The following article originally was published in the Summer 2017 July/August/September issue of Pace Running Magazine
Austin Steagall, Age: 24, Greenville, SC
Which is your favorite Greenville race? The TD Bank Reedy River Run 10K would have to be my favorite Greenville race. This race attracts great athletes from all over and it provides a challenging course, which gives you a good understanding of your current fitness level. This year was my first year competing in the Reedy River Run and I was fortunate enough to come out with the win. I plan to return next year.
What inspired you to start running? The hurdle events are what attracted me to running. I never thought in a million years I would have become a distance runner. In the eighth grade, after playing football and baseball my entire life, my friend (Eddie Sutton) and I decided to go out for track and field together - to run hurdles. Long story short, after a few weeks of training for the 400 hurdles, my high school coach (Kevin Hammett) convinced me to run a one-mile time trial on the track one day after practice. After having watched me run for a few weeks, he was convinced that I was not a hurdler, I was a distance runner. I ended up finishing the time trial in six minutes, without any endurance training, and my coach was amazed. With his amazement, I quickly changed my mind about event I wanted to compete in on the track. Although I had no idea about distance running, my coach’s reaction made me want to find out.
After you graduated from Gaffney High School, you were offered the opportunity to run for Spartanburg Methodist College (SMC) by Coach Mike Foley. Can you share with us some of your racing accomplishments for SMC? First of all, if it were not for Mike Foley I would not be in the position I am in today. As a senior in high school, I became anemic. This caused me to lose many college opportunities, schools did not want to take the risk on me because I had basically lost all fitness that I had worked so hard to get over the years. But, Coach Foley had been watching my career develop for many years and never lost the belief that I could become a strong distance runner. I corrected my anemia and I got started under Mike Foley’s program. It took about a year and a half to get my iron levels and fitness back to where I had been. Some accomplishments I was able to obtain at SMC were: Eight school records, NJCAA Half Marathon All-American honors (sixth place) and second place at the NJCAA Cross Country Championships in 2012. I bettered my fitness level each year I was there. So, thank you Coach Foley for believing in me!
You are a member of the ASICS Greenville Track Club-ELITE. What made you decide to join this post-collegiate Olympic development program and what are your events? I joined because I was one hundred percent sure that I was not ready to hang up my spikes and let go of such a special talent God had given me. I knew in my heart that I had more to prove to myself and I knew if I did not take the opportunity God has placed in front of me, I would regret it for life. After being with ASICS GTC-ELITE for a year, I could not be happier with my decision and I have improved since day one. I look forward to what the future holds. As for my events, I am currently focused on the 3,000 meter steeplechase and the 5,000 meter race on the track.
As the Elite program states: “Olympic development” - is your ultimate goal to qualify for the Olympic team? Will you share with us what that will require? Yes, making the Olympic team would be exactly what I am after, but I have to get to the Olympic Trials first. Completing this goal will require me to continue to believe I can do it. It will take consistent training (staying injury free) and remembering to do the little things. Little things such as getting the correct amount of sleep, proper nutrition after each session, drills, stretching, active release therapy, etc. I can’t take any shortcuts to achieve this goal, although there are days where I don’t want to get out of bed. With that being said, I have two and a half years until the 2020 Olympics and I plan to do everything in my power to make my goals a reality.
How has training full-time with Coach Mike Caldwell in a group dynamic benefited your running and racing experience? Training for Coach Mike has benefited me in ways I can’t fully explain. Coach Mike has changed my entire outlook on running! I had never valued the science behind running until meeting Coach Mike. After many discussions with him about the science behind running and making changes to my training, I truly believe I have become a better all-around athlete. I have seen improvement since day one and I have no doubt that there is more to come. As for racing experience, I feel like I am truly blessed. GTC-ELITE has given me so many great opportunities to compete with other great athletes and I am truly thankful.
Congratulations on winning the 2017 Greenville News Run Downtown (a course record of 14:14) and first at the Reedy River 10K! Is there a half marathon in your future? For now, there are no half marathons in the future. Although I have completed half marathons in the past, I plan on putting my focus on races 10K and under. If I do end up doing any half marathons, they will be used strictly as strength work for my shorter races.
What has been your most rewarding running experience? My most rewarding running experience was when I placed second in the 2016 NCAA DII Track and Field National Championships in the steeplechase. I had never raced the steeplechase before 2016 and I am extremely happy I did because it has opened up a new door to my running career. Now the steeplechase is one of my main events and I plan to see how much I can accomplish in the event.
What are your race plans for the remainder of the year? I will be taking a short break from racing before starting my fall season in September. Although I have not yet sat down with my coach to finalize my race schedule, I am pretty positive I will be returning to these races; Cow Harbor 10K, Lake Nona 10K, and Richmond 8K. Although Coach Mike may have some other races in mind that will be added to the schedule, my main focus for the remainder of the year will be to prepare for the USATF 5K Championships in November and the USATF Club Cross Championships in December.
Do you prefer racing on the track or the road? Although I enjoy both, I would have to say I prefer to race on the track. I just really value the fact that I am able to update myself on pace each 400 meters, whereas on the roads, pace updates are each mile. Also, I really enjoy hearing the fans the entire race, whereas on the roads there are bits and pieces of the race where there are no fans. The track has stolen my heart.