Vanessa got her start in running when she was in the 3rd grade by participating in the Girls on the Run program. She quickly fell in love with the process of setting goals and working hard to get better at running. She ran for 5 years at Stanford where she was a 10 time NCAA All American. She graduated in 2018 (BS in Symbolic Systems, MS in Management Science & Engineering) and then signed a contract with Nike to run professionally with the Bowerman Track Club. She recently set a personal best in the 5000 meters, running 14:48.5, just a second shy of the indoor American Record.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I just want to see how good of a runner I can be. I get as close to reaching my ultimate potential as possible.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
I remind myself of my long term goals and even if I am not looking forward to getting out the door, it’s enough to make me do it.
What's your favorite distance to race?
The 5K! This is the distance I first fell in love with when I did Girls on the Run. I think it hurts in the best way. It’s not too short, but not too long.
What was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome while balancing track and school at Stanford?
Learning that it was okay to not be “perfect” in school. Sometimes that meant putting the books away by 10 p.m. and getting rest for a big workout the next day.
What has been your biggest lesson since going pro?
Be patient with yourself. Improvement in running takes time and it can feel like you are grinding forever without getting much validation or results. Success will happen if you keep at it long enough.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
We do gym workouts 3 times per week. It is mostly body weight type training and lifting. We do squat/deadlift, some heavier weight once per week. I think loaded single leg calf raises have helped my running because it has helped me have healthy achilles tendons which can be a pain point for a lot of runners, including myself.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
A pigeon flew right into my teammate while we were running once! The bird was okay, but it left some blood on her shirt!
What's your favorite types of fuel before a race?
PB&J on white bread. It’s easily digestible and a good combo of carbs and protein.
What's your biggest fear?
Flying on planes, even though I travel a lot for my job.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
Touching food without clean hands.
What can you tell us about the Bowerman track club?
It is the most inspiring group of people I’ve ever worked with! We challenge each other to be better every day. We are competitive but also very supportive and we have fun!
Who would you say is the funniest teammate?
Marielle Hall is hilarious. She somehow can turn people’s mundane comments into humor.
Do you like ice baths?
Not really. I prefer to recover with Normatec and massage.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
Hanging out with friends, playing games, and eating at good restaurants. The simple things.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Give it time! It’s not going to always feel good or easy at first but it will get better, and that’s the best feeling in the world when it does.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
My strength is my aerobic capacity and my weakness is my finishing speed at the end of races. It’s just how I am genetically. But I’m always working on improving my leg speed.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
All of my teammates. They have all accomplished amazing things and continue to strive for things beyond what I have ever imagined possible.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
I like running with Karissa and Shelby on recovery days at altitude camp because they like to take it nice and slow. They smash their track workouts and then run easy on the days in between!
If you could compete in one Field event, which would you choose?
Pole Vault. It would be cool to be able to propel yourself that high in the air.
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