, that even when you’re perfectly ready to go sometimes the marathon doesn’t do so great. You’re example of at Houston didn’t really go well. And then, you came back a couple weeks later and ran at Birmingham, and ended up qualifying for the trials. So, can you talk a little bit about what happened in Houston, physically or mentally, and then, how did it end, and were able to qualify so quickly again after?
15:08 Meagan Nedlo: Sure. So, in the Fall of 2010, so this would have been 5 or 6 months after I’ve finished my eligibility at Queens, I began training and I picked Houston as kind of a goal race for several different reasons. It’s a fast course. I knew that’s where the trials were going to be the next year. I’m from Texas. My parents live there, and they’d come and watch then, just a couple of different things. And they had a great league development in Houston that I was able to get into that was going to help with lodging and meals, and we wanted that. So, it was just like it was set up to be the perfect experience, the perfect opportunity for me to run a fine time on a 2:44, 2:45 would be realistic goal, for what I was in shape to run. And I don’t think my workouts have been going great. But they were going well enough and I did a couple of progressions to know that I should have been fit to run that time at Houston.
16:03 Meagan Nedlo: And I got to the race, and Texas weather is notoriously mercurial. And so, it was at Houston. Even though where I went, traditionally it’s very cold there, I think race morning, at 6 AM, it was 60 degrees, 65 degrees, kind of muggy, drizzly. For me, it’s certainly not the ideal conditions. And I’m not necessarily using that as an excuse, but I think that certainly played into why I just could tell… By halfway, I could tell that it just wasn’t going to be my race. I went to through halfway, I think right at 1:23 so I was on pace to do what I had come to do. But just in the next few miles I think things had been pretty rapidly… And I could just tell it wasn’t going to be my day. And I ended up dropping out around 17 and… I mean I was crushed. It was one of those things where my parents were there, I had friends who were there that had come to run the US half championships that was the day before. So, I had friends that were there watching me. I posted the track meet on Facebook so I had everyone following me.
17:09 Meagan Nedlo: And it was embarrassing to be honest. It was embarrassing, and it was almost like I… It kind of just, maybe I’m not fit enough to do this. Maybe I’m not mentally tough enough. Maybe I’m not ready. So, it was definitely a moment that made me question kind of why I was doing all this in the first place. So, I definitely had a pity party for a couple of days where I was just pretty discouraged about it. But a couple of weeks later, actually exactly two weeks later, I had to go to Birmingham, Alabama for work at karhu, which is a running shoe company [17:42] ____. We do the events within the running, biking, fitness community. And I went to Birmingham to work the marathon expo for them… It’s called the Mercedes Marathon with the Track Shack, which is a specialty store there. So, I went to work on behalf of Karhu to work the expo for a couple days.
18:00 Meagan Nedlo: And so, ever since I dropped at Houston, it was just a little feedback in my mind like, maybe, what if I just held on to this taper and this fitness and everything else and just gave it another try in Alabama. So, the two weeks between races, it was another one of those, I have those strange experiences where every run I did was awesome. I felt terrific on every run, easy runs, fast runs, short runs, long runs. It was kind of unnerving because I don’t normally have two weeks in a row where just everything feels great. So that…
18:34 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah.
18:36 Meagan Nedlo: Kept building in my mind of, maybe the timing is gonna to be right now and I’m great friends with the owner and the store manager at Track Shack so they were perfectly willing to help me get a free entry and so I was even able to hold the day before to kind of make the game time to see whether I wanted to do. I ended up signing up and decided I was going to run and the whole atmosphere and the whole lead up is so different in Houston in terms of how laid back it was, how last minute. I spent the night at my friend Brooke’s house the night before. I didn’t have the fancy hotel. I think we had a bottle of wine and she made dinner. It wasn’t the typical pre-race dinner. I slept in my friend’s bedroom. She dropped me off the starting line. There were no pace groups. There were no water bottles. There were no hundred spectators there or whatever. It was just kind of me seeing what I could do. I didn’t post it on Facebook. I only told a couple of friends in advance that I was even gonna be doing this because the last thing I wanted was another disaster and another round of the condolence emails and the condolence wall posts. So…
19:46 Jeff Gaudette: Right.
