Shannon has been running ever since she can remember. Both of her parents were track athletes. They ran at Eastern Michigan University together and raced in the 1988 Olympic trials. They continued to run recreationally throughout their lives, so she has been hanging out at tracks even before she could walk. She got her first taste of competitive running at her elementary school’s running club when she was in second grade, and had the desire to become a professional runner ever since. She graduated from the University of Michigan in May of 2016 and signed with the running brand Saucony for a year, then in 2018 transitioned into a contract with Nike who she is still with today.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I will be a runner for as long as I can, even when I end my professional running career. I really enjoy the lifestyle as well as the running community. The sport has had such a positive impact on my life. I have always had a good relationship with it. It feels good mentally and physically to be a runner, and I feel very grateful that I am able to pursue this as a career.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
There are definitely days when its tough to get out the door. I think during those times it’s important to focus on how it’s going to feel a couple miles into a run and after the run, those feelings are all good. Once I am out the door there is no resistance, it’s sometimes just a matter of getting through the initial mental push back of lacing up the shoes. Meeting up for runs with my friends is also an easy fix on days I am unmotivated. I forget I am even putting work in, it just feels like a hangout session.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
I am very excited for 2020! I will be hyper-focused on doing everything in my power to make sure I am ready for the Olympic Trials in June. I think I have proved this year that I will be a contender for a top 3 spot in the 1500 at the Trials.
What is your favorite distance to run?
I love all the distances 800 meters to 5K. I get equally excited to run any of those events, but the event I am best at is the 1500, so I suppose if I had to pick a favorite it would be that one! It’s such a challenging event physically and mentally, it’s short enough where the pace may never feel comfortable but long enough where you still have to make an effort to stay mentally engaged and push through some major discomfort.
With all the athletes in the world, what's it like to be ranked in the top 20 in the 1500?
It makes me excited to see that there are so many talented and hard-working athletes in the world, it is encouraging to be ranked amongst the top 20 of them. I am especially grateful for my position in the rankings because I have found it very difficult getting into high ranking category meets such as Diamond Leagues and World Challenge meets where the points are better and times are faster. These things play a huge role in the rankings. I hope to maintain my position in the rankings by the end of the year because top 20 in the world opens doors for further support from USATF, things such as health care and additional funding.
Of all the wins in each distance, which has been the most memorable to you?
I would have to say my most recent win in Poland has got to be the most impactful 1st place I have achieved yet. It is meaningful to me because it was my last opportunity of the season to hit a time that more accurately represented my fitness level and capabilities. I was put on the wait list for several of the high caliber meets this year that were being paced at the times I wanted. Eventually, I stopped considering not being in a diamond league a barrier, and committed to getting it done by myself if I had to. I made the attempt in Belarus at the USA vs Europe Match leading all but the last 300 meters of the race. I fell short of my goal, but I knew it was a good sign that I ran 4:04 almost entirely alone. I was scheduled to fly back to the States after that race, but was approached by the meet director of a race that was happening 3 days later in Poland. It was at that race that I achieved everything I could have hoped for in terms of capping off my season. I ran the Olympic Standard and achieved a huge personal best of 4:01.8. I was lead through the first 800 meters of the race then competed against the clock the last 700. It wasn't until I knocked down what I thought was a barrier that I was able to achieve my goal.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
I get in strength training at least twice a week. Typically I am not lifting anything too heavy, most of my exercises include low weight and high reps. I focus a lot on body stability, working to strengthen the little muscles and prevent injury. I also really enjoy fitness classes such as Barre, Yoga, and Pilates, which also fit into the theme of low weight high rep exercises with emphasis on overall body stability/strength.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
I once was chased by a wild turkey!
What's your favorite types of fuel for running?
I try and stick with very simple foods. I stay away from fruits and vegetables and eat mostly breads and bars, foods that will give me energy but not upset my stomach. I enjoy things like a nice turkey sandwich and the nut butter filled cliff bars on race day! I enjoy espresso pre-race.
Does your pre-race routine change at all depending on the distance you're racing?
My pre-race routine stays pretty consistent when I race anything 800 to 5K. It typically consists of a morning shake out and strides and then a lot of lounging up until the race.
What's your favorite cheat food & drink?
I love a good charcuterie board and a glass of wine!
If you could only give one tip to a runner looking to improve their mile time, what would it be?
I would say get as familiar as possible with the pain of the third lap, that's the lap that can make or break your race, and is the hardest to stay on pace and engaged for.
Do you prefer running on the road or the track?
I really enjoy both! Road miles and 5K's are such a blast and being on the road takes the pressure off when it comes to time. But the track is great for spectating and fast times, and the stadium settings are sometimes really cool!
Do you like ice baths?
Yes! I love ice baths, more then ice baths though, I like contrast baths, which entails switching between hot and cold tubs. I feel like it helps my muscles recover fast after a hard workout.
In your free time when you’re not running, what other hobby’s do you enjoy?
I enjoy going to the driving range, reading, yoga, dancing, and cooking!
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Keep things simple, no need to overthink things such as pace and distance, just get out the door and enjoy the motion of running.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
I think my biggest strength when it comes to running is my mental head space while doing it. I genuinely enjoy running and racing. I know a lot of people who get stressed and have anxiety before racing, and I feel grateful that I have been able to maintain a positive relationship with the sport. A weakness is that I have to remind myself to do the little important things before running, band work, muscle activation, and sufficient stretching. These things help with injury prevention but it’s easy to just want to get the run done without the extra work.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
I look up to Nicole Sifuentes. She has been a great role model for me and has given me a lot of valuable advice. She is very authentic and passionate, and has great work ethic.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
I have a great crew to train with. Practices with Amanda Eccleston, Jaime Phelan, and Nicole Sifuentes are always a blast. We are all very different but somehow get along perfectly. I feel really lucky to have such amazing training partners.
What's next for Shannon Osika?
It’s time to get ready for the 2020 Olympic Trials!
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