Runner Interview: Hallidie Wilt

I am so excited to be able to feature my friend Hallidie on the blog. When I first moved to Anchorage and started running races here, I quickly came to know the name Hallidie Wilt. She was always a top runner in every race–most often winning the race. She was a long-legged, lean, mean running-machine and a fierce competitor that everyone around town knew.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2015 when I finally got to know Hallidie as a friend. Initially I was really intimidated by her (She is one of the best runners in the community!), but we started doing long runs together, and when it is just you and one other person chatting it up for 2 hours, you get to know them pretty well.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve become good friends, and one day my boss, Dan, asked me if Hallidie and I were friends or competitors, and I said, “We’re both!” We race hard against each other (and usually she beats me), but we still remain good friends. 

Hallidie wrote a lot about her history of running, and I’m so glad she was willing to share her running experiences with you!!

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Hello, my name is Hallidie Wilt. I grew up in Unalaska, Alaska, also known to many as Dutch Harbor. I am the youngest of four girls. The following is a little bit about me in my relation to running.

Tell us about your running background: how you got into running, who you’ve run for, etc.

My running background started probably around 5th grade. Growing up in a small town I spent almost every night going swimming with friends and family. I loved swimming. The neighborhood kids would spend many nights pushing the limits of how late we could stay out so we could finish one more round of hide and go seek tag.

There were moments in my childhood when I really started to enjoy running. I remember learning to run faster by lengthening my stride in an effort to only take one step in each cement square of the sidewalk without landing on the cracks. I lived in downtown Unalaska and would run from my house down the road a half a mile to Carl’s General Store where I would buy a candy bar. There was also an added pressure to not get seen by my father.  He would not want me wasting all my money on candy. My father worked at Alyeska Seafoods which was just past Carl’s. Which would make me run faster so I would not be seen by him.

In 5th grade we ran the half mile for P.E. class in gym. My neighbor James ran right by my side the whole time and I pushed really hard in the final lap beat him, just out edging him in the final step across the line. The P.E. teacher later told me that I not only beat everyone in my class but everyone in the 6th grade as well!

Going into 6th grade my parents were out of town just before school started. My sister Andrea has started cross-country practice and had brought me along to practice. For practice the team was running out to the city dump and back. My sister Andrea was the fastest girl from our school and the only one who made it to State for Unalaska every year in high school. When the team started running, I was towards the back and wanted to catch up to my sister. I ended up passing her and she still tells the story to this day.

In junior high I opted to participate in swim team over cross-country. Going into high school I made the decision to pick cross country running. I knew I was had talent with running. My first few meets I didn’t feel confident especially within a big group, I had a lot of negative self-talk where I thought I didn’t deserve to be at the front. I didn’t think I good enough. We traveled to Bethel, Alaska for our region meet. The race course was in a sand pit, which had a cliff you had to jump off of in the middle of the course. It was my birthday and I wasn’t super stoked about spending it in this small town. In the final parts of the race I moved up from 8th to 2nd place. I was the only one on my team to qualify for the State meet.

Growing up in a small town meant less options for athletes. In high school, we had swim team, cross country running, volleyball, wrestling, basketball, and Native Youth Olympics as sports we could participate in. When I was younger, I really looked up to my sisters and could not wait to be in high school so I could travel and compete. I finished 14th, 14th, 10th, and 5th at 1-2-3 A State Championships for high school cross country. Towards the end of my senior year I had a moment where I just wanted to get out of my small town and represent Alaska. I worked with a guidance counselor and contacted Michael Friess to be a walk on for UAA’s cross country running team. A few hours later he responded with a “yes.” Most people in my high school would say that going to UAA is just like an extension of high school so I felt at the time that I wanted to keep my plans on the low. I always felt judged that I wasn’t making the right decision or doing enough with my life. I graduated high school in spring of 2007 then moved to Anchorage that fall. Being a walk on for the UAA Cross Country team was super intimidating for me. I have always been a super shy person and didn’t really push past that until a few years into college. I was the slowest person on the girls’ team. Even the girl who was dealing with a knee injury was way ahead of me. The first day of practice our coach sent us out on a 45-minute run, “an easy day” this was literally the longest run I had ever been on. Day two: heading to the track. We ran 1200s. We arrived at the track following our warm up run then coach told us what we will be running. In return I asked “what’s a 1200” and everyone laughed. I had never been on a track before. I learned quickly during that season. It took about halfway through the cross-country season for me to finally get into running shape. My coach talked to me about redshirting then decided to give me a shot and see how I do. I worked really hard my first year to prove that I could be a part of that team. I felt really inexperienced especially going into my first track season. I learned a lot about running, training and myself in my time at UAA.

I ran for University of Alaska Anchorage from 2007 – 2012. Click on the links to see my UAA achievements: Cross country and Track

2012-2013 I was a volunteer assistant coach for UAA. Currently I am working with Skinny Raven Sports, running the training groups for Raven Run Club. I continue have a passion for competing and participate in many community races.

(I believe this is a photo by Todd List Photography.)

Why do you enjoy running?

I enjoy running because it makes me feel free. I also love pushing my limits. My high school coach once told me that running was a special sport because you can’t fake being good at it and you are going to push yourself to run faster than you have before. In college, my passion for running really developed when I took training more seriously. One of my college coaches, T.J., would predict how fast I would run and I remember thinking “there is no way I will ever be that fast!” To my surprise I was able to run as he said I would. This really taught me that we set limits to ourselves way before we even try to push through them. I love competing with myself and trying to improve my fastest times. Most of the time when someone makes a comment about how fast I am, the thoughts in my head immediately go to, “Is this really the best I can do?”

