Alicia Shay and Fourteen Thousand Sheep
The 2007 USA 20K Champion returns to racing after five years away
by The Trailer
“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’
“He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’
“In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” - Job 2:9-10
Flagstaff – Alicia Shay has had every reason to curse God and die. But she hasn’t.
The two-time NCAA 10,000-meter champion was a 25-year-old newlywed when her husband Ryan, also a top American runner, died during the early part of 2008 Olympic team trials marathon. She withdrew from the 10,000m at the 2008 Olympic team trials, and since then has been largely absent during the last Olympic cycle.
First it was fatigue (later accredited to celiac disease), and then it was a labral tear in her hip. “It was just this cycle of feeling a little better, and then things would flare up again, and feeling a little better, and things flaring up. I kept going in circles trying to figure out the root of the problem,” she says.
But after losing her running, Shay, 30, is finally, finally back.
In June, she won Transrockies Run3, a three-day stage race in Colorado that covers 58.4 miles, in what she describes as a feeling-out of her hip. She stomped the poor second-place woman by over 47 minutes. Needless to say, the hip is fine.
Since then, Shay has been doing workouts fed to her from her coach Mike Smith, the head of women’s cross country at Georgetown, and last week contacted the USA Running Circuit regarding the USA 10-Mile Championships, hosted by the Medtronic TC 10 Mile on Sunday, October 7, in Minneapolis.
She’s been accepted. It will be her first road race in two years.
“I wish I had two more months, but I got to the point where I was like, you know what, I’m so thankful to be healthy again,” Shay says. “As long as I’m not going to hurt myself racing, I think it will be good just to start somewhere.”
Like she says, this is only the start. Shay was the USA 20K Champion in 2007, and says that the marathon is something she’s been drawn toward since she was a sophomore at Stanford. That is her goal—and maybe as soon as this fall.
“I think a lot of people want to create this perfect experience for their first debut marathon—and I think that’s great if you have the luxury. But for me, I think it would be good for me to just get experience in general,” she says.
Since the tragic event of her husband’s death at the 2008 trials marathon (hosted by the New York City Marathon in 2007), Shay has maintained close ties with the parent organization New York Road Runners. She confirms there have been preliminary talks, and she is waiting on how she feels after the 10 Mile Champs to make her decision.
“Coming at [the 10-miler] from the perspective that this isn’t the focal point of my racing season, I’m so anxious,” Shay says. “And just the way I am, my personality, I love racing. I thrive off it. So, yeah, I can’t wait to get out there and just roll, and then look for the next race, and the next one, and the next one.”
Alicia Shay is from Gillette, Wyo., and lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. She coaches online for legend Jack Daniels’ The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project.