Toni Carey (@toni_carey/@blackgirlsrun)
I recently had the chance to catch up with track fenom Maurelhena Walles! Having recently competed in the USA Master's Track and Field Championships earlier this month in Lisle, IL, ( and winning the 800!), I'm always excited to talk with professionals who have a little more at stake that just keeping off the lbs., like myself.
Not only that, but it my was an opportunity to formally introduce her to the BGR! Nation before our upcoming race in Atlanta. We're excited to have Maurelhena present at the Black Girls RUN!/AARP Drive to End Hunger Conference Presented by Coca-Cola where she will present "A Black Girls Guide to Running" sponsored by Brooks. With a session title like that, I knew she was just as feisty as us and I couldn't wait to learn more about her.
Who is she? She is a top ranked World and National 400 and 800 meters Masters Track and Field athlete who is sponsored by Brooks ID (Inspire Daily) Running, www.brooksrunning.com
. Her certifications include personal training and exercise and program design for special populations including substance abusers and addicts. She specializes in strength and conditioning, speed and agility and interval training.
Outside of personal training, she has over fifteen years of research, development and implementation experience in the areas of instructional design, communication and education. She received her BA in Telecommunications and Political Science from Alabama A&M University, an MFA in Television Productions from Brooklyn College and a Professional Degree in Education, Communication and Technology from New York University.
By using her expertise in instructional design, she is able to meticulously design health and fitness programs that address the needs of her clients. She believes that good results are worth the time it takes to plan them.
The core of her success, on and off the track, is defined by her passion and commitment to using health and wellness as a tool to educate and empower.
From what inspired her to run, to her favorite running shoes, check out the lady behind the speed!
BGR: How and when did you begin running?
My mom use to say I was a hyper-active child. She used to find creative ways for me to release energy (aka: tire me out). She would say "let's see how fast you can get to the end of the block." So I would run down as fast as I could and wait for her. She would give me the same task to complete all the way home. Her plan worked, as I remember feeling exhausted when I got home.
My first competition was in 4th grade, the Mr. Peanut Contest
. The school selected one girl and one boy to represent the school. We had to do a series of events; track, sit-ups, long jump and softball throw. I remember at that young age the "rush" I felt while competing. First place was two weeks at a sports camp with all these famous athletes. Second place was a Huffy bike. I didn't want to be away from my family for two weeks, so I went for the bike. ! I successfully placed 2nd and won a bike that I didn't even know how to ride. While my parents weren't particularly pleased with my strategy, they understood and admitted that they would miss me too!
From then, I continued to compete in local youth meets, competed throughout high school and college and have never stopped since. Running is a part of me!
BGR: You're a world-class sprinter, but do you also run long distances?
Yes, I also run long distance. While at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School in Harlem, NY, our coach, Mrs. Anderson, told everyone that they would be running cross-country. This was foreign to me because I had never heard of cross-country. I was scared and thought that it meant we had to run from borough to borough. So on the first day of practice I did what any 14 year old would do, I brought my mommy. Just in case anything happened, like I got lost. I knew my mommy would be there to come rescue me. But none of that happened. We ran mile and hill repeats as a part of our workouts. The longest distance we ever ran was a 5K. And since high school, cross-country is used as a part of my base training during the Fall months. While the 400 is my main race, I compete in the 800 as well, so distance running is added to my workouts 2-3 times a week during the season.
BGR: What is your advice for new runners?
I thought about the answer to this question for awhile. I even had a paragraph written, but I erased it because I wanted to give advice that can act as your core, you mantra. And that advice is to HAVE FUN!!! Now this is easier said then done because running can take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride!!! There will be days when you will love the adrenaline rush running gives you and then there will be days when you will become so frustrated because you're working so hard but your times aren't dropping, the weight isn't coming off or better yet, you're injured. On these days remember why you started running. Remember what running does for you and always include FUN in your RUN.
BGR: You have certifications in developing programs for special populations including substance abusers and addicts, how does exercise play a role in their recovery?
I have been working with special populations for more than ten years in the capacity of workforce development and self-sufficiency. In 2008, because of government contract cuts, I became unemployed. I knew I wanted to continue to work with special populations but was unsuccessful in securing a job. One day I was discussing my frustration with my 16 year old niece (she's a great listener) and she told me that maybe it's not meant for me to continue what I was doing and that I should find a different way to help them. So that's what I did, I found a different way. I received my personal training certification, got accepted into an entrepreneur program and then got my certification in fitness training for special populations and substance abusers and addicts.
My approach is to help special populations enjoy the full emotional, social, learning and health benefits of physical movement in a group dynamic learning environment. Through exercise, I create learning environments where clients are able to work together and solve realistic problems through physical fitness and movement. Research has proven that exercise acts as a mild antidepressant and relieves stress. It elevates your mood, prevents mood swings and helps bring the body back to its original state before the substance abuse. Based on research and my experience on self-sufficiency, fitness and health goals should be at the forefront of recovery. Exercise not only supports their progress towards self-sufficiency, but it will also helps improve their quality of life.
BGR: You're presenting "Black Girls Guide to Running" at the Black Girls RUN/Drive to End Hunger Conference next month, what can attendees expect?
I am so excited and looking forward to sharing my expertise with the attendees at the conference. When putting together presentations, I make it a point to make sure attendees are enjoying every moment. So with that in mind, they can expect to laugh and HAVE FUN while learning how to create SMART running goals.
BGR: You are a Brooks ID athlete. What is your favorite Brooks shoe?
This is a tough one because I use them for different things (i.e. distance runs, on the track, indoor, etc.) but if I must narrow it down to one then it will be the PureConnect. I had a tear in my right achilles this outdoor track season and was concerned about the transition from trainers to spikes. The PureConnect was a great shoe to run in before test-driving my ELMN8 spikes. The PureConnect gave me the right amount of support I needed during my 200 meter repeats and sprint workouts on the track without aggravating my achilles.
BGR: What does "Run Happy" mean to you?
How do you put in words what you LOVE to do and what you can't live without? Running and I have a relationship; a good relationship. We've been together since I was a child. It has been with me throughout school, good and bad dates, and my marriage. It has made me cry, given me pain and helped me become a tougher person. I can't see my life without happiness and I can't see my life without running. Running is my go to happy place :-)
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