19:47 Meagan Nedlo: I sort of just slipped under the radar and hoped that it was going to be a good day and it was a great day. I ended up, everything went smoothly. It’s a pretty difficult course. Birmingham is just a really hilly place. So…
19:58 Jeff Gaudette: Right.
19:59 Meagan Nedlo: By no means… I would say it actually was quite a more difficult course than Houston but it was cold, the weather was clear. It was just one of those days again where everything goes well and I definitely, the last couple of miles, I was definitely hurting and definitely ready for it to be done but I had done the math well enough in my notes. I got to 2 miles to by a certain time, and I could just hold it for another minute that happened, and so when I realized that it was, it was definitely an amazing feeling of accomplishment to realize to hang on and what could have been, and what was a disastrous experience at Houston and turn it into something really, really positive.
20:39 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah, and so, what did you do when running in Birmingham?
20:42 Meagan Nedlo: I think my 2:45:00 or 2:45:01. It was like right on the dot, so I was about a minute under the B standard for qualifier.
20:51 Jeff Gaudette: Okay. Yeah. Like I said, I think that’s really an amazing story that I think people can really relate to because the marathon’s tough and you don’t always get it right and so it’s reassuring to know that you can definitely be able put it behind you and I think a lot of something we talk a lot about with athletes is pressing the reset button, and I think you kind of did that. You gave yourself a place to… That you gave yourself a pity party and then you seemed to have pressed the reset button and things seemed to work out pretty well and also in going into the race relaxed, not having this big hoopla about it. Do you think that really helped a lot or do you think it was just kind of coincidence? Or…
21:32 Meagan Nedlo: Yeah, I don’t think… At the time, that was… It seemed like how it was, but I think certainly… It certainly didn’t hurt. I think just again, going into it knowing everyone who had thought I qualified thought I was going to do it two weeks ago. So, it wasn’t like I had any. The only expectation is really from my self, honestly. Even if I hadn’t tried, my parents wouldn’t really have cared and my friends who love me wouldn’t have really cared. It wasn’t like everyone was counting on me for suit, for myself and again for the expectations and the level that I thought I was capable of certainly was… It was definitely a redemption run for sure.
22:10 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah. And so, your next marathon after Birmingham was the trials itself?
22:15 Meagan Nedlo: That’s right. So, Birmingham was February of 2011 so it was about 11 months of trials and I thought potentially about doing a full marathon but to be honest, Birmingham, it took me a little bit longer to recover than I thought. I think I was a little over ambitious afterwards. I felt pretty good on the race and I didn’t give myself enough time to recover. Kind of back in the normal training fairly quickly and then ultimately two and three months later I was just not recovered. The bottom line my work outs wasn’t going that well and so, it really gave me a new found respect for the distance and for anything that it encompasses both before and after the race and so, I just knew that unless I wanted to really set aside another six-month block, just to the marathon and the post marathon, it just didn’t really make sense for me to do another full marathon before the trials.
23:04 Jeff Gaudette: Right.
23:04 Meagan Nedlo: So, that’s what I decided. I did some races in between. Some halves and 5Ks, 10Ks, different things, obviously to keep myself competitive but the trials was my next marathon so it was almost a year after I qualified.
23:18 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah. And so, the training… How was the training leading up to the trials? Did it go perfect or were there a lot of hiccups in the process?
23:24 Meagan Nedlo: It’s never perfect but actually, another thing in time frame, we were living, Jordan and I were still living in Charlotte at the time. We’d stayed there after I graduated from Queens and then, in I guess October this past year, October of 2011, we relocated [23:44] ____ promotion and gotten a job position within the company that sort of necessitated us being at the home office. So, we moved to New England, which again, myself being from Texas and having only lived in the south was a huge adjustment. I mean at least Jordan had gone to school in Rhode Island so he new what the winners were gonna be like, and he knew what we were getting into.
