Hey, Tommy Rivs here. The athlete I have the honor of introducing you to today is Alissa (McKaig) Doehla. Alissa is well known among professional distance running with an 8th place finish at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and a time of 2:31:56, as well as twice representing Team USA at the World Championships. Recently she’s shaken things up in the world of professional Triathlon being named the sport’s top Rookie in 2017 with 4 Top 3 finishes in Ironman 70.3 races. I had a chance to catch up with Alissa, who lives in NC with her Husband Kyle and their Great Dane Frankie. I loved everything she had to say. This is a good one guys. You’re in for a treat.
TR: First off, I have to say that I am so inspired by your athletic journey up to this point. SO many layers! The more I read, the more I want to know. I know we’re just going to be able to scratch the surface, but maybe we can start way back, at the very beginning.
AD: Thank you! That is really nice of you to say.
TR: No, thank you! Ok, so can you remember your very first experience running?
AD: I grew up running while playing soccer, but I didn’t run just to run until I was 14 years old. I had back surgery that year to correct pars defect, basically fractures in my vertebrae, and I had taken a lot of time off from sports to recover. Running seemed like a great way to get back to fitness for soccer. My mom used to run, so she strapped on some rollerblades and showed me her old running routes. I loved the feeling of accomplishment I felt after running and immediately started trying to beat my time from earlier runs. Looking back, I am so grateful for that injury. It introduced to me a sport that became my passion and livelihood, but I also got to spend so much quality time with my mom at an age when I really needed her.
TR: When did you first begin to run competitively? Were you good at it right away, or was it something that you had to work at?
AD: I refused to run competitively for about a year and a half after starting to run. I didn’t really know what cross country was and running loops around a track looked dumb and boring, so I just ran on my own for fun. Before my sophomore year of high school, I had a soccer coach who happened to also love running. He knew I ran every day, and basically nagged me until I agreed to give cross country a try. I was able to do both soccer and cross country that fall, so I didn’t have to give up soccer right off the bat which was the only way I would agree to try! I loved it. I was pretty good right away, which was enough to encourage me to pursue running only.
TR: That’s amazing. There are so many great runners who start out as soccer players. Honestly if I could design a youth program to create durable, gritty, hardworking runners, it would be just that – “Play soccer for 10 years, then come try out this running thing”.
Ok, now 2:31:56 and 8th place at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials… Unfortunately, in the world of running we have a bad habit of reducing runners down to a single time or a performance. That becomes the only thing people remember and the one-liner that some people use to describe you, and even to introduce you in certain circles. I hate that, and I hate even more to do that to you… So I won’t. I’ll instead refer to you as the athlete with a Great Dane. But dang, that’s fast. I pace some of the pro female runners who train in Flagstaff who have run right around that time, so I actually know exactly how fast that is. It’s really, really, fast. Can you share a little bit about that experience?
AD: Thank you for recognizing Frankie the Greatest Dane as the awesome pup that she is! If I am only known as the athlete with the Great Dane, I am totally okay with that. She is the coolest.
The 2012 Trials Marathon was one of the best runs of my career for sure. I knew I was in great shape and that if I just ran my race, I could do some good work. My coach, Pete Rea of ZAP Fitness, knew what I was capable of (even if I thought that 5:45 pace was a bit aggressive); so I told myself that I would simply run 5:45’s as long as I could and if I blew up, it wasn’t my fault…it was his! Ha! I think that helped me to have the courage to take that risk. I went out in a pack that ended up being a bit slower than I wanted to run and so I moved away from them and just kept going. It was a surreal experience as I passed women that I looked up to and ran my way into 8th place.
*As you can see, Alissa is an incredibly accomplished athlete with an inspiring story to boot. Stay tuned for part 2 of her interview with Dr. Puzey! Posting in the coming weeks.
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