Teresa began her journey with running as an inquisitive and unusually energetic homeschooled pre-teen. She learned she had legs at an early age, when she discovered she could out-run the boys in games of capture the flag, but it wasn't immediately clear what direction that would take. With limited access to team sports and an inborn desire to explore the outdoors, running became a natural companion to her favorite pastimes: drawing and pondering. It was a physical counterpoint to her imagination.
Her neighbor, Patty Phelger, recognized the runner in Teresa and suggested she try a cross country running summer camp, coached by private coach and competitive runner, Cheryl Shwe. This was Teresa's first encounter with running as a thing people do. Not long after, she ran her first 5k and felt what it feels like to competitive nature. Under the expertise and guidance of Cheryl, the concept of running turned into something very real. In 2001, Cheryl invited her to join the Impala Racing Team: one of the oldest all-women's competitive distance running clubs in the country. Though Teresa did not know it then, that gesture was a pivotal moment in her life, laying the rebar in what would remain the foundation of her running career. The Impala's not only offered Teresa the camaraderie and structure that she was missing, but their collective wisdom gave her a perspective on the longevity and immense depth of the sport: that the pursuit of running ones best is more than running ones best, it is a way of life.
In the fall 2003, Teresa enrolled as a freshman at Stanford University. Humbled to join another legacy of great distance runners, she found a new family in the Varsity Cross Country and Track team. Carrying the spirit of the Impala's with her, she embarked on journey of some of the highest highs and lowest lows of her competitive running career. Early hopes of success were dashed in the second half of her first year on the team. A sacral stress fracture - a debilitating running-induced injury that ended up sidelining many Stanford runners in the following years - took her out for 6 months. She had it all wrong. She thought that pushing herself harder meant getting faster. This mentality died a slow and destructive death, causing multiple stress fractures and other injuries along the way. With each set-back, however, came an opportunity to learn a little something more about herself, and that was perhaps the greatest lesson of all: that growth is most perceptible at the fringes.
She was not alone in her determination. Her Stanford teammates shared a special bond that can only come from pushing each other to to their limits and enduring the correlative ups and downs, together. From 2003 to 2007, the women's distance squad won four NCAA Cross County Titles (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007). Every member of that team, scoring or not, shared the bond. Without it, the title would only be a title. This solidarity translated to the more individually focused competitive outlet on the track. Teresa's event was the 5k. A two-time Regional Champion, Pac-10 Champion, and 6-time All-American, she reached her personal best a couple weeks after my last NCAA's and graduation, in a ceremonious end to her collegiate career at the Olympic Trials in 2008. She would adjourn to Harvard University's Graduate School of Design (GSD) that fall, to delve into a Masters of Architecture and hang up her track spikes for good, or so she thought.
The roads of Boston were calling, however, and running had not outrun its role in Teresa's life. After placing 8th at the USATF 2008 10k Road Championships, she found herself traveling as an alternate for Team USA at the Ekiden Relay's in Japan. Balancing the demands of graduate school and running became the task. Difficult decisions were made. Ascetic lifestyle choices helped cultivate a mindset that helped her embraced the work and find great fulfillment in the challenge. At times, running assumed a supportive role to the demands of school, at other times a reprieve, but it was the coach and a few members of the B.A.A., and one critical classmate who helped keep her competitive embers smoldering. After some rough winters and all-nighters, glimmers of the 2012 Olympic Trials started to shimmer on the Charles River.
To be continued...