24:04 Meagan Nedlo: So we moved kinda midway through, or even at the beginning of that marathon training cycle which was… It was difficult, I had training partners, I had two, with Caitlin Chrisman and Megan Hovis, who I trained with in Charlotte, who had also had qualified for the trials, so it worked out. Caitlin’s one of my best friends, Charlotte running club, which is the place… You know, I had a network of people that I ran with every single day. I could find someone to run with, I could find someone to work out with. And then we moved up to Boston, actually more to a suburb area of Boston, where it was really just Jordan and I doing a lot of the work for a while. And it definitely changed the way we addressed to new places. Obviously, the climate was different…
24:48 Jeff Gaudette: Right.
24:49 Meagan Nedlo: Not having that network of training partners. So, mentally, more than anything, that was tough. I still got the workouts done. We still made it happen but that took some adjustment, and then along the way, I began to develop some friendships with the BAA, and some of the coaches, and the athletes there. And so now, I’ve started slowly to develop that same kind of friends and training partners here in Boston, much of the trials training, Jordan and I by ourselves. In comparison to the training I did before, Mercedes, a lot more long runs I think I had, maybe five or six runs of 20 plus miles going into trials. Before Mercedes, I think I had one. [chuckle] One of which also doubled as a marathon simulation, so it was a work out and a long run that was three weeks before. So, I had five or six really solid long runs leading up to the trials, a tempo run that Jordan led me on that was… It ended up being good tempo, really rolling hill terrain, windy, bad weather, and I think I ran like 6:05 pace. On the one hand, it was a confidence boost on the other hand, Jordan reminded me I would still have another 20-something K to run at that pace afterwards.
26:02 Jeff Gaudette: He’s nice. He’s nice.
26:04 Meagan Nedlo: Yeah. It brings you back to reality but, a couple things like that, where I just had some good tempos, and some good workouts that really started clicking. And so we decided, as I’m sure you do sometimes with your athletes, if we set kind of a range of goals for what I would like to do at the trials, my first… Number one goal- don’t finish last. [laughter] Number two goal was to run a PR. I think I’d run 2:45, so I wanted to run faster than that, but mostly, what I really thought that on my best case scenario, best day, I thought I was capable of running sub-2:40, like 2:38 to 2:39, that was my dream scenario for what I wanted to do at the trials. Based on… It didn’t come out of nowhere; it was based on a combination of my workouts and several other indicators that said, “Hey, if you have a great day, potentially be what happens.”
26:59 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah.
27:02 Meagan Nedlo: Spoiler alert. It didn’t happen.
27:03 Jeff Gaudette: It didn’t happen. Yeah, so talk about the race, how it went, how you felt.
27:07 Meagan Nedlo: Yeah. So the trial… I mean, first and foremost, the experience is just amazing, I think probably 90% of the people who compete at the trials, at least at the marathon trials, they realize they’re not making an Olympic team any time soon. They realize that they’re just there for their own… Go for their own experience and certainly, I was one of those. I had no illusions of grandeur, I wanted to soak everything in, of course, I do hope that I do qualify next time, and maybe even the next time after that but you just never know when it’s gonna be your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And so, Caitlin and I and Megan, my other friend from Charlotte, and several other friends, we just kind of soaked everything in, and enjoyed the atmosphere, and just being in the presence of so many other amazing athletes.
27:56 Meagan Nedlo: I think it’s interesting, especially when we were in Charlotte, I was one of the better runners there, and a lot of the runners in Charlotte, and in the Charlotte running club would look to myself and Jordan as the pinnacle, the top tier runners, and I think it would be interesting for them, and certainly is humbling for us to go to an experience like that where we’re the bottom of the… The bottom tier scrubs that are just lucky to make it there, you know. I think that illustrates how it’s all relative, just a theme of my training and everything, throughout all of my racing experience is just the better you get, the more you realize that there are people better than you. And that’s definitely like what the trials was for me but, it was an amazing experience to be there.
