An Interview with 14 year old running phenom Alayna Szuch

Jun. 6, 2018

One athlete certainly not to miss this weekend at the GoPro Mountain Games is 14 year old Alayna Szuch, a local Colorado running phenom. She has been making waves in the community by finishing in exceptional times and beating competitors much older than her. At last years GoPro Mountain Games, she won the Superfeet Apres 5K in the women’s division and placed 3rd overall. We sat down with her to learn more about what makes her so successful.

When did you start running?  
I started running before I can remember.

Can you tell us a little more about your early running days? Did you jump right into a fast pace and steady rhythm or did it take some time to get your groove?
I started running with my family on trails.  When I was seven or eight I went to the USATF state cross country race for my age group. I ended up enjoying the race and doing well. After that, I started to become more serious about racing, and when I turned ten I started running 18 minute 5k times.

What makes you so successful among competitors your age and even older? 
I think my advantage in running is having an easy-going, supportive family and having positive coaches and teammates on Peaks Performance Running.  They all add to my love of running.

What is your “bucket list” race/event that you’d like to compete in someday?
My “bucket list” race is competing for Team USA at the Junior Mountain Running World Championships.  My brother is on the team and is leaving soon for Italy, and I am very jealous. I have raced the Masters US Mountain Running Champs twice, getting seventh both years, and they were a couple of my most enjoyed races.

What does your five-year plan look like? What do you see yourself doing in the future in and out of the running world?
Since I will be starting high school this year, I will be focusing on the cross country during the late summer and fall- trying to break my 5k PR- 17:23.  Till then I am going to enjoy the GoPro 10k and other trail races like the La Sportiva series. During the spring I will be doing track. For the next four years, my plan is a repeat of that; xc in the fall, track in the spring, and trail running in the summer.  Outside of running, I see myself taking more online classes through Colorado Mountain College, grooming my dogs a lot, and reading some more -slightly dark- books by Donna Tartt.

Besides running, what are some of your favorite activities/what would you suggest for other people your age do when they vacation to Vail?
There is so much to do in Vail. The mountain biking, trail running, and snowshoeing are world class.  Though I only Nordic ski, I have heard the downhill skiing is also exceptional. My family loves the Vail La Sportiva series.

What is your favorite part of the GoPro Mountain Games? What keeps you coming back?
My favorite part of the GoPro Mountain Games is the energy.  There is all the hype from all the athletes competing in climbing, running, kayaking… etc, and the fun low key vibe from events like the dog competitions.  I keep coming back to compete in the running events because of all the amazing competition that shows up.

Do you have any advice for young men and women looking to start running?
For young men and women looking to start running, I would advise starting with trail running.  I find that pavement and track runs can be a little mentally hard, especially if you are just getting into running.  Trail running can be adventurous with new scenery, unexpected wildlife, water crossings…etc.

Thanks to Alayna for taking the time to answer some questions, and be sure to check her out in the 10k at the GoPro Mountain Games this year.