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ATHLETE HIGHLIGHT: Adriana Nelson

Passion, love of running and determination—these are characteristics of our co-founder, Adriana Nelson, who started ROLL Recovery with Jeremy Nelson just 3 years ago in the midst of her ongoing professional running career. She’s our inspiration, and we’re so happy to share her running story— starting from the top! Adriana holds a 2:28 marathon PR and 1:09 half marathon PR—learn her favorite workouts, favorite races, and gain an insight into what her running has brought to others.

Adriana’s running career began when she was reluctantly entered in, and won, a 1k race in Romania when she was just 13 years old. Though she didn’t actually begin training seriously until she was 17, Adriana was offered a scholarship to run at the University of Texas El Paso, which incentivized her move to the United States (she didn’t speak a word of English!)

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After a successful NCAA career at UTEP, Adriana signed with Asics and made a move to Boulder, CO. This is where she met Jeremy (at Whole Foods of course) and helped begin this company, which strives to help other runners achieve their goals as well. After debuting in the marathon in 2007 with a second place finish at the Chicago Marathon, Adriana has found much success in the event (and the Half-Marathon—she won USA Half Marathon Champs in 2013).

Adriana been training hard in Mammoth Lakes, CA with Mammoth Track Club for the last year preparing for her second Olympic Trials Marathon this year.

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Personal Bests

3000m : 9min 11s

5000m: 15min 36

10,000m: 32min 38s

1/2 Marathon: 1h 9min 56s

Marathon: 2h 28min 52s

College:

2nd place in 3000m Indoor NCAA Championship 2005

Multiple WAC Champion from mile up to 10,000m (mile, 3000m, 5000m, 10,000m)

Post- Collegiate

2nd Place in Chicago Marathon in 2007

USA 1/2 Marathon Champion in 2013

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What has been your most enjoyable or favorite race so far?

2nd Place in Chicago Marathon in 2007 — It will always be in my heart.

USA 1/2 Marathon Champion in 2013 — Winning a national title and holding the USA Flag over my shoulders meant the world to me.

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How did you get started running?

I started training for running when I was 17 years old, but my first race was when I was 13 years old.  My school sent me to represent them at a competition but the odd thing is that I didn’t want to go.  They told me if I don’t go, I won’t be allowed to attend PE classes anymore .  For me, that would have been a disaster! So pretty much I was forced into it.

I went to the race (it was 1000m race) and was very scared and timid at the starting line as there were so many girls competing!  I was the smallest of all of them, and probably the least experienced.    But when the gun went off…I even forgot my name =)) I took off and never looked back… I wondered why they weren’t running faster.  I won the race and came back to school with gold medal around my neck.   That made me feel so good.

I didn’t fall in love with running that day, as I liked to play all kind of sports: soccer, volleyball, gymnastic and I was also part of the dance school team…yeah, very busy, but I was enjoying it.   At seventeen years old, the story pretty much repeated…now my high school wanted me to run for them at the same annual race…so I did.  This time it was 1500m, and I ended up winning it again.  At this age I was more mature and decided to pursue a running career after I saw the opportunities it offered.

I started training for 800m, 1500m and kept moving up in distance to my eventual event, the marathon. =) It has been many years since I started running, but the love of running is still there in me.

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How did you come to start competing for the United States?

In December 2002 I was blessed to come to the United States with a full athletic scholarship representing UTEP Track & Field team.   I will be forever be grateful for this opportunity.  I came to USA with big dreams and goals.  I recognized this as being probably the biggest opportunity in my life to make something of myself.  And I was going to fight hard to make it happen.  Even if that meant learning English in a matter of weeks!

Once I finished my eligibility at university and had some success in college, I decided to run professionally.  Meanwhile, I was fortunate to win the “Green Card Lottery” (this means it gave me the opportunity to become a USA resident). I came out to Boulder to begin my professional career and follow in the footsteps of the much successful Romanian runners: Constantina Dita, Anuta Catuna, Nuta Olaru, and Lidia Simon.

During this time I also met my wonderful husband Jeremy Nelson who stood by my side since the day we met. We both decided that it was time to choose to either run for Romania or USA. United States changed my destiny from the moment I stepped in. It gave me an education and the opportunity to be who I wanted to be. I felt in my heart that it was the right thing to do to represent the USA.  The incredible support and unconditional love from my family and friends is the reason why I am here today. And I will always be sincerely grateful for this.

What are your goals for the Feb 13. Olympic Trials?

I am looking forward to race myself at my best potential, and to put all the training puzzle-pieces together in one single race day, the Olympic Trials. Hopefully that’s where I will put the grand final piece. =)

Adriana won the USA Half Marathon Championships on June 22, 2013 in a time of 1:11:19.

Tell us about training in Mammoth Lakes compared to Boulder:

Mammoth Lakes and Boulder are both wonderful places to train, but both places are completely different. Mammoth Lakes is the paradise of outdoor activities, from fly fishing, mountain bike, running, skiing…you name it.  The big difference, besides the higher altitude, is that the training focus is very different. The town is very small, but the places to run are incredible. You get out the door and you can run any direction you want.

Every morning I meet with my coach and teammates for training. There are no distractions.  In a city you always find yourself busy and tired because there seems to always be something to do or some place to go.  Here in Mammoth, you just run and focus. Training in a great environment with positive energy is the key to success…at least for me.

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What is your favorite workout?

My favorite workouts are usually the toughest training as it plays a mental role into a racing prospective.

I know people like the short and fast training (like mile reps), which I do too! But when it comes down to a 30-35km progression run or 5 X 5km reps, I like to dig deep on those. It really brings the best out of me. It teaches my body to know on how to respond when the toughest part of the race comes. I used to be scared of those trainings… but I finally managed to master them.  Well, “mastering” them to the best of my abilities.  For someone starting out training, I would suggesting making sure you feel really good for most of it as these trainings can come back to haunt you if you over do it.

What has running brought into your life?

Running brought to my life so many wonderful things.  I really don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t started running that one day so many years ago at school. Getting the scholarship for running gave be the opportunity to get an education which I would have never get of I was not into sports.  Running let me meet so many amazing people around the world and gave me the opportunity to see many wonderful countries and cultures.  It’s taught me how to respect others and love people the way they are.  I am so grateful to be in this sport and I feel I have so much to give back to the sport.  I hope one day I can help someone else pursue their dreams.

Last week, Adriana was extremely fortunate in being in the right place at the right to help save a man’s life. Read about what happened with Competitor.

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This year is a special one for Adriana, it’s her second Olympic Trials Marathon and she hopes that all of her hard work will come together on Saturday. If there’s anything we know about Adriana, it’s her toughness when the race starts to hurt. She’s an inspiration to us and many others, thanks for all you do Adriana.

Photos via: PhotoRun, Running Times Magazine, www.generationucan.com.