I know Bridget from both local road races and from Augusta University, where she attended Dental School while I was in PT school. We didn’t train together much but, when we did, I ended up running much much harder than I regularly would have. She would warm up for workouts well below 7 minute pace. I couldn’t hang with her at all on long runs. And, as you’ll read in this article, this was when she wasn’t even in her best shape.
Bridget recently competed in the US Olympic Trials for the marathon. Only 150, out of 206, women were able to finish due to the hot conditions. Bridget placed 45th with a 2:45:38. Which is insane considering the hot race conditions.
When did you start running?
I joined the cross country team my sophomore year of high school. I played soccer in the spring, so I never ran high school track.
Where did you run in high school? In college?
Greenbrier high school and University of Georgia.
What were your racing times like then?
My cross country 5k PR in high school was 19:20. Even my first few years of college, I wasn’t all that good, haha. I started running track and I think I ran 18:50’s my freshman year, 18:30’s my sophomore year, and junior year I had somewhat of a breakthrough. I ran 17:30 something at one of our big cross country meets. That spring I ran 17:20 in indoor track and 17:00 in the outdoor season. I also ran a 10k for the first time and ran 35:35 for my first one. I was 6th in the SEC that year for the 10k on the track. My 4th year, the breakthroughs kept coming. I ran 16:36 in the first indoor 5k of the season, and ran 16:18 to get 2nd at SECs. I got my 10k down to 34:00 and won a conference title for the 10k. My 5th year, I ran 33:31 the first 10k of the season , which was an automatic qualifier for the USA championships. At that point, I knew I wants to keep running after college, that I was able to, and wanted to compete with the best in the country.
At what point, during college, did you realize you were a strong enough runner to continue to run competitively after graduating?
Do you have a favorite XC or track moment?
The Cross country trips were always the most fun. We did cabin trips as a team retreat. Winning an SEC title was pretty fun too:)
What were some of the injuries you’ve had throughout your running career? How were you able to overcome those injuries and get back to regular training?
Knock on wood, I didn’t have too many injuries. My first year I had a “stress reaction” in my tibia. I redshirted a track season to just take a few weeks off. I think that happened from running 30-ish miles a week only during the fall for high school, to running 50 to 55 miles a week year-round, and I just needed some time off. I dealt with some plantar fasciitis my fifth year that I stupidly ran through. I’ve had some tendinitis issues here and there that I ice like crazy, roll, stretch, and use anti-inflammatories (voltaren gel is awesome). Staying on top of rolling out, stretching, icing, etc is key I think.
Running in Dental School
I’m sure dental school was different every semester but could you give us a general idea of what life is like as a dental student? How did you fit training into your average day?
The first two years of dental school were the most time consuming. If I wanted to run during those first two years, it had to be at 5am. So I wound wake up at 4:30, (say I ran 10 miles) I would run from 5:00-6:30– (when you include stretching for a few minutes, drinking some water etc) I would have to leave by 7:15 to get to class by 7:45-8. Lectures and labs lasted till 5pm. We had so many lab practicals and tests and lab work (like making dentures, learning to make temporary crowns, making wax models of teeth, cadaver lab… Etc) that almost every day from 5 until at least 7 or 8 was spent in the lab. We also had at least 2-3 big tests per week and the rest of the days usually had a quiz or two in there, so my nights after the lab were spent studying away. Third year was a lot like this, except we started seeing patients in our clinic, so some class time was replaced with clinic time, and some studying was replaced with preparing appointments. Senior year was the most flexible. We had already taken most of the written boards, and were mostly seeing patients in the clinic. I could really run more my last year of dental school, but those first 3 years were a struggle. I took between 12-15 hours per semester in college. Dental school was 28-30 hours per semester, so it was just ALOT to adjust to.
Were you able to stay fit throughout the four years of dental school?
Not really. I tried to run as consistently as I could, but that was drastically different from any fitness level I had while in college. Stringing a few good months of running together meant that I had run maybe 5 days a week and maybe did some tempo runs.
