Chelsea Reilly lined up next to Olympians and national champions at the starting line of the USA 10 km Championships. Fresh out of her collegiate career at UC Berkeley, Reilly had every right to be nervous: she had never raced a 10 km, it was the longest race of her life and it was her first USA Championship. But the nerves didn’t show.
Reilly held her own among the favorites of the race, and surprised herself by how easy the effort felt.
“I kept on waiting for it to get hard,” Reilly said. “And it never did, that was so surprising.”
Over the last mile, Reilly found her way to the front of the pack and then she pulled away leaving the rest of the field and winning by five seconds in 32:40.1.
Get to Know Chelsea
College major: english
Pets: yes, a boxer dog named Tyson
Other talents: was on a competitive choir in high school that won a world title in Wales
Favorite workout: hill repeats on a treadmill
Favorite cross-training activity: indoor Eliptigo riding on a bike trainer
Making her first national title even sweeter was the fact that Reilly’s coach Magdalena Boulet, who Reilly simply calls Magda, was running in the same field.
“It was very surreal,” Reilly said. “More than anything it was the most rewarding thing to experience with my coach there. To be able to give this back to her so early on was just thrilling.”
Reilly finished her collegiate career this spring with a top-ten finish at the NCAA Division I Championships in the 5,000m, but she sees herself as a changed runner since her Berkeley days.
“I see races now as opportunities to show the hard work that I’ve been putting in,” Reilly said. “I used to be very nervous stepping on the starting line, but because I have so much confidence in the training that Magda’s given me and so much trust in our program I just have no fear when I start a race and I know I wouldn’t be there unless Magda prepared me.”
While Reilly has been a life-long runner since she first joined her middle school cross country team, becoming a professional runner did not always look like it would be in the cards for Reilly. She struggled with multiple injuries during her collegiate career.
“I had been running really poorly during my fourth year [at Berkeley],” Reilly said. “I was really questioning whether I should be running a fifth year, but I decided I would just enjoy running and give it my best shot. I didn’t think it would necessarily lead to a post-collegiate career. You can always dream, but it wasn’t looking like a reality.”
But Chelsea’s dream has become a reality, and it is obvious in conversations with her that she is thrilled with the direction her running career has taken.
“My life has kind of changed a little bit since these recent races,” Reilly said. “Magda and I are going to be sitting down and reassessing our goals. I don’t know what my limits are and that is really exciting.”
Follow Reilly on Twitter at: @CheReillyRuns