Alli Cash is from the suburbs of Kansas. She started running in high school at Shawnee Mission West to get in shape for soccer. Her freshman year she ended up getting 3rd place at the Kansas State cross country meet, but at that point, she still wasn’t convinced she was a runner. Back then, she didn't understand what an off- season was supposed to look like for running, so she took the winter months off running and did some soccer conditioning. On the first day of tryouts her cross country/track coach, Jeff Onnen, persuaded her to try out for track instead. He told her that she could PR by 20 seconds in the mile every year. Cash says she believed him and went on to run, 5:15, 4:58, 4:38. Her senior year she was injured in track.
After high school, she went on to run at the University of Oregon under Maurica Powell. Maurica still coaches Alli now and per Cash, she has been a huge influence on her development as a young person and athlete. At Oregon Alli was part of the first ever Triple Crown; winning cross country, indoors, and outdoor titles; and was a 5-time First Team All-American. Unfortunately, Alli was injured a lot her last couple years of college and ended up needing double knee surgery. It was then that she stepped away from running for a couple years and began working in a hospital full time, as well as being a volunteer coach at the University of Washington, where Maurica Powell is now Director of Track and Field and Cross Country. It wasn’t until almost exactly a year ago Alli started running again with the support of Oiselle. Finally with support, happiness, and health, she lowered her PR’s substantially from distances between 800 meters to 5K and PR’d in nearly every race she's lined up for.
How does it feel for running and racing to finally be back to normalcy?
It almost feels abnormal! Having fans again in the stadium is like a dream come true.
What was one of the things you missed during the year of Covid restrictions?
I really missed seeing my running friends from other places. It's been almost two years since I've seen a lot of them.
What was one of the biggest training hurdles during this period and how did you deal with it?
It was impossible to really plan for races. There were no races in the fall and luckily, pretty last minute, the Dempsey (UW indoor facility) opened up to a small number of people so we were able to get in some race opportunities.
What was your experience like in this year's Olympic Trials?
It was amazing to have qualified in two events, the 1500 meters and 5000 meters. A year ago I thought it was a long shot, but honestly the glimmer of hope was all I needed to keep showing up. I feel like I have unfinished business, as I strained my hamstring pretty badly the Tuesday before the first round, but I was undoubtedly in the best shape of my life.
What was the most special moment you took away from the Olympic Trials?
I think the most special moment for me was seeing people who I've run alongside for years dreams come true. To make the Olympic team everything has to go right on the right day, which is hard, but I loved seeing people show up as their best selves. It is inspiring to see people find ways to get the most out of themselves multiple days in a row.
What lesson did you learn at the Olympic Trials that you will take with you for future competitions?
I think my takeaway is always to enjoy the journey. You never know when your last race will be or what next week will bring, so take nothing for granted. Every run is something to celebrate, every race is an opportunity to show up, and there are always things to improve on.
If you could change one thing about the sport, what would it be?
I think it would be the sponsorship set up for the majority of “professional runners”. There is a lot of stuff that happens behind closed doors. There are athletes making Olympic teams that work 3 jobs or sign deals for far less than livable wage, while some collegiate athletes are signing deals for over 100K a year, running significantly slower, and not even coming close to making world teams. If I were a gambling woman, while I’d certainly bet on a few NCAA stars, I'd be just as keen to take a gamble on someone who’s found a way to be successful post-college, working jobs, doing whatever it takes. Props to the companies sponsoring athletes that took the not so typical way to get where they're at. We need more of that! I also think it's really cool what Mary Cain is doing with the newly founded Atalanta professional group, as well as what Tracksmith did this past year with Mary Cain and Nick Willis, and what Hoka NAZ Elite has done with getting their team health benefits. These teams are thinking outside the box!
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
My will to work has always been my biggest strength but also my biggest weakness. I've learned, over the years, that there is a line that shouldn't be crossed often in training; but really, my favorite place to dance is right on that line. Coach Powell has said that there's no one who can out work me, and I take a lot of pride in that!
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
I was running home from work one day, my first year in Seattle, and the route (if you take the long way) includes a series of bridges that sit right on the water. There was a sign that read, “Underwater, closed through July.” In my head I thought, nah, that’s a bunch of garbage, I’m sure it’s not actually underwater, probably just muddy. I proceeded to run on said bridges. I’m not kidding. I was waist deep at one point about halfway and I’m way too stubborn to turn back. Finally I re-emerged from the bridges and still had about 2 miles to run to my house. My shoes were like 10 pound ankle weights with like moss and sticks hanging off them. I was laughing pretty hard at myself but also had this huge smile on my face. Let’s just say the roommates had a lot of questions when I got home.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
When you’re doing a super hard track workout and there’s a person walking in lane one that refuses to move.
What's your biggest fear?
Having to walk away from dreams I haven’t had the opportunity to fully pursue. Dreams change and evolve throughout our lives, but I believe that when you stop dreaming, you stop living.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobbies do you enjoy?
Coaching, playing with my two Australian Shepherds, hiking the mountains of Oregon and Washington, paddle boarding and swimming in lake Washington, beer tasting some west coast IPA’s
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
I really admire Sara Vaughn. She’s found a way to be consistently competitive despite obstacles with sponsorships, working full time, and having 4 children. Inspiring to say the least.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
This is hard. I’m lucky to have trained with some really phenomenal women and men over the years. Right now, I’d have to say Allie Schadler. We work really well together, approach training with the same mentality, and could be in the hurt shop together for a long time with the biggest smiles on our face.
What's next for you?
I’m not sure yet! I’m coming off of break. I strained my hamstring a few weeks ago, but I am planning on racing later on this summer on the track and maybe on the roads!
Click the links below to keep up with Allison Cash