28:42 Meagan Nedlo: The race itself ended up going pretty much as planned. Caitlin and I, and my friend Allison Macsas, who runs for Team Row Relief, which is out of… We had all had a similar goal, with similar shape and we really wanted to foster a group dynamic of working together. Unlike a lot of the marathons that people had run to qualify, the trials doesn’t have any type of a pace team or a pace group or anything that’s trying to get you on a certain time, so we wanted to create that for ourselves. We were gonna be the 2:39:59 pace group, sort of what we wanted to be. And the way that the course was set up at the trials in Houston, was a little bit different than the actual Houston Marathon course, with the trials, they obviously wanted to make it more spectator-friendly.
29:28 Meagan Nedlo: So essentially, what the course was, you started and then did a two-mile… A 2.2-mile loop just within the downtown, then you passed through the start-finish line again, then you went out on three big loops that were eight miles. And so, when you were at the third eight-mile loop you would cross the finish line for the final time. So, our goal I think was to just, try to build the group and foster the group mentality, going into that first big loop after the first 2.2 miles, everyone kind of settled down a little bit, you sort of see who’s around you. And so, Caitlin and Allison and I were able to get… At some point, there were as many as eight or 10 other girls that were all running together and slicking off pretty consistent, you know, 6:05 to 6:10 pace, pretty consistently.
30:17 Meagan Nedlo: We maybe– A few small outliers but that pretty much was clicking it off. We went together through two of the big loops, so that would put us at about 18 miles and at that time, everyone was sort of… Their own goal and their own race really starts. And so, we started to string out by that point. Allison and one other girls, sort of began to break from me a little bit. I think Caitlin was sort of calling back but we had really helped each other out for the majority of the race, which was huge, and just really special, I think, especially for Caitlin and I, who had done so much about training together. This had been such a goal of ours for a long time. It was just really special. I think something that can never be recreated, the bond that comes from having that sort of experience together. So, the last eight miles was a struggle. I could… My math skills were failing me a little bit but I could tell that I probably was not going to come in under 2:40. It was close enough that it wasn’t out of the question. I think we’ve gone through half way and 1:20; it was 1:20 something.
31:22 Jeff Gaudette: Okay.
31:22 Meagan Nedlo: So, there was still potential it could happen, if I do it. It just didn’t quite happen. And it’s like, “Gosh, I have a five or six, just feeling… That was a struggle. I just knew I was running at every pace. You know, when I look at the split afterwards, I actually was maintaining the same pace. I think it was kind of a valuable lesson to learn that you can feel fatigued and like you’re dying but your body kind of knows what it’s capable of and knows what it’s doing and if it’s lost in that rhythm, you maybe… The brain maybe screaming, I had to stop. It can put back in thinking to do that and well surprised me and kind of gave me, I guess the mental fortitude to keep pushing was, I was passing girls left and right in the last six miles. And I actually remember thinking like as terrible I feel, and I’m still passing people, “Gosh, some people must be feeling like they’re having the day of their lives.” I think Jordan said I passed something like 20 to 25 girls in that last loop.
32:24 Jeff Gaudette: Wow.
32:24 Meagan Nedlo: At one point, I heard someone say, just the spectator that was counting said that I was in 54th place or something like that. He had given me a frame of reference for where I was and at that point, I was like, “Okay, I may not be able to get up 2:40 but finishing at the top 50 would be a huge accomplishment. Let’s just see if I could pick off a few more people in these last few miles”, and for all I knew, he wasn’t paying attention or had… I could have been at 74th place but I was just trusting that… Trusting that he was something that I could use as a motivator. And so, somehow I have managed to do that. I passed one final girl just a little second before passing the finish line and ended up finishing 49th.
