Stephanie is a professional runner hoping to secure a sponsorship while continuing to compete at the highest level. She is a University of Arkansas alumni, an 8 time All-American and NCAA Champion.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I have a couple of answers to this. First, I truly believe that I still have a lot left in my body. This sport at a professional level only lasts for so long. My path since college hasn’t been a super easy one, I have had a lot to overcome as an athlete. I believe it has been making me an overall better person. Which leads me to my second reason: I hope to inspire others and be a positive influence in the sport. I have been telling myself to never give up until it’s not in my heart anymore, and I want to show that if you have a dream it’s worth going through tough times for.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
It is pretty simple for me. I just think of the days of being injured where I remember praying to God that I would be able to run again. That truly motivates me and makes me so grateful that my prayers have been answered. That I get to run and don’t have to run.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
I actually have had a lot of switches in my goals since back surgery. I just really want to compete again and be an athlete that I would look up to. I also want to share my running and journey with others. I started posting and being transparent about training on Instagram and Strava since I had surgery. Being as open as I can and answering everyone who asks for advice is my goal.
Can you tell us how you injured your back and what kind of injury it was?
I herniated a disc in my back November 16th, 2019. I did it doing hang cleans in the weight room. I was really fatigued going into the lift after doing 6 miles of tempo training. I went straight into the lift afterwards...which I did because I was working so much to support myself and honestly just didn’t have time to spread out my training. Recovery is important for every part of training!
How was the recovery and how has it felt since the surgery?
I have been doing really well! It has not been a linear process but I have been steadily climbing back to fitness. I have had a lot of atrophy with those large muscle groups in my legs and especially where I have nerve damage. I didn’t run or exercise for 8 months. This has been challenging, but it has made me be more diligent in my rehab, recovery, and patience.
What's one of the toughest parts about being an unsponsored pro athlete?
Obviously supporting yourself financially while still trying to live the dream is a huge struggle. That’s a no brainer, but also it is mentally taxing to not be sponsored. It’s something you have to overcome internally, it’s hard to not attach your worth in running and sponsors. Trying not to compare your sponsorship situation to your direct competitors is hard, especially when you beat them as much as they beat you in races. Human instinct is to say “what’s wrong with me, why am I not good enough?” and then we search for those answers. I am not perfect, I have seen my worth through running most of my life, and it’s something I’m still working on.
Do you feel like getting sponsored would help improve your overall performance?
Absolutely, it would be such a huge sigh of relief to become sponsored. I was really emotionally struggling after the 2018 outdoor season, I really thought something would happen for me. I let that dictate my life and overextended myself and ended up hurt. Granted, I also think things happen for a reason and I am thankful for my struggles. In the end time management is hard for unsponsored athletes, but I love Running/Track & Field to my core. Sponsorship or not, you can bet I’ll be out there to win.
Is your middle name really purple?
At this point, I’m just going to say yes. My parents would probably argue with me on this one though.
What was it like being ranked in the top 50 in the 1500 meters and top 75 in the 800 meters?
I really didn’t pay attention to the rankings. All I know is, that season in 2018 was awesome and I had so much fun racing. I felt like there was so much more to give that season. So I’m striving to finish some business and get those rankings closer to the top in the process.
What has been your most memorable race to date?
NCAA Division 1 West Regionals 2011 at Hayward. I ran 2:02.59 for the win & regional record. Winning my heat on Oregon’s track against the 2 Oregon girls was awesome. My whole team was past the finish line freaking out after I ran that, and I was in shock with my time. It was one of those beautiful moments we all keep coming back for. The ultimate runner’s high.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
Well weight training has changed a lot for me since surgery. It is a lot of rehab and single leg movements. But I believe deadlifting has helped me the most with my running. Building that power is key. My favorites lifts are bench press and pull ups though!
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
This is so hard to answer. I think one of my most memorable moments was back in cross country season my Sophomore year of college. When Alabama was in town to play the Hogs in football the entire street was filled with students camping out for over a week before the game! It was like a block party out there. Our weight room was on that street, so we got out of weights and went for our run. I told the Ladybacks on my team that we were going to call the hogs while we were running down the middle of the road (as the sidewalks were taken by tents, students, and coolers). They reluctantly joined in and everyone camping joined, they were die hard after all! It was so awesome and I’m really glad we went through with it. Woo Pig Soooie!
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I love cooking and I love art in almost every form. Painting, photography, and scrapbooking. Creating is my jam.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
Ce’Aira Brown. She is technically a competitor of mine. But her spirit and vibe is awesome. I love that she pushes herself creatively as well as athletically and has faith in God’s plan. Also, retired athlete Christin Wurth Thomas. I got to watch her work super hard first hand. She was my training partner my first 2 years of school. She still gives me advice to this day. And she broke 4:00 in the 1500 meters 2 years in a row.
What can you tell about your Chef page?
It started because I was just cooking and posting my food on my story every now and again. Eventually a lot of people were asking for recipes, so I just made a page. It’s nothing super serious, just me sharing what creations I come up with. Cooking is super high on my list of passions
What's next for Stephanie Brown?
Well, I’m not entirely sure with this season and how it looks. I have ideas in my head of when I’ll compete and be ready but I’m not absolutely positive. I’m going to hit up a road race here in Ohio (eventually depending on Covid-19) and get on the track if I can. I’m very nervous and excited, but most of all incredibly grateful to be doing what I love again.
Click the links below to keep up with Stephanie Brown