In the world of professional distance running, $5,000 goes a long way. For Alissa McKaig, it will help pay for two months of high-altitude training in Utah.
The former Concordia Lutheran High School state champion and Indiana Tech NAIA national champ was recently named a “Roads Scholar Program” grant winner.
The honor is bestowed to a handful of distance runners each year by the Road Runners Club of America and designed to boost the training of “national and world-class distance running athletes.”
“It's a great honor just to be recognized,” McKaig said Monday. “The (cash award) is nice and it helps, but it's really neat to be honored.”
Former East Noble High School state champ and 2008 U.S. Olympian Amy Yoder Begley was on the selection committee.
“Wow, I didn't know that,” McKaig said. “That is really neat.”
McKaig runs professionally for the Zap Fitness Foundation, living and training in western North Carolina near Blowing Rock. It's been a very successful partnership for McKaig, who has made a pair of U.S. World teams (cross-country and marathon) and raced in the U.S. Olympic Trials both on the track and in the marathon.
But to take her training to the next level, she is going to literally move up to the next level: as in 7,000 feet above sea level. And her grant from the Roads Scholar Program will help fund it.
“I'm looking forward to training out there,” McKaig said. “I'll be there from September to November and will be a nice change of scenery.”
The benefits of training at altitude will hopefully be realized in February when McKaig attempts to make another U.S. World Cross Country team. This will mark a return to racing after an extended break. A much-needed break at that.
“I ran three marathons in 14 months,” McKaig said, alluding to the 2010 New York Marathon, the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. In between all that she raced cross-country (U.S. and World) and on the track.
“It was definitely time to take an extended break,” McKaig said of this summer. “I took three weeks off (still logging 40 miles per week) for the first time in three years.”
McKaig plans to build her mileage up to 115 miles per week while she is in Utah.
“It will be the most I've ever run, so I'm pretty excited about it,” McKaig said.