33:08 Meagan Nedlo: I ran 2:41:05 or 06, I believe. So, it was a 4-minute PR pretty much from what I’ve done before. And initially, I was a little disappointed like I said, I had set this high bar that I really thought I could run sub 2:40 but it was interesting, a few weeks later, just reflecting and looking at some of the data, how many people dropped out, how a few people PR’d, relative. I think I read somewhere it was maybe only 38 women I’ve ran PRs of the trials. And so, for me to be included among them, I think, once the initial disappointment subsided and I really had more prospective, I was really pleased actually when I competed and how I performed. My parents actually got to see me finish a race. So, that was pretty big.
34:01 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah. That’s good redemption, getting your parents to see and probably see everybody knew you were there, it was Houston again. So, kind of full circle from the previous year, that’s pretty cool.
34:09 Meagan Nedlo: It was, yeah.
34:12 Jeff Gaudette: So, yeah. I guess kind of moving on a little bit. I mean obviously, that’s a great running history. And you mentioned that you worked for Craft, Karhu. So you work full time?
34:23 Meagan Nedlo: I did work full-time. Yeah. I don’t know how many hours a week, necessarily 40 at times. I tend to do a lot of event in traveling for the company. So, I’m not always the typical eight to five office job, although, I do that sometimes during the week but a lot of times, I’m on the road. I’m in different cities. That actually, you know, when you had asked earlier about maybe challenges we… I remember one week, when I was… That was supposed to be my high week. It was like 100 to 105 miles and I was in this trip with one of our sales reps in Louisville, Kentucky and I was doing… Ended up doing some afar… Like base it on a skywalk in downtown Louisville because that’s where we were staying. I had a 6:00 AM flight the next day out of Nashville. I got up, planning to do 10 miles around Nashville airport, and then, I flew home and my parents were visiting for the weekend.
35:12 Meagan Nedlo: They were flying in at the same time I was flying in, which was wonderful but at the same time, obviously, you want to be respectful of them visiting and not spend the whole time training and I just remember thinking you can get 50 miles this week. It will be a miracle. And somehow that actually ended up being one of my best training week, I hit 100 miles; that was when I did the 20k progression with Jordan. And yes, a lot of times, I might get my schedule and see where I’m traveling, what I’m doing and just think, “Man, there’s no way I’m going to get the training in, but in some sort of way that’s almost the balance that I use to motivate me. It’s like, “Hey, it’s going to be impossible to do what you need to be right now. Figure it out.”
35:50 Jeff Gaudette: Okay, yeah.
35:52 Meagan Nedlo: It can be difficult with traveling but fortunately, I’m lucky to work in an industry that is essentially also my hobby and my pastime and I often get to travel to races and I’ll work the event and then get to run the race as well, something that I wouldn’t have been if I was in a different career and just to be surrounded by like-minded people all the time and people who understand health and fitness. My company is really supportive of my training and my goals. So, it’s definitely, I think, a blessing to be in this team and to kind of be surrounded by running and, again, by people who understand what I’m doing.
36:31 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah. I mean I think a lot of the audience probably understands where you’re coming from, from the travel perspective. Obviously, just even the small stories that you told, getting up at 3 AM, and doing cycling on the sidewalks obviously would require a lot of dedication and persistent training. I’m sure there are a lot of mornings where you would just think I don’t want to get out of bed. But other than the dedication thing, do you have anything, strategies that you used in terms of like when you’re traveling a lot, to be able to get your runs in?
37:00 Meagan Nedlo: Yeah, always. Now, I sort of travel to places that I’ve been to a couple of times before, so it helped me to get a lay of the land. But if I’m going to a new place, I always try to go online in advance and figure out some place to run. I hate running on the treadmill, and maybe that time in Nashville was maybe one of three times that I’ve run on a treadmill. So I always prefer to find some place to run outside, so I’ll search on… Sometimes I’ll just search on the “Let’s Run” message boards or even on Runner’s World or just do a Google search or I’ll call the local running store and just see what they suggest that you can run. Again, if I’m working with a running stores, sometimes I’ll see if there’s someone there that wants to meet up for a run or someone who is available to train with me.