Where is your favorite place to run?

I appreciate running for the view. Getting lost on trails used to scare me but now I love finding new places to run, especially when I feel like it’s my own secret trail that no one has discovered.

What race/running event are you most proud of?

Top 3 in no particular order:

From my cross-country racing days in college, the race the race I am most proud of is in 2009 NCAA West Regional Championships in San Francisco. Our ladies had been working on running as a group. We were definitely intimidating when we would go out all together in a tight knit pack. I was in 5th place with about 800 meters to go in the 6k. Coach TJ was there and made a comment that I could be 3rd if I had a good kick left in me. I pushed with everything I had and ended up in 3rd just out edging my teammate. This victory meant so much to me. There were many points in this race where I could have given up and then ended up finishing in third place. The two ahead of me ended up finishing 1st and 2nd in the weeks to come at the D2 National meet. Our team finished 3rd in our region with was the highest ever for the UAA women at the time.  Coach TJ later told me he thought I was in 4th and didn’t see one of the girls in front of me. He was pretty surprised at how much I had moved up. Note to self: you have a lot more in the tank than you think!

From my track races, the moment that was most surprising was running steeple chase in 10:31 at Stanford Invitational on April 6, 2012. I started doing the steeplechase in my third year at UAA in 2010. It became my favorite event right away. I loved the challenge of the barriers! I broke the school record and qualified for nationals. I struggled towards the end of the track season in 2010 and did not perform as well at nationals as I was hoping. I decided to redshirt my 2011 track season to allow myself more time to succeed in the steeple chase. In 2012 when I ran the steeple at Stanford I remember being very nervous about the heat. With the steeplechase, it is easy to get discouraged if you have some poor water pit landings. My coaches had been talking me about getting back to pace between the barriers and not focusing on the water pit. In Alaska, we don’t have any water pits to practice on so naturally I was always a bit nervous about that part of the race. We would create a make shift one with our one steeple barrier and some cones (marking where the water would end) by pushing the net in onto the infield at the Alaska Dome. We would work on landing one foot in, one foot out of the “water.” Back to the race, getting into the first few laps I felt confident, but I remember not seeing a lap counter and I started to talk to myself ’til I was confused at what lap I was on. I focused on not falling off the group of girls and came around the last 200 mark where my coach was screaming for me to push the last bit. I remember thinking to myself “only 200 to go?!” Over the last water pit jump and into the last straight of the race I saw that clock with lower 10 mins on it! As I walked off the track my coach met me with a hug. He then informed me I had broken not only the school record but also the GNAC record. (This victory was short lived. My teammate Susan Tanui ended up breaking my record later that day.)

By the end of my collegiate running career I had a feeling that I didn’t quite accomplish everything I had hoped. I really wanted to become an “All-American.” In my thoughts of failure, I found strength to push myself. Following my final year, I made a goal to win the Twilight 12k. This is one of my favorite community races! I showed up with a vengeance against myself after having a poor performance at nationals. I achieved this goal winning the race and setting a course record.

What are your current running goals?

Right now, I’m mostly running to stay active and healthy. I am in the midst of coming up with my running goals for 2017.

What/who motivates you?

I draw motivation from all over the place. Sometimes it’s stories from others of overcoming struggles, other times it’s a quote or something I read. One thing that has always helped motivate me is remembering that I am representing something bigger than myself. So remembering that what I do and present myself sends a message about how I was raised, that I’m a reflection of my town, of the schools I attended, etc.

One of my biggest motivators I have is children I am surrounded by. I think children are so special in the way they can be influenced so I always try to be a good influence. My niece Versailles is one person I always am looking to impress. She was born August 12, 2008. During my sister’s pregnancy, they knew things weren’t quite right. She has some developmental delays but she pushes to do things by herself and overcome her limitations. Versailles watched an episode of Curious George where he helped Professor Wiseman train for a race. She is now very interested in running and working out. I love watching how much she picks up on from everything around her.  I strive to always be a positive influence in Versailles’ life. She is my favorite cheerleader!

Versailles and Hallidie

What do you do to warm-up for a race and prepare yourself mentally for it?

Mentally I prepare for the race the day before. I will run the course the day before then spend some time mentally playing out the race in my mind the night before. I will come up with the what if’s (I go out too fast/I start dying/I get a cramp) then play through how I can help myself overcome those scenarios.

My warm up is pretty standard of most runners. If it’s a morning race I make sure to be up a bit earlier so I’m not dragging at the start line. I have my coffee and oatmeal, get my race outfit on and my things together. I typically get to the race location an hour before. Getting closer to start time I go for 20 minutes nice and easy, then go through drills and strides.

What is your favorite pre-race meal?

The morning of a race I typically have a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds.

What is your favorite post-race meal?

Pizza

How would you spend your ideal day?

My ideal day would include all of the following: wake up from a well-rested night of sleep, coffee, babies smiling and laughing, run to somewhere with a view, shower, nap, finishing a project, lots of great food, friends and family time, and finally something to satisfy my sweet tooth.

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Thanks, Hallidie! We’ll see you out on the streets this summer!!

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