The Dual Persona of Katie Mackey, by Cait Chock

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Mackey_KatieFV1-Stockholm15.jpgKatie Mackey storms to win in Stockholm, August 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

I was there. I saw Katie Mackey move well through the pack, take the lead over the last kilometer and win her first Diamond League race! A talented middle distance runner, Katie Mackey is one of those fine runners who could put it all together at this Olympic Trials.

Here is a fine story by Cait Chock on the dual persona of Katie Mackey.

The Dual Persona of Katie Mackey

By: Cait Chock

To watch Katie Mackey around a track is like watching an Oscar worthy actress seamlessly slip between two starkly different roles. I dare anyone to find a picture of a non-racing Mackey where she isn't smiling or laughing, yet the moment the clock starts, out comes a tenacious, single-focused beast.

Or perhaps, a more fitting metaphor would be a gazelle, like the one tattooed on her right side, but it would have to be one firecracker of a gazelle. The affability Mackey brings right back upon crossing the finish line is what makes her impossible not to adore. Humble, passionate about the sport, and quick to make you laugh, heading into the USA Olympic Trials no doubt the Mackey cheering section will be heard in a roar.

Among those fans are the myriad of high schoolers she takes great pleasure in meeting and working with to inspire the future of the sport. Mackey is a natural role model and even despite a packed training schedule will go out of her way to connect with local youths. An act that leaves not only the younger generation inspired by her, but even her peers. Count Brooks Beast Teammate, Drew Windle, as one of them, "I have some great people to look up to...[an] example is Katie Mackey and her involvement with the youth, and especially young girls in running."

Fresh off of a month in Albuquerque for altitude training and looking dead ahead to the USA Olympic Trials, Mackey eagerly partook in Brooks PR Meet, held two weeks ago. An annual event Brooks started in 2013, inviting the best high schoolers in the Nation to come to Seattle, race, and meet some of the elites. This year's event was made all the more special, as for the first time those elites got to spike up and race just like the high schoolers.

Naturally Mackey, noted for her awesome emcee skills from years prior, spiked up and hit the track this year. "This race fit perfectly in to the Trials build up for me...and coming back to Seattle and having an opportunity to get on the track in our own backyard in front of friends and sharpen the wheels was awesome."

True to form, she jumped at the opportunity to do more than simply compete and capitalized on the extra time with the high schoolers. "We all shared the locker room, and some of the girls were asking me if I still get nervous. I told them the nerves never go away, just refer to the feeling as excited instead- it means your body is ready to rock and roll and what you are about to go do means something to you!"

Wise words and a truth every elite can relate to. Something most professionals have had to learn on their own, but thanks to a growing passion for track and field, and big name shoe companies eager to support the sport, the high schoolers of this generation are able to learn things a lot sooner. Mackey expresses, "Conversations like that make the whole weekend and experience worth it, I wish I could have gone back in time and told my high school self that!"

Events like the unique mixed atmosphere of the Brooks PR Meet, along with social media, and abundance of online running resources, are all no doubt factors for the epic rise in performance times over the years. The United States has seen an incredible rise in depth and major drop in times over the last decade, which is true at the elite level and down to the high school level. To this end, for elites watching the high school races it's just as exciting and inspiring, "Most of the girls at the PR Invite are running 10-15 seconds faster than I ever ran in high school, it's amazing to me!"

Mackey knows what a major impact events like these and the contacts she makes with those up and coming young runners makes. And, it's what will ultimately help keep pressing the United States towards the medal stand for this and future Olympics. "Having a fun sports event that is geared toward fast races and entertainment to those in the stands is awesome and we definitely need more of that to keep moving our sport forward!"

Progress forward, led by passion. With the energy of the Brooks PR Meet fresh in her heart, a smile never far from her face, Mackey eagerly awaits the Trials and looks with that steely, focused gaze straight towards Rio.

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Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer and artist, you can see more of her work on her website and Instagram @caitchock.

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