37:41 Meagan Nedlo: So I just try to kind of plan it in advance to get an idea where I’ve been. And Jordan, my boyfriend, is coaching me now which is nice because he, of course, understands my travels schedule. So he understands the flexibility that sometimes is required when sometimes I’ll work out supposed to be one day and you have to get today. Even this week, for example, I was supposed to do a big track workout on Wednesday, 12 by 800 and we were gonna go to… There’s a great high school track right across the street from our office. So we would work out a few minutes early. We warmed up, did a couple of miles, ran over the track and there’s a track meet going on. So like, okay, well, that’s not gonna work. So we’re like, all right, we get in the car and we drove, jog or two the high school then Marblehead where we live and now with another track meet going on.
38:24 Jeff Gaudette: Wow!
38:25 Meagan Nedlo: We’re like, alright, okay, today is not gonna be our day. We’ll just run easy. We got up yesterday morning and did it just fine. And I think because he is there and he is able to give me that immediate feedback and kind of that flexibility, I think that’s valuable. And, obviously, I’m sure with your coaching, you understand that sometimes lives are unpredictable and schedules change and so it’s just kind of being amenable to just about and not just freaking out and saying, “If I can’t do it on Wednesday, then I’m just gonna give up for the week.” It’s my goal, be creative and think of could I just maybe just do on a park or something on the road or should I postpone it like I did to the next day or something like that. I think, oftentimes, we get so rigid with our schedules and that’s obviously valuable and important to have that schedule to stick with it, but at the same time just knowing that life is unpredictable, it’s not always gonna go the way that you want, it’s not always under your control and you just have to make the most of it.
39:18 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think that’s the big part of training in general. I mean even when I was running professionally and that was pretty much the only thing I had to do all day, it didn’t always go perfect. Things came up and having… Being adaptable because I know a lot of times athletes struggle with that. They have that one bad workout or that thing just… Whatever day just ruins them. So I think it’s great that you thought it’s an important thing to just to let it roll off you and either be creative or move on, put it behind you. What would you say you struggle with that you have with your training like on a day-to-day basis?
39:58 Meagan Nedlo: I think sometimes motivation level can be low, especially when you’re doing what feels like the same thing every day. I am fortunate, again, with Jordan who is my coach, but he’s also my boyfriend and he’s also my roommate. So if he’s getting up to go run at six in the morning, I’m not just gonna roll over and knock it up to go run. Like, I think the same can be true if you have a running partner. While I lived in Charlotte, if I knew Caitlin was meeting me in Freedom Park at 6:15, I wasn’t gonna not show up in Freedom Park. So I think that can be overcome by having that sort of built-in accountability, or that built-in motivation with a spouse or a training partner or something like that.
40:39 Meagan Nedlo: I think running can be a struggle when you feel like you’re having a great workout then not necessarily having races that are like that. That’s something I’m dealing with a little bit this spring. I’ve just had a couple of races in a row that, both of them, nothing disastrous, but just neither one felt like they really were indicative or reflective of what my training had shown. One in particular, actually, I raced at the Pan relays last week and last Thursday in the 10k, but again it was one of those where I’ve set up my tier goals, like here’s what I wanna do, best case scenario, perfectly acceptable, last-resort goal and then, ultimately, the time I ended up running didn’t achieve any of those goals. [laughter] It was slower than I even like, even entertain the idea in my mind would be the time that I would run. And so that was pretty disappointing and pretty, pretty deflating, but… And I have enough couple to consolidate the pouting after that.
