Catching Up With Polina Carlson

Matt Orlando
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It certainly has been a long time since I shared any interviews with you all, so I figured with Spring just around the corner it was a good time to dust off this corner of the blog and start getting you all reconnected with some amazing runners out there! So while it won’t be every week or even every two weeks, I promise that I will be bringing you new interviews with both new friends and old. So I thought a great way to start off would be the same way I started off in 2015 by talking with professional runner Polina Carlson. Polina is part of Brooks Running’s Inspire Daily program, a network of more than 700 ambassadors for the sport of running and is made of coaches and elite athletes.

When I last spoke with Polina in 2015, she was looking forward to a promising racing season while taking full advantage of living in the beautiful state of Hawaii. Today I catch up with her and talk 2015, the Olympic trials, and what her outlook is for 2016. So without further delay, let’s hear from Polina.

Polina, we last spoke in early 2015. How have you been since then?

Looking back, 2015 was a year of growth for me. Big time. It taught me to embrace the saying, “You don’t lose; you either win or learn.” I had breakthrough races and PRs, but I also experienced a few very disappointing races and dealt with some injuries too. This year’s highlight for me was that I got to travel to 7 different states and make lifelong memories. That alone just blows my mind as it fulfilled so many travel dreams that once felt beyond my reach.  Even though I was injured for a couple of months, I still felt blessed that I encountered more healthy days than injured ones. I was able to take part in races like the New York Half-Marathon and Stanford 10K, where I raced against the best runners in the nation! I’m learning that life can surprise me and bring me moments beyond anything I ever believed possible.

What are some of the highlights (and low-lights) from your 2015 training and racing? What lessons did you learn along the way?

In the beginning of 2015 racing season, I felt strong and healthy. During the spring, I achieved personal records in many distances from the indoor 3000m to the half-marathon. It was a like a dream come true! But two months later, right before my marathon I got injured. I tried to ignore the symptoms, and still ran the marathon. Afterwards, it took more than three months for me to recover from that injury. Getting back in running shape wasn’t easy. I struggled both physically and emotionally. My great lesson, despite there being so many this year, was that I needed to go back and retrace my steps on how I first fell in love with  this sport, what it first meant to me, and why I do it. All of my soul-searching truly enabled me see that I wasn’t so far away from my goals after all. They were still in me and within reach, so I didn’t take my eyes off them no matter the difficulties surrounding my ability to reach them. After my injury was healed, I tried to get my groove back and just simply enjoy running again. I started doing a lot of my runs on  trails to change things up. In December, I was happy to place second at the XTERRA World Trail Championship 21K.  It was a great race which brought back the good memories!

What emotions did you have watching the recent US Olympic Marathon trials?

I had a mixture of emotions from the watching the US Olympic Marathon trials. I couldn’t help feeling excited and awestruck thinking about all the passion and all the dreams toeing the line on that day. I cried my eyes out watching Amy and Shalane supporting each other together through those miles and at the finish line. The women’s finish was beautiful. I loved watching Meb’s post-race interview; his heart shines bright even when he’s gently chastising a fellow runner.

How do you feel about the strength of the US Marathon team, and how do you think they’ll fare in Rio?

I think that the US team is incredibly strong, and they’ve proven it by showing an outstanding performance in LA under the toughest conditions possible! After seeing their gutsy display of strength, courage, and selfless teamwork, I have no doubt that Team USA will have great chances to medal in Rio.

When we last spoke you were in the process of applying for citizenship. What is your current status? Do you still hope to one day run for Team USA?

I’ve been living in the US for almost half of my life now and becoming a part of team USA is my biggest dream. I’m on my way to becoming a US citizen which will be in the summer of 2017.  As for now, I’m simply happy to be able to train and compete as I get more experience in bigger races and work towards improving as a runner.

So what does 2016 look like for you?

In the beginning of 2016, track has found its way back into my run life. I feel like there is something special about running around a track and working for it that is hard to match anywhere else. The track workouts aren’t always fun, so sometimes it’s just about getting the job done. As I glanced over my previous seasons of running, my most consistent seasons were the ones where I was doing a lot of speed work. You can’t lie, fake, or pretend during speed work. You simply hit your pace or you don’t. You grow. As for now, I am more happy than you can imagine to be back to speed. That being said, I’m hoping all my track work will pay off, and I’ll be able to PR in the 5K this Spring. In the fall, I’ll most likely start focusing on the marathon again and chase my goal of breaking 2:35.

In closing, do you have any advice for young girls who are just starting out running?

I want to inspire the young girls to dream big and to know that the possibilities are endless. I also would want them to know that when you place your faith in something bigger than yourself it’s easier to trust the path.

Be sure to leave some love and support for Polina in the comments section below!