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Small goals and big dreams: How to run into our nerdy hearts

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Watching Clara Santucci address a crowd at Healthworks in Morgantown, W.Va., one might think she was cold in the chilly gym. Or maybe she is shy. Clara has a way of standing with her arms wrapped around her and her legs crossed over each other that makes her look, at times, downright uncomfortable.

But when she grinned and ever-so-shyly blurted out “I’ve never regretted going on a run,” it was clear Clara wasn’t cold. Clara isn’t shy. She is a force, and she knows it. It’s as if she stands that way to protect her audience from the inspiring and powerful verve for running she possesses.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon team hopeful, who started out setting small goals to reach her ultimate goal, told us she started wanting to get better and faster at running when her friend quit the running team she was on in middle school.

“I didn’t have anyone to talk to, ” she said.

She accomplished her early running goals and went on to be a graduate of West Virginia University touting a long list of awards to go along with her degree.  She earned four All-American honors in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track, two individual conference championship wins, and three top-10 team finishes at the Division I NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Post college, Clara went on to run her first marathon — that lil race in Boston — and became the fastest American female debutante in the distance for age 25 and under by running 2:29:54, which was overall 16th place. Clara has won the Pittsburgh Marathon twice and was an alternate for the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon team.

Santucci, who grew up in West Virginia, shared the story of how she became an elite runner and provided the crowd a few tips on how to be successful at achieving their goals.

  • Clara encouraged the crowd to do as she did and set small goals that feed a larger goal
  • She suggested gradually increasing training/mileage so as not to be sore, or worse, become injured
  • One tip that received several laughs: Clara suggested becoming a morning person. Working out early in the day allows you to think about what you want to accomplish that day and helps you collect your thoughts
  • Runners should have a go-to route to run when there is a need to mentally check out and get the miles in
  • When running long distances, it’s good to mentally break down each run or race into shorter distances. For example, during a half marathon, runners can think about each 5k they are completing within the 13.1 miles instead of envisioning the complete run at once

Ears up to this world class athlete. We expect to continue to see great things from her! Be sure to tune in to NBC on February 13 to watch Clara take on the field of Olympic hopefuls in Los Angeles. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Clara Santucci (left) and Nerd Erinn share a nerdy moment at Healthworks in Morgantown, WV.

Clara Santucci (left) and Nerd Erinn share a nerdy moment at Healthworks in Morgantown, WV.


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