How many miles per week were you able to run?
I didn’t keep track. My first year, I was still desperately trying to hang on to whatever I did in college, and tried to run about 70miles a week. That didn’t last long. With the schedule we had, I was more than exhausted. The next two years I may have averaged around 50 miles a week while I was consistently running. There were many weeks I didn’t run at all , or only ran a day or two.
What were some of your biggest racing highlights during dental school?
Dental school is when I turned to marathons. I ran the first one when I had lost all hope in ever running again. It was my second year, and I thought if I could string 3 months of running together, I could run a marathon, just to say I did one, in case running was going to be over for me. My first marathon I ran 2:54, and won! That turned things around for me, so my third year I tried again, this time putting a bit more effort into training, and ran 2:44! I hadn’t thought I could actually qualify for the Olympic trials for the marathon, but that made me realize that with a little effort, I could. I ran the Augusta half marathon 3 of my 4 years there, and my last year I ran 1:16- about two minutes faster than I ever had. At that point, I was still in dental school and had both a half marathon time and a marathon time that were just one minute away from the marathon Olympic Trials qualifying standard time (they were 2:43 and 1:15). That’s when I thought that I could do it, and running wasn’t over for me!
Are you working as a full-time clinician now?
I work 3 days a week to make room for training:).
Are you training with a post-collegiate team? Do you have a coach or do you coach yourself?
I train with the Atlanta track club and am coached by Andrew and Amy Begley.
What are some of your post-collegiate race highlights (so far)?
The first one was just over 4 months of training with my new group, I did a half marathon, and ran 1:13. A PR by 2 and a half minutes is always a good day, but it also qualified me for my first ever Olympic trials. So obviously the biggest highlight was racing in the 2016 marathon Olympic trials 🙂
Since then, I ran a track season for the first time since college (5 years ago), and PR’d in everything I ran. It’s been a great year!
When is your next race? Do you have a specific time, place, or other goal for that race?
We are starting a marathon training block, but will just race a half marathon this fall. Most likely it will be Indianapolis in November. I will be happy with another PR there:)
Without giving too many of your team training secrets away:
What does a typical training week look like for you?
This is no secret amongst distance runners:) usually two workouts per week, easy runs, and a long run on the weekend.
Throw in some doubles and some strength training, and that’s about it!
How many miles per week are you running?
Right now I am coming back from a 2 week break and building back up. Training for the last marathon, I peaked at 90 miles for two of the build up weeks. We may try to increase that over time, so maybe somewhere between 90-100 miles this fall. On average, I would say 70-80.
What kind of workouts have you been doing? Do you have a favorite workout?
We do all of your typical workouts. Intervals, tempo runs, marathon simulated long runs… Etc. I really started liking the faster intervals we were doing on the track, since it had been so long since I I have done any of that.
Do you have a favorite race distance?
Right now it’s the half marathon. The 10k on the track felt very fast to me, and a marathon is just long and brutal. The half is just right:)
What kinds of things do you do for injury prevention?
Usually get a weekly massage, use a foam roller every day, and stop nagging injuries before they turn into something serious.
What kind of running shoes do you use?
The Atlanta track club is sponsored by Mizuno!
How is your training different now than it was in college?
I never did marathon training in college, so there are more marathon focused workouts now. Other than that, it’s very similar
Do you have any advice for graduate students, or anyone with a stressful and hectic schedule, to make time to exercise and stay fit? Or advice for those who are trying to run competitively post-collegiately?
My advice is to do as much as you can so you feel balanced and happy. Too much school is miserable, focusing too much on running/exercising is exhausting. Never seeing family and friends is very lonely. You will have to adjust and readjust your schedule to balance your time, so having an open mind is the best way to go. For anyone running post collegiately, stick with it. The real world is much different than college and life has more obstacles, but if running and competing make you happy, why not give it a shot while you still can 🙂