After a 10-year hiatus, Amy Halseth is back racing - and racing well. At the end of 2010, the 41-year-old Minneapolis resident found herself in 2nd place in the 40-44 age group Runner of the Year rankings. She was smack-dab in the middle of perennial ROY contenders, Bonnie Sons and Sonya Decker. Sons has since moved up an age group and Decker will move up later this summer. That opens things up for Halseth, although she’ll have to contend with newly minted Masters runner, Willie Tibbetts. (Photo courtesy of Craig Yotter)
What do you do for a living?
I work for a pharmaceutical company as a disease specialist, focusing on cardiovascular disease and diabetes. I coordinate scientific training and material development for my team, which is made up of about 30 individuals, who are spread out across the country. To relate this to running: when I am in town, I work from home and have a lot of flexibility in my schedule (which is good), but I also do travel quite a bit which can make training a little more complicated.
Where have you been for the last 10 years? Did you make a conscious decision to stop running due to family, career, etc?
I moved to Minnesota in 2008. Prior to that, I was living in San Diego. I was active. I played soccer a few times a week, hiked, did some indoor climbing, but I did not running consistently. My last competitive running era was from 1995 – 1999. I was in graduate school in Nashville, had a pretty flexible schedule and found a great group to run with. In 1999, I moved to start a new job, put a lot of that energy into my work, found different (non-running) social circles, and so running went on the back burner.
What spurred your return to competitive running?
I always knew that “some day” I would get back into it, it was just a matter of that desire coming back and coinciding with life circumstances that were conducive to running. Fortunately, that desire came back around the time I moved to Minnesota. I did know that running could be a great way to get to know people and being new in town and working from home, I needed that! I also have to admit that masters competition sounded like something new and fun (I think I was 39 when I started running again).
What did you miss the most while you were away from the sport?
I missed striving for goals and seeing tangible results of your hard work (it’s a little harder to tell when you’ve set a PR at work), being “in shape” (although I was “in shape” for a regular person, I wasn’t compared to my idea of fitness), and the kinds of friendships that can develop from spending hours running with someone.
Any regrets from taking all that time off?
Not really. Even though I did miss aspects of running, I had fun pursuing other activities; I met my husband, drank more wine, and slept in occasionally. I think the time off actually allowed me to jump back in with a lot more energy than I might have had if I’d kept running over the years, both physically and mentally. Soccer helped me keep some speed, I didn’t have any lingering injuries, and seeing if I could run fast again was a brand new challenge.
Backing up even further, how did you initially get involved with running? Did you run in high school or college?
I started running competitively in high school. My coach was extremely charismatic, committed and focused, and did crazy things like taking 30 of us camping. It was a blast, and our teams were really competitive. I also ran in college at Occidental College, a Division III school in California, but I didn’t have the same drive and was pretty mediocre.
Now that you’re back at it, what are your goals for the year?
In the rest of the year, my main goal is to PR at the Twin Cities 10-Mile (last year I ran 1:04:03), and then I am thinking about a marathon in December.
Last year you nearly claimed your first Runner of the Year title, finishing 2nd to Bonnie Sons. Bonnie has moved up an age group, so do you have your sights set on that title?
I think age group running exemplifies “The Circle of Life” – Bonnie has moved up, but of course there is new competition, Willie Tibbets being a prime example. I’m just trying to do my best and let the “Runner of the Year” points fall where they may.
With your help, the Foley & Mansfield team is in the thick of the team circuit. How much does that play into your plans for the year?
Running with the Foley & Mansfield team has been really fun, and the team circuit definitely drives my racing season. I like that the races aren’t too frequent, span a variety of distances, and being on the circuit seems to guarantee great competition.
How do your first and second running career PRs compare?
I have a mix of “first career” (1994-1999) and “second career” (2009 to present) PRs . My 5K (17:33) and marathon (3:01:32) PRs are from 1999, but I’ve run lifetime PRs this year at 8K (30:13), 10K (38:29) and the half marathon (1:25:03). I ran 18:23 for 5K this year – so I seem to have lost some speed over the years.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
Strengths: My husband once described me as “sturdy and reliable,” and while that isn’t the most romantic thing he’s ever said, it is actually pretty true. I seem to be able to handle a relatively high workload without breaking down (“sturdy”) and once I’m committed to something, I will be incredibly dedicated and do whatever it takes to stick to my plan and get things done (“reliable”). If that means 17 mile runs on the treadmill, running crazy early to catch a morning flight, or bringing my foam roller with me on every trip (and using it!) -- no problem. Ironically, he said this to me before he even knew me as a runner.
Weaknesses: Trashy Bravo “reality” shows, ice cream, and Saturday afternoon naps. Running-wise, I’ve lost a little of the top-end speed I used to have, but I really can’t complain.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I don’t have enough Minnesota history to pull from to give a good answer, so I’d have to say all of the current running friends I’ve made here. From my Foley & Mansfield teammates to my Sunday morning buds, I just love how smart, funny, fast, witty, and kind everyone is. One of my favorite things about long runs especially is that you’ve got time to hear the “long story” and you end up learning so much about people.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I wish that I hadn’t prematurely set limits on what I was capable of doing. This was mostly an issue in college – I just didn’t think I could improve to another level even with hard work, so I used that as an excuse to slack off way more than I should have. Now, when I think about a new goal, if my first thought to myself is “Oh, I can’t do that” I am sure to follow it up with “Well, why not?” and at least give it a shot. This is a hobby, I’m not trying to perform brain surgery, so what’s the worst that can happen if I go for it?