Sunday, June 10, 2012


Heather winning the TC 1-mile.
With the Olympic Trials less than two weeks away, I thought it’d be a great time to catch up with Team USA Minnesota’s Heather Kampf. The 25-year-old middle distance star began her career as Heather Dorniden at Rosemount High School where she won state titles at 400m and 800m. At the University of Minnesota she was a 9-time all-American, including National Champion at 800m. Earlier this spring she won her first National title as a professional when she won the TC 1-mile. Tonight she takes one last crack at achieving the Olympic Games A-standard in the 800m at the Harry Jerome Track Classic in Vancouver. To hear how she does in her own words, you can follow Heather on her blog. (photo by Competitive Image).

Wow, the Olympic track trials now less than a two weeks away. Many of your competitors have been racing at meets like Payton Jordan, Oxy High Performance, and the Prefontaine Classic. Meanwhile, you’ve run a couple of road miles, raced twice in Brazil, and were a rabbit in the 800m at Prefontaine. How are you feeling about your training and racing as the meet approaches?
It is true that my season has looked a little bit different than other professionals. I can't say that I have avoided those highly competitive fields at Oxy and Peyton Jordan, I would have loved to be in those races, but I decided to manage my season similarly to how I want my performances to go throughout the season. I do not want to be at my peak shape in April or May, I need to perform my best in June and July. This weekend I am heading to the Harry Jerome Classic in Canada, and expect to compete against the best field of 800m runners that I have seen all year. Hopefully all my early season racing and great training will help me to rise to the level of competition I face.

Obviously, one of your goals is to make the Olympic team, but you are also chasing the Olympic A-standard of 1:59.89, which is about half a second faster than your PR of 2:00.41. Is achieving the standard just a matter of getting into the right race?
Yes, I think I am knocking on the door of a sub-2:00 performance. My workouts have been the best they ever have been, but I have been racing in some lower-key races in some pretty rough weather so far. I truly believe given the right competition, and a little bit of luck to have at least decent weather conditions, that time should come for me. Obviously running sub-1:59.9 in a half mile is no easy feat, or plenty more of us would do it on a regular basis. To get to that level of performance requires the right conditions race-wise, but also the right physical and mental preparations of the athlete. That is what is in my control, so I that is what I am working on every day to get there.

You were able to add your first National Title to your resume – a resume that now includes, State Champ, NCAA Champ and National Champ - when you won the TC-1 mile. How special was it to be able to do that in your home state?
Oh my goodness, to win the USA 1-Mile Title at home in Minneapolis was such a blast. Running that race, there wasn't a second that went by where I didn't hear someone cheering for me specifically. It felt like a home college meet, the way the fans were supporting me the entire length of the course. I especially love any opportunity to race in front of my family, my friends, and even the kids I coach (Apple Valley girls distance team). I felt such an outpouring of love from our incredible Minnesota running community, and wish I could equally pour out my gratitude to them. Last year I placed second at this race, which was already an incredible accomplishment for me, so to take that one step up on the podium, is bliss.

Your husband, Ben, was only a few seconds in front of you. Is he starting to get worried that you’re going to catch him?
I don't think Ben worries about me catching him. We've already established that everything 800m and shorter, I could probably take him, but anything longer than that is his game. Hopefully soon we will be able to change that to 1-mile and shorter. :)

How important is it to have a fellow runner in your corner supporting you along the way?
In all seriousness though, Ben is an incredible longer-distance athlete, and thus a great training partner for me on my long runs, longer workout days, and even just a buddy for my recovery runs. Ben has no coach and no extreme expectations riding on his running career, and yet he attacks it with equal determination and dedication as I do. This translates to healthy meals and early bed-times at the Kampf household, which is so essential to good training and racing for me. Having my husband, friends, and teammates with similar goals and aspirations as me makes this journey much more enjoyable, and it seems like much less of a sacrifice to live the life of a competitive athlete.

You’re only 25 years old. How long can you see yourself competing?
I just signed my contract with Asics through this year and next (2013), but I could see myself looking for a renewal after that if things are still going well. Running will always come with ups and downs, but if I still feel like I have more potential to discover, and I am still moving forward, middle distance runners can still be competitive at the national and international level into their low 30s. The priority for me is to continue to love this sport and stay healthy. So short answer to a long question, I plan on running until A) an injury stops me, B) I'm not having fun anymore, or C) I'm not getting any better.

Fellow Minnesotan, Olympian Carrie Tollefson, was mainly a 1500m runner, but eventually moved up to the 5000m. Is that something you could ever see yourself running?
For me, this would be like missing the team in the 800m, and taking a shot in the 1500m. I am qualified, and entered in both events for the Trials this year, and would totally take an outside shot at the team in the 1500m if the 800m doesn't pan out. In the future, I could see myself turning into primarily a 1500m runner, or perhaps even dabble in the 3000m Steeplechase, but for now I love the middle distance events!

You seem to enjoy giving back to the sport as you’re currently helping to coach at Apple Valley High School and you give speeches to kids. What is your message to the kids? And how can coaches and parents contact you if they’re interesting in having you speak to their group?
I absolutely love giving back to the running community. Coaching and volunteering at kids’ events makes me so happy. How fortunate am I to have been blessed with a gift that allows me to promote something I love to do that can perhaps positively influence the lives of young people as it has for me?! I've just begun speaking at camps, team dinners, and all-sport meetings for high schools in the area, and even will be heading to speak at a big sales conference in NYC this summer to talk about moving forward and momentum. My message to kids is oftentimes about what I have learned in sport over the years: good sportsmanship and being a good citizen, always giving your best so you have no regrets, paying attention to the details of sleep, nutrition, injury prevention, and academics, and believing that all things are possible, even when you get knocked down a bit. If anyone wants to contact me about speaking opportunities, I've opened up an email account specifically for my running connections:

How did you get first get involved with running?
My first running memories come from the mile run in Physical Education class. My goal was always to beat the boys. As I grew up, I got involved with gymnastics as my first sports-love, but my gymnastics coach, Jason Passeri, was the one who suggested I sign up for track in the spring. He would race us in the basement hallways of Rosemount High School as part of our conditioning. Generally speaking, he would give the girl a head start, and then chase her down, but I was one of the few athletes on the team that had to give him a head start. :)

What is your fondest running memory?
Oh gosh? Just one? I have so many great running memories: my first big breakout race in college where I went from being a 2:10 half-miler to a 2:03 half-miler stands out, the 2008 Big Ten Championships 600m race certainly ranks up there when I fell down with 200m to go, and had a miraculous come-back to win my heat. Honestly, most of my favorite running memories have more to do with practices with teammates, and the amazing people I have had the joy to meet and get to know along the way. Those are the things I get to carry with me beyond medals and accolades.

Running Minnesota: if you haven't seen "The Fall" be sure to check out this video;

What do you wish you’d know when you first started running?
I am perfectly happy with the fact that I knew nothing when I first got into running. I was running blind, essentially, and that youthful ignorance combined with my competitive spirit and a drive to develop is what really jump-started my career. When I first started, I just ran to race. There were no thoughts of pacing, or my ability level to limit what I could do in a competition. I ran to beat whoever stepped to the line next to me, and I try (though sometimes having knowledge clouds my ability to do so...) to take this attitude into my current professional races. I think if I knew then what I know now, it wouldn't have been as fun for me. I suppose the one thing I would tell newbie-runner-me if I could go back, is just to enjoy every second of it, and never take anything for granted. Running (as is life) is all about the journey, right?

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