Interview with Malindi Elmore
By Parker Morse

Malindi Elmore on her way to a Stanford 1,500m school record at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
(Both Photos: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
Elmore competes in the 1,500 at the 2003 New Balance Maine Distance Festival.

Malindi Elmore's collegiate career might be characterized as great races that happened behind other great races. As an example, in her final race as a collegian, the NCAA 1,500m final, Elmore broke Regina Jacobs' 21-year-old Stanford University record with a PR 4:11.67, yet finished eighth. It was her third NCAA appearance and fourth All-American placing.

As a Canadian from Kelowna, British Columbia, Elmore's races outside the NCAA got less notice in the States. Her previous PR of 4:14.66 for 1,500m came in the 2001 World University Games final, where she finished tenth, following a fourth-place performance at the Canadian Nationals. In 2000, she was 6th in the Canadian Olympic Trials 1,500m. Before coming to Stanford, Elmore won three British Columbia championships at 1,500m and was the top-ranked Canadian junior for 800m and 1,500m in 1996-1998.

We talked with Elmore after her first post-collegiate race, at the New Balance Maine Distance Festival, where she finished third in the 1,500m behind fellow Canadian Carmen Douma and Mary Jayne Harrelson. You're someone who's been running well for a while under the radar. You've been in a tough conference and a tough region.
Malindi Elmore:
It's been good for me. Running in the Pac-10 is great practice for what's to come, and I've had to put myself out there a couple times and try and press the pace. It's fun to be in a race like this one where I get pulled along and have to chase. Eventually that will work out. It's good having practice with everything.

FW: We saw you at the NCAAs. That was a PR for you, wasn't it?
Yes, that was an awesome race, and I'm hoping to continue down that street. We've done a lot of really good training early in the season geared towards fast races during the summer. We have our national Canadian championships in three weeks, so I'm hoping to put everything together. I PRed in the 800 [2:04.35] a few days ago, so I'm excited. Everything's moving along in the right line.

FW: You'll have some tough competition at Nationals. You'll have to race Carmen Douma again, just to start with.
It's great, there's a bunch of women who are running really well in the 1,500m this year in Canada and in the NCAA. We're raising the bar all over the place. We've got some vets in the field, Leah Pells, and Vicki Lynch-Pounds is back from having a baby last year, they're rolling, and there's a new, rising collegiate crop. There were six Canadians in the 1,500m at NCAAs. It's a competitive country. It's exciting that the U.S. and Canada can both offer really good racing opportunities at championship levels.

FW: What's the long range plan? Have you made one yet?
Oh, definitely. I've always planned to run post-collegiately, and any little setback I've had along the way, I've always been able to think about what my long-term plan is and why I'm doing this. I definitely love racing and love the sport, and I plan to be here as long as I can. You see people running well into their thirties, and there's no reason why I can't. Of course, ultimately I would love to represent Canada at the Olympics, that's every runner's goal, but I think that if things continue in a positive direction, as they always have, you move step by step and you eventually get there.

FW: What's your training looking like as far as training partners?
I'm kind of in a transition year, but it's going to be smooth. My club coach, who coached me all through high school, has kept really close tabs on my training and racing at Stanford. I've worked with him every summer when I go home. He's been really supportive of the Stanford program and what I've been doing there, and he builds on that every summer. I pretty much PRed every summer when I've gone home. The training base I get during the school year combined with what I get from him during the summer has worked well.

FW: Where is the club?
It's in Calgary. I'm going to do a Masters degree in Urban Planning at the University of Calgary. Being at school is perfect for training, it gives you some structure, but it's flexible. I'd like to be a student as long as possible. Run and be a student, it's a good life. It's a great school, it has a program that I've been interested in since I started at Stanford. It's a professional program, you're accredited when you're done to... Plan urban areas, I guess. Stanford has an urban planning major, but I started out in international relations. I think it will be a good combination, to build on the social science background with the more technical and specific skills.

FW: Stanford is known for having a really deep and competitive team to hang on to. Did you know what you were getting in to when you went? How well did you adjust?
First of all, I always knew Stanford would be a great place for me, with the academics and the athletics. I was really excited to do everything I could when I came in to contribute to the program. But unfortunately, I ran in to injuries which lasted through my freshman and sophomore years. My junior year was really coming back from a two-year break, in a way. But I adjusted, and since then I've learned a lot about what I need to do to train. It's not the same as everyone else, but it works for me now. My junior year was big, it was saying, this is what I can do, and then building from there. It was a different route for me than for other people, but everyone gets there different ways. I had incredible teammates who were my best friends, and they were super supportive. We had an understanding past what it takes to be a runner, to be a good person, and those are things you develop. Lauren Fleshman for example, who is just a phenomenal inspiration to all of us. Lauren is wonderful. Lauren is one of those people who is good at whatever she does. Which is great, because she's great at being a good friend.

FW: Could be rough for her, because she has to decide what to be good at.
Except that whatever is her thing for that time of year, she'll be good at it. Anyway, we had people like that at Stanford, and great alumni, and Dena Evans, our assistant coach, has been phenomenal. It really helped me through those transitional years, having Dena. She was one of the best things that could have happened to me. She was really supportive of my relationship with my coach at home, Mike Van Tighem. He was always there and very supportive.

FW: That can also be tough, having a club coach and a college coach.
Yeah, you have to be sensitive. You don't want to step on toes. But if everyone has the athlete's best interest in mind, it works out, I think. When I went home and trained with him through the summer, a couple of summers ago, and made the World University Games, I had a four-second PR there, and things started to click. I came back thinking, I'm not crazy, this can work. I love championship events, and testing yourself to rise to a level.

FW: Speaking of being good at what you want to be good at, do you think the 1,500m will be your event? You've done reasonably well at cross country. [Ed. Note: She finished 11th at the 2002 NCAA Cross Country Championships.]
Cross country was a different approach. There was no pressure for me, I just wanted to do my best for the team. And I loved it, because I would just look at Sara, Alicia and Lauren, and say to myself, I'm letting them down if I don't stay as close to them as possible, and anyone else on the team. In high school, I loved the 800m and 1,500m. I ran fast 800s in high school, but we trained more distance at Stanford. A lot of my early-season training was like 5,000m training. I think I probably could run a good 5,000m. But I love the speed work. Any time you start doing sharpening, those are the workouts I love. Lauren and I were great training partners because her strength is the long stuff, and I make her feel stronger by running with her, and then the fast stuff, that's my turn. It's good to have someone to help you on your weaknesses, and make you feel better about your strengths.

During cross-country season, we each had to put down three adjectives to describe what we wanted to be in each race. I remember thinking on the start line of every race in cross country that I wanted to be Competitive, to never give up in any race, no matter where in the race I was. Confident, knowing that I belonged there. And Versatile was my other thing. I want to know that if I'm on a 4x400m team, I'm going to run fast. If I'm going to make the World Cross Country team at 6k, that's what I'm going to do. So you get the four, the eight, the fifteen, the five, and cross country, when you get in the 1,500m, you're strong, and you're fast. I like mixing it up a bit. That keeps running fun, when you get to PR in a bunch of different events.

(Interview conducted July 5, 2003. Posted July 18, 2003.)

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