An Interview with Mattie Suver

Mattie (Bridgmon) Suver graduated from the University of Oregon as an All-American.  She currently trains with the American Distance Project in Colorado Springs and holds PRs of 16:02 in the 5K, 32:59 in the 10K and 1:13:14 in the half marathon.  Mattie attended the inaguaral RunPro Camp in 2011.  Her recent accomplishments includes being the 2012 US Club Cross Country Champion and female winner of the 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Dallas Half Marathon.

Have you always been a competitive runner or did you play other sports in high school?  What drew you to running?  Are there other athletes in your family?

I played volleyball in high school and originally joined track as a way to stay in shape for volleyball. Eventually, the cross country team and coach convinced me to try cross country my senior year, I haven’t looked back since. My dad is also a runner and has done several marathons. I think he definitely had an influence on my love for running. I ran Boulder Bolder with him one year in high school and had a blast.

How did you choose your university?  What was your experience like? 

I honestly have no clue how I ended up at Eastern Washington University. I really liked the coach, Dan Hilton; the school had a great Physical Therapy Program, which is what I originally wanted to do; and I thought EWU seemed like a good fit for me. I walked on to the cross country/track team, and continued to gradually improve each year, eventually earning a scholarship. After my third year, I graduated early and transferred to University of Oregon to get my Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology and complete my running eligibility. I chose Oregon because it was, and still is, one of the best running programs in the nation. I loved my experience at both colleges, even though they were both very different. The friends I made on the XC teams are still some of my closest friends, and I met my husband in college. 

What would you consider your most notable accomplishment(s) at your university? 

I think my most notable accomplishment at the University of Oregon was my 7th place finish in the 10K at NCAAs, earning All-American honors. 

Did that make you realize you wanted to continue to pursue running post-collegiately or was it something else?  What concerns did you have? 

I still had another year of eligibility and graduate school at that time so I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. Some concerns I had the following year though were that I still had no idea how post-collegiate running worked, and I wasn’t at the level where I could receive a big contract or sponsorship. I was pretty uninformed about running at the professional level, as far as post collegiate groups and coaches, and what races are out there and how to go about getting into those races, for example the USATF road racing circuit. 

Did you have any guidance in your process of becoming a professional runner? 

My husband really encouraged me to continue pursuing running. He was very quick to remind me that I didn’t want to have any regrets or unfinished business in running and that now was the time to put it all out there and give it a try. RunPro camp was a great resource as well. It was encouraging seeing so many other runners out there in the same position as me. It was great to meet so many other athletes following their dreams and trying to make it in the running world and was reassuring that I wasn’t the only one out there trying to make it, despite the fact that I didn’t have a contract or sponsorship right out of college. 

Talk a little bit about that transition and how you decided on Colorado Springs and the American Distance Project.  What did you do during that time? 

Immediately after I graduated college, I decided to move to Maple Valley, WA with my husband (boyfriend at the time) where I had an awesome job as a high school coach and planned to coach myself and run on my own. We were in Washington for almost 2 years, and my running was kind of at a stand-still, I wasn’t improving a whole lot and I decided that I wanted to give professional running 100%. I didn’t want to have any regrets looking back. We hit the road to see where life would take us and finally, after almost a year of traveling, my husband and I ended up in Colorado Springs with the American Distance Project. 

What is your training like now compared to your college program?  Has it been difficult getting acclimated to a new group and new coach? 

I am running more mileage now than I was in college. My workouts and long runs are much longer, with a higher number of intervals as opposed to shorter, quicker stuff on the track. It has been a very easy transition to the new group and coach. 

Would you encourage other distance runners to join a program?  What would you say are the benefits of training as part of a post-collegiate training group or specifically of being a part of the group you chose?

I think that it really depends on the person and how you respond to training with a group. There a lot of different types of groups out there, from ones that meet every day and have a very set schedule, to those that only meet for workouts a few times a week. I think that it’s important to explore all of your options out there and see what kind of group would be a good fit for you. For me personally, joining a group was the absolute best decision in my running career. My running has improved a tremendous amount over the last year and I credit that completely to joining the American Distance Project. Coach Simmons is an extremely knowledgeable world class coach and it has been a huge help having other women to push me in workouts. 

What are your goals and expectations coming into this season?  What do you hope to accomplish in the long-term? 

This season, I have some exciting races coming up in the near future, with the 15K championships and the World Cross Country Championships. I also plan to get on the track this season. I haven’t ran track since college and so I am looking forward to that. Long term, I have some pretty lofty goals, looking all the way ahead to RIO 2016. Until then, I just want to continue to better myself and improve my times from 5K all the way to the marathon. 

Do you currently have a job in addition to running?  How do you support yourself? 

No I do not currently have a job in addition to running. My husband works right now to support us, and I am fortunate that I have a sponsorship with BRC/Adidas, which provides me with amazing shoes and gear, as well as being a part of the ADP, which helps with some funding for travel and things like massage and PT. 

What advice do you have for people who aspire to run professionally?

I think that if you aspire to run professionally, then you should go for it! Follow your dreams because you only have one shot at this life, so live it to the fullest! Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Every professional runner out there has been through that transition process and will most likely be more than happy to share their advice and stories. 

Are there any staple workouts that you do to boost your confidence and let you know you're really fit?  When do you typically run those?

Our workouts with Coach Simmons are pretty consistent every week. For me, this consistency is a confidence booster because I can see my progress over the course of a training cycle and I can see how my fitness is progressing week after week. 

What is the craziest or most interesting running-related story you have?

Last summer, I did a relay race with some friends, called the Ruby Mountain Relay. Its consists of  running until you complete 184 miles through the beautiful Ruby Mountains outside of Elko, NV. You have 24 hours to finish and can have up to 12 runners. Our team decided it would be more fun to have only 6 runners. We hadn’t slept in 2 days and would average 30 miles each over the course of those 2 days. I was on my last leg of the race, and it was 7 miles on a single track trail in the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden, I heard the feared ‘rattling’ sound that no runner wants to hear when they are out, especially alone and with no one around for miles.  At that same time, I looked down  to see a rattle snake coiled and ready to strike right where my foot was about to land. I leapt higher than I have ever jumped in my life, a pretty impressive feat for no sleep and over 30 miles over the last 2 days, and missed the strike of the rattle snake by less than an inch.  For the remainder of the leg, I ran as fast as I could, in fear, and was never so happy to see my team as I was after that 7 miles.