By: Kevin Brandon
Chrissie, thanks for taking some time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and running with PRTC?
Sure! I grew up west of Philadelphia in Royersford, PA and went to The Agnes Irwin School, a small all-girls K-12 in Rosemont, PA. I graduated in 2001 and went to college at Syracuse University. After college, I moved to Philadelphia for a couple of years just as PRTC was getting started, and ran with the club for a few months before I moved to Baltimore. I spent 8 years in Baltimore, working and getting my PhD in public health and then moved to New Haven for a postdoctoral fellowship in medical informatics. After my postdoc ended last spring, I took a faculty research position at Yale, and was able to negotiate to work remotely from Philadelphia. I moved back to Philly in June of 2016 and am very excited to be home and to be a part of the Philadelphia running community again.
When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?
I started running at the end of my freshman year in college. I was on the lacrosse team at Syracuse until late February when the coach, dissatisfied with the team’s fitness, made us come down to the field house at 7 AM in the morning and do a one mile time trial. I lapped the entire team in the mile. This was on a Friday morning. On Monday, I was on the track team.
You have some pretty phenomenal times to your name (1:14:58 half marathon and 2:39:31 marathon for example). How did your career progress from day one to today?
It has been an exciting journey with a lot of highs and lows. I was very lucky after college to have serendipitously met an outstanding mentor who has coached me to these and other achievements. I think this was most helpful in my early 20’s when my instinct was to train hard all of the time. I think having a coach that forced me to be patient has allowed me to have a more successful career than I would have otherwise.
On a related note, you’ve had the honor of participating in the Olympic Trials (twice!). What sort of training and work did it take to get to that level?
In any given week or training cycle, I probably train less than most other elite runners. My philosophy is, “do a little less, but do it consistently.” I’ve been pretty successful up to the half marathon as a low volume runner. The only time I’ve successfully done high volume training was in the summer of 2014 when I took three months off between graduate school and my postdoc to focus on running. Being a full-time runner during this period gave me the time and energy to do all of the non-running things I need to do to handle 80+ mile weeks without getting injured. At the end of it, I was able to run my 2:39:31 marathon. When I tried to keep this up while “squeezing in” a full-time job, I started to get injured, so I’ve had to scale back.
Can you tell us about your trial experiences in Houston and Los Angeles?
Amazing, and also heart breaking. Getting to the start line both times was a huge accomplishment. Leading up the 2012 in Houston, I ran a 2:44:37 in the 2009 New York City marathon a couple of months before the qualifying window opened on January 1st, 2010. After the NYC marathon I became busy with graduate school and various other life events and took a break from competitive running for about a year. By the spring of 2011 I was back in shape, and after running a 56:53 at Broad Street, I felt confident that I would be able to run a qualifying time at the Vermont City Marathon a few weeks later. Instead, the week after Broad Street I got hit by a car while riding my bike home from work and was out of running for another 5 months. Fortunately, I was able to recover enough to run a 1:14:58 at the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November to qualify (with 2 seconds to spare!) just before the window closed for the trials. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough time to fully recover from my injuries and to do a proper marathon build up, which made the trials a disappointing performance.
For the 2016 trials in LA, I qualified at the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon/US National Marathon Championships with a 2:39:31. After a disappointing performance in 2012, I hoped this would be my year to get to the start line healthy and ready to compete. As luck was have it, I struggled with injuries over the next 15 months that kept me from getting to the fitness level I had hoped to. I was able to get to the start line healthy, but not in great shape. The positive in this was that I got to go and really enjoy the experience of being part of the event without having any anxiety about the race. I finished, had fun, and am even more determined to get to the start line healthy and fit in 2020.
Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?
If I ever decide to make my blog public, I’ll share a link to a recent post about this. After battling a series of injuries over the past two years, I’ve become focused more on what I call “hippie-dippie” qualitative goals and less on specific time/qualifying/performance goals. My 2017 goals briefly:
1. To commit to daily practices in nutrition, strength, and mindfulness that makes me feel physically and mentally prepared to adapt to circumstances beyond my control and to perform my best each day.
2. To put my whole heart and best effort into every race I run, to believe that my best is enough, and to surround myself with a community of positive, supportive people.
We know you’ve spent time in New Haven, Baltimore and Philly. Do you have a favorite running city between the three?
This is an impossible question! As someone who has moved a lot, being a runner has been a blessing. In all three cities, I’ve been welcomed by the local running communities and developed many lifelong friendships from these connections. Philadelphia is an amazing city for running and cycling, Baltimore is an underrated gem, and New Haven… what it lacks in safe running routes and winter maintenance it makes up for with some really wonderful people.
Can you tell us what you do in your professional life?
I’m a mental health epidemiologist. I have had a faculty position in the school of medicine at Yale and work as a statistician on projects related to aging and mental health.
What’s the most exciting or interesting project you’ve been involved with during your career? Any that have correlated with running?
I haven’t been able to correlate my research with running (yet), but am starting to get involved with research that examines integrated health, complementary and alternative medicine (think mindfulness, meditation, yoga, diet, exercise, massage, etc.) to treat chronic pain and mental health conditions in US Veterans. I’m very interested in studying the potential of non-pharmacological treatment options for managing chronic health conditions. Over the next few years, I would also like to supplement any analytical work with some sort of health coaching (i.e., find a balance between staring at a patients’ data on a computer screen and working with actual people).
Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing about?
I have a pet Russian tortoise named Gogol. He’s pretty fast. When the weather gets warmer I’ll bring him out to the track for a Tuesday night workout 🙂
Anything else you’d like to share?