Running happy with Erika Kemp

2:33:57, Two thirty-three fifty-seven. We’ll get to that number eventually and what the significance of what that number represents and what it took to get to that exact number, which was achieved back on April 17th, 2023, by Erika Kemp in her marathon debut, talk about dropping the hammer and making a statement!!! If you pay close attention, you know what runners are up and coming and are ready for a major debut, Erika was one of them. If you’ve been following us through the years, you know that we tend not to focus solely on the successes of runners but more specifically the work that it took to reach that goal, because as we all know running takes a type of commitment that pushes us to our limits both mentally and physically. 

MSM: First we’d like to say what you’ve accomplished is damn amazing for a marathon debut, we’ll get to that eventually. But for our readers let's talk about how and when you got into running. What was Erika’s running journey like early on?

Erika: I got into running in high school, specifically freshman year indoor track because our soccer coach also happened to be the track coach and talked me into giving it a shot. It wasn’t an instant love for the sport but once I started, I just kept going and am still running competitively to this day.

MSM: As a fellow runner we can usually pinpoint the exact race that when we know that we are indeed in as a runner, whether it be on the track or pavement, what was that moment for you on the track when you knew that this was indeed it, where you knew you were going to devote the time and dedication to be the best.

Erika: My senior year of high school at our county divisional championships when I went for the 800, 1600 and 3200 triple and pulled it off. Between the range of the events, the limited recovery and how hard I was able to push myself because I wanted them all that day, I remember feeling that feeling that THIS was my sport. 

MSM: I feel like everyone got a whiff of what you did in Boston but aren't aware that most of your running success has been built on the track, give our readers some insight into some of your run stats. Don’t be shy here, drop some of those run stats for our readers.

Erika: In college I was a 5 time All-American on the track with a best finish of 5th, 8-time ACC All-Conference with 5 podium finishes and a title in the indoor 3000m. My track PBs for 5000m and 10000m are 15:10 and 31:35 which I ran en route to qualifying for and competing at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

MSM: There’s a commitment that we touched on earlier that runners have that's really a different type of mentality, where you approach your training differently, your diet, your rest etc. I want to get into what your training on the track consists of, we’ll get to the marathon part in a bit. Personally, I find the track to be more difficult but that's just doing speed work once or twice a week. What's the standard weekly training on the track like for you?

Erika: Personally, I find the track, more so the track training to be more exciting! Weekly training would consist of two bigger track workouts, one a bit faster and one more focused on endurance closer to 10k-half marathon pace and some strides on or off the track once or twice that week with one of my regular runs. There’s almost always a long run on the weekend and a medium long run midweek unless the schedule calls for something else. Any non-workout or non-long run day is just runs between 30 and 70 minutes.

MSM: This year was a bit of a transition for you when it came to coaching, training and sponsorship. You started with a new run coach, Kurt Benninger, what was that transition like for you, what were some of the new things and challenges that your new coach implemented into your training?

Erika:The transition was smooth; we talked a lot about what I had been doing and the types of things in training that gave me confidence and where I could definitely make improvements over time and just built around that. I definitely have a tendency to want to always hit home runs when it comes to workouts though sometimes with that approach I’d end up with some strikeouts. Kurt challenged me to focus on consistency and working to make those would be fails or throwaways into productive days of training.

MSM: Speaking of training, let's talk about the transition from the track to marathon training and the process. What were some of the successes and challenges that you faced; more so how does one go from track into marathon training? 26.2 miles is a huge challenge and change, I'm also pretty sure there had to be some pain points and adjustments.

Erika: The distance itself was probably the biggest challenge. I had been competing on the track and the roads for a couple years, so it wasn’t that wild of a change for me. At the end of the day running is running regardless of the distance or venue. If you are going to tackle a longer distance just know it’s going to be a slow burn compared to that fast intense one, you’ll feel in shorter races. Mentally preparing to be running for over 2hrs was the biggest adjustment there was but that’s what practice is for. We didn’t go much over 2hrs but getting to and over that barrier for me was huge.

MSM: Why the marathon? What was it that made you want to give that distance a try?

Erika: It’s iconic. The longer answer is that it is something I and people in my corner thought I could be great at, and I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try. And being around the event and experiencing it as a spectator where you are crying tears of joy for strangers conquering the distance does make you want to get out there someday and do it yourself.

MSM: Running at times can be very solitary, solo early morning runs, evening runs, and the occasional group run, most of the time on the weekends or the occasional weekly meetup. To train for a marathon is one thing but to find folks that can keep/hold the pace that we are looking for is another. Who were some of the folks that have pushed you along the way that have helped you to become a stronger faster runner?

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