Molly Nunn (’06, MBA ’11) is running a dual race these days – racing toward the finish of her MBA degree from Wake Forest later this month and training to qualify for the women’s marathon trials for the 2012 Olympics. An English major with a minor in journalism, she started her career in teaching before changing directions, and now she works full time in the investment group at Allegacy Federal Credit Union in Winston-Salem. She was on the track and cross-country teams as an undergraduate. Follow her Olympic journey on her blog, http://runnersapien.blogspot.com/
How do you balance a full-time job with studying and training?
Carefully. And with constant internal focus on the goals.
Trying to make an Olympic team is a pretty ambitious goal; what led you to aim for the Olympics?
I decided to shoot for the marathon after my coach told me that he believed in me and believed that I could achieve qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials; this was in December of 2006. The goal turned into a great adventure and journey. The second reason for the marathon is that I fully believe in dreams, setting long-term goals, making a plan, and then going after it. It’s amazing what you learn along the way, it’s all about the journey in getting there!
Can you explain the process for qualifying?
For the Olympic marathon trials (to be held in Houston, Texas, in January), the race where the top three competitors go to London to compete on the world stage, the women’s qualifying standard involves running a 2:39:00 marathon time for a fully funded trip to Houston, or a 2:46:00 marathon that simply gets one into the trials race. My coach and I decided that with my work and school schedule, we would aim for the 2:46:00 standard which averages to 6:19 per mile pace. My current marathon time is 2:46:08; this is .31 seconds per mile that I need to take off of my time. The time window to qualify ends on Dec. 14, and I will be attempting to hit the time again at the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, N.Y., on Oct. 2.
I know you’ve tried to qualify a couple of times before; what keeps you going?
There is a quote by Emerson, I believe, that says, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. …” My marathon story has required several ‘rising ups.’ The initial plan was to run in the January 2011 Houston Marathon and try to qualify; this would also allow me to race on parts of the course where the trials will be. That plan was over by Mile 10 of the race as my legs just were not ready that day, and we went back to the drawing board. The second attempt was at Myrtle Beach in February where I finished in a time of 2:46:59, 59 seconds away from qualifying, but my first completed marathon. In March, I tried again at Virginia Beach and finished with a 2:46:08, .31 seconds per mile pace away from hitting the time I need while also surviving heavy winds and being tripped and knocked to the ground at Mile 12.5. So the Wineglass Marathon will be my third marathon on my first year of ‘marathoning.’
Can you explain your passion for running?
I view my passion for running as a gift that I am consistently thankful for and humbled by. To me, the passion represents complete freedom, creativity, relaxation and yet zeal, expression and an insatiable fire that makes me always happy – to just be out there running.
What do you think about while you’re running?
Finishing my MBA! … Among other things. Sometimes my mind just wants to be silent, other times I dream, or run through (no pun intended) the day or what I need to accomplish, sometimes I listen to music, but most recently I have taken up listening to audio books. I am currently listening to “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand; it’s fantastic!
Do you have any superstitions or pre-race rituals?
No superstitions, but definitely a ‘no pressure’ mindset and an ‘it’s all about having fun’ attitude ….because I am doing what I love.
Describe your training regime?
My training regime currently consists of 80 to 90 miles a week, with some two-a-day runs, twice-a-week workouts, and a long run of up to 24 miles on the weekends. There is also weight work involved that includes high repetition of ab, leg and arm exercises. I also work on flexibility and stretching to help prevent injuries. I go through shoes every two or three months, so I am extremely grateful because Steve Bennett at 4-Runners Only sponsors and helps me with shoes and gear.
What influenced you to change your career path?
With a myriad of teachers and mentors that have meant so much and inspired me as I’ve grown up, I believed that as a teacher I would have a direct way to give back. I did start my professional career at Forsyth Country Day School and learned a great deal of meaningful lessons and skills. When I started to look at masters programs, I stumbled across the Wake Forest MBA program and was instantly entranced by ‘business.’ Deeply, I knew that I wanted to transfer the qualities in my passion for running to a professional career. Business was fascinating to me and although I enjoyed teaching, I found a new passion in business and so I decided to change careers. Each and every day, I learn something new and I love every minute of it.
What professors have influenced your career and life?
As an undergraduate, I had an Irish literature professor named Jeff Holdridge who inspired me with his passion for the art of writing, his love for W.B. Yeats, and the simple and yet complex beauties found in nature. I’d often see him out walking around campus and even to this day, he remembers my name and always waves. From his genuine passion for his craft, I have consistently been inspired in my own writing and especially within my blog, Runnersapien.
As an MBA student, I’ve had several professors who have worked with me to find my strengths and my place in the business world. Roger Beahm has spent countless times teaching me about careers in marketing and working through potential career paths for me. Stan Mandel has inspired me consistently to reach out, continue dreaming, and explore the world of entrepreneurship. Pat McMullen has proved that Quantitative Methods can be fun and how to apply the concepts to real world problems. The list is long and I am deeply grateful for these professors and a multitude more.