Mary Cain address an audience of more than 200 at Cal U's annual cross country summer camp.
Professional runner Mary Cain shared the ups and downs of her career as part of Cal U’s annual cross country summer camp.
Cain, now 23, turned pro before she turned 18. She told her story — “beating the boys” as a child, setting several world and American junior records, and facing injuries and pressures as a professional athlete — to an audience of more than 200 people in Steele Hall Aug. 7.
“One of the reasons why I coach, am here tonight and have not left the sport is the community aspect,” said Cain, a coach at New York’s Mile High Run Club.
“If I can help someone else who is struggling and help pull them out of it, I think I will feel much better than holding on to some record I don’t even know that I have.”
Cain, 23, a native of Bronxville, N.Y., set numerous high school records before becoming the youngest runner in history to make the 1500-meter final at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships. She finished 10th as a 17-year-old in August 2013.
In 2014, the year she turned pro, Cain won the 3000-meters event at the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., and the 1500-meters event at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M.
But injuries and pressures mounted.
“I had to ask myself again why I run, redevelop my love and relationship with running, and kind of go back to being the kid who just enjoyed the challenge and having fun,” she said.
“I was able to put my goals in the rear-view mirror, focus on the process and give my body the chance to get ready to run.”
She won the New York Road Runners’ Japan Four Mile Race in Central Park in May, after not competing for more than two years due to injury.
In May, she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business administration from Fordham University.
“I wanted to go to college and be a college student, take classes and not be an NCAA runner,” she said. “I wanted to create what, for me, was a more authentic college experience.”
Cain told the audience that while breaking two minutes in the 800-meters was her favorite moment, her most fulfilling runs are not on the competitive track.
“I am most fulfilled by my day-to-day runs,” Cain said. “When I go out in the rain not wanting to do a two-hour run but my friends are there and we slog it out and then have brunch afterward.”
Cain urged athletes to find balance in their training to stay healthy.
“Training is where we can really maximize our performance and teach our body how to handle running at certain paces but recovery is where we absorb that and rest is where we build muscle.
“The big thing is learning to be able to listen to your body.”
Jeremy Romano, a senior cross country and track and field runner at River Hill High School in Howard County, Md., appreciated Cain’s insights.
“Her running a mile in 5:12 as a seventh-grader was something that stuck with me,” he said. “She really stands out as a person the way she was so comfortable sharing things with us.”