41:38 Meagan Nedlo: But interestingly, that same weekend was the Payton Jordan Invitational, so of course a lot of us were… Our computers, hitting refreshed and watching races and it was interesting. A former… Actually a girl from Charlotte, originally Julia Lucas ran a huge PR in the 5K. She ran 15:08, I think her previous PR was something in the 15:30’s and afterwards she was interviewed and she said, “It was eight years ago or seven years ago in college when I ran 15:50, and it’s been five years since I ran 15:30 but I knew that every workout and every race and every struggle has been building up to me having this breakthrough today.” And that really resonated with me. I feel kind of silly to be so upset about having one or two bad performances that are just isolated to a single season when… If you look at that it was an eight or 10-year progression where she had a lot of injuries, she had a lot of setbacks and I’m sure a dozen times thought about, “Why am I doing this? Should I give up? Should I move on?”
42:43 Meagan Nedlo: And she stuck with it and had that perseverance and she could very well be on our Olympic team in the next couple months with a performance like that. She kept that goal and just believed in; she believed in the process and knew that overall it was gonna eventually produce the result. For me, it’s a very timely lesson because I’m kind of struggling with that right now and so I think it’s important to see that. The process is going great; I’m healthy, which is obviously number one most important.
43:11 Jeff Gaudette: Right.
43:12 Meagan Nedlo: I’m running. I’m consistently running the mileage I want to run, I’m getting in good workouts. The results haven’t shown that yet but I do trust that you kind of have to just know that you’re gonna get there eventually and that another breakthrough performance is around the corner.
43:28 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s a great point and I’m glad you brought it up ’cause so many people struggle with that, and I think one thing when you’re going through it you kind of think that no one else is going through that. You know, you always look at other people and you’re thinking, well there’s always, you always see them improving and you always… Or at least you think they’re improving and so it’s difficult.
43:47 Meagan Nedlo: You feel what you want to see, so you always see the people who are running well; you don’t notice the other people who are also struggling.
43:52 Jeff Gaudette: Right, exactly. You never see people that are struggling. They… It doesn’t get highlighted too often when somebody runs a bad race. It’s not broadcast on Runners World when somebody runs a terrible race. And so I think it’s a good point, a lot of people struggle with that. And I think it sounds like for you, a lot of it’s about the confidence part; it’s keeping your confidence and keeping a trust in what you’re doing and that eventually things are going to come through.
44:19 Meagan Nedlo: Yeah, absolutely.
44:20 Jeff Gaudette: Cool. Well, I guess to wrap things up, I guess I wanted to ask over the last few years especially your fairly rapid ascension to being a pretty good elite runner, what would be the biggest thing, the biggest lesson that you’ve learned long term, that’s kind of helped make that jump?
44:41 Meagan Nedlo: I think… I don’t know if it’s the biggest but certainly one of the ones that has been one of the most impactful for me is just not limiting yourself, or not setting expectations and just assuming that that’s as good as it’s gonna get. I think when I was an 18:30 5K runner, I was pretty content being a 18:30 5K runner simply because I didn’t see any scenario in which would be possible for me to run faster than that. I felt like sure I run a decent amount, I do a couple workouts, like when a run an 18:30 it’s really hard so like that’s what my capability is. And I think again, people like you and Coach Simmons believing in me and really encouraging me to not set limits for myself has really been life changing in that sense. It automatically has just shown me that hey if I can run 16:30 in 34:30 maybe I can run 16 minutes in 33:30 or you know if I can run 2:41, why can’t I in 3 or 4 years, why can’t I run 2:35? Like there’s nothing about me inherently that’s different, I’m the same person that I was five years ago.
45:50 Meagan Nedlo: It’s just been the continuous, the dedication, and the improvement and I think that just the re-evaluating the mindset. I ran 35:05 at 10 relays and even in early 2010, I would have been thrilled to run that time. My expectations have changed, my goals have changed and I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s okay to be disappointed to run that type of time, even though it’s not a bad time necessarily because that just shows that you know I’m setting the bar higher and I’m recognizing that I can be as good as I want to be. I think that’s an important lesson for anyone. That may not be the same for every person; certainly we do all have limits. But I think too often we just get complacent or we tend to look at people who are running faster than us, and just sort of in awe or almost set them apart as like, well, they’re different than me or they’re more talented than me or they’re faster than me. There’s not necessarily any difference between those people, or between someone like me and someone who might be watching this. Like I was just a, in a way I would say a very average just kind of age-group runner a while ago. You just kind of re-assess what your limits are and encourage yourself to just keep pushing past them.
