Running has always been “family time” for Alana Hadley.
When she was 6 years old, Hadley ran her first road race, a 5K, with her mother. After the gun went off, Hadley’s father took her younger brother for a walk, calculating that they had 36 minutes to kill. Luckily, they got back early: Just 27 minutes later, Mark Hadley was astonished to see his wife and daughter finish.
“I had so much fun,” Hadley says about having run under nine minutes per mile. “I was like, ‘When’s the next one? Let’s go!’”
It wasn’t the last time Alana Hadley surprised someone with her running. “She progressed a bit faster than I expected,” says her father, who is also her coach.
At 15, she was named USATF Athlete of the Week when she won a cross-country race in her hometown of Charlotte, NC—against collegiate athletes. At 16, she made her marathon debut and turned pro after finishing fourth at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 2:41:56 to earn a “B” qualifying mark for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. With that performance she became the youngest qualifier since Cathy Schiro (later O’Brien) in 1984, who finished ninth in those trials and later went on to make two Olympic teams.
But before the 2016 trials on February 13, Hadley will try her hand at the TCS New York City Marathon. She’ll be the youngest athlete in the professional field of her first major marathon, a race about which she has dreamed since she was in seventh grade.
“I’m 18 now, I can do it!” says the University of North Carolina-Charlotte freshman. “The [Oakley New York] Mini was the first race I was ever invited to, so it’s like everything started in New York City.”
It actually started when Hadley was 3 and began begging her father to let her run with him while he trained for a marathon. She ran a mile the first time out.
“My dad is the reason I wanted to run in the first place,” she says. “Running was a fun thing to be able to do with my parents, to have that one-on-one time, and it’s just taken off.”
If her father has inspired her, she has done the same for him.
“She has a lot of courage,” says Mark. “She has dreams, and is willing to work hard to realize them. She makes me examine my own life: Am I working hard enough?”
Among their bonds is their dedication to raising awareness and funds for autism: Both donate a portion of their earnings to honor Hadley’s 11-year-old sister, Rose, who has the disorder. Mark calls Hadley’s decision to give part of her Indianapolis bonus to an autism charity “probably the thing I’m most of proud of” about that trials-qualifying race.
“To me, running is a microcosm of life and its lessons: the value of hard work and consistency,” says Mark. “I’ve always used that as a father, telling her about how those carry over into life. On runs, we’re not talking about running.”
There’s a line that remains clear, says Hadley, who’s aiming for a PR under 2:37 to meet the “A” trials qualifying standard on November 1.
“I can pretty much tell when coach is talking and when dad is talking,” she says. “When it’s ‘you know you can do this,’ that’s the coach. When it’s ‘I’m proud of you and I love you,’ that’s the dad.”
By Barbara Huebner
Watch the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1 on WABC-TV, Channel 7, in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST and watch it across the country on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST.
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