47:12 Jeff Gaudette: Yeah that’s great, I think it’s phenomenal advice. I’m glad you said it. So yeah I guess the last thing… So just talk a little about, I don’t know, I think there are brands that are very great running brands but don’t think they’re as popular as the Nike and the Reebok and that kind of stuff. So, talk a little bit about what you guys have for products, what you do, what your mission is.
47:34 Meagan Nedlo: Oh yeah, thank you for asking. Karhu is a really neat brand, and I will confess that before I was working in the running industry I’d never heard of them either. We sometimes say the best brand you’ve never heard of. It’s a Finnish company, and the brands been around actually for almost 100 years. And what I think a lot of people don’t realize is back in the early 20th century, the ones that Paavo Nurmi and [48:00] ____ Baron, all those guys, they wore Karhu. They wore Karhu on which they had [48:04] ____ through a rich history and a legacy to the brand level that a lot of people don’t realize.
48:12 Meagan Nedlo: And actually, Boston Marathon, that was last month, or a couple weeks ago, we flew over the 1972 winner of the Boston Marathon who was a Finnish gentleman who wore Karhu in the ’70s. And it was just neat to get his perspective and hear about the brand in Finland. It is spoken as, provincially, as a Nike or something like that. People do a lot within the fitness industry. In terms of just, same as a Brooks or a Nike or something like that in a sense that we’re wanting to be in running specialty stores, we’re wanting to do that specialty runner. But, again, I think to hear the history that we have, we actually just bought a… Our CEO just bought a 1976, 1974, Argosy trailer. He totally innovated it into more, it’s a museum. But where a Karhu, we’ve got some really neat things in it. We’re actually expecting applications for people to drive it around the country this fall, we’re doing like a tour.
49:13 Meagan Nedlo: So we’re looking for people who want to run and live the dream and sort of spread the message about Karhu around the country. Karhu means “bear” in Finnish so we have a bear as our logo on things. We may or may not dress up in a bear costume for some of our events, just trying to embrace that side of it. But our website’s calm, K-A-U so I’d love for people to learn more about it.
49:36 Jeff Gaudette: Sorry, sorry, spell it out slowly, have this site related so…
49:40 Meagan Nedlo: Yeah, okay, it’s K-A-R-H-U.com. And if you want to learn more about the tour, it’s karhu.com/runnerswanted. You can apply. We’re taking video applications. You can apply to live the dream for a couple months in this fall and drive the Airstream around. I mean Craft, just briefly; Craft is our partner apparel brand. It’s most well known probably in cycling. We’ve sponsored teams, regular track, meets on track, which is the Schleck Brothers and [50:10] ____ in the world? And the Tour de France is on this summer. You’ll see Craft on all the riders there. It’s a Swedish brand, in heritage, so we deal with Nordic, a lot with cross country skiing and that type of thing. So that’s probably where we’re most well known but we also make great running apparel.
50:29 Jeff Gaudette: Awesome, cool. Well again, Megan, thanks for taking time out of your day to talk with us and teach us some great lessons about taking the next step in your racing and hope everybody enjoyed it. Check out, audience, greenlightningrunning.blogspot.com. Is that correct?
50:45 Meagan Nedlo: Yup. That’s right.
50:47 Jeff Gaudette: We’ll throw a link up at the bottom of this video and you can check it out. Megan’s actually a phenomenal writer, if you enjoy reading about running, especially workouts and stuff, Megan details things pretty extensively so check it out, it’s pretty good. Thanks again, Megan.
51:02 Meagan Nedlo: Thanks. I appreciate it.
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