michaela salzman running a marathon

Gladiator Michaela and her long-distance running journey

Being a JCU Gladiator means way more than playing in a varsity team or being a white-and-blue student at John Cabot University, and our student Michaela Salzman perfectly shows and embodies all the features, spirit, and peculiarities that makes a student-athlete a real Gladiator.
We interviewed Michaela to get to know better about her passion and journey as a long-distance runner.

1) Thank you for dedicating some time to our interview, Michaela. Let’s get started! Can you tell us about your journey of long-distance running? What inspired you to take up this sport?

When I came to John Cabot, I was running shorter distances, rarely going more than 5-7km (or 3-4 miles). In my first few weeks at JCU, I met Nicholas Modlin. If you know him you know how inspiring, intense, and committed of an athlete and runner he is and he changed my view of running forever, getting me into long distance.
Distances that used to sound crazy became my daily average because of him and after a short few months, running almost daily with Nicholas along with other friends at school (and of course alone), I ran my first half marathon race through Rome, something I never pictured myself doing.
What used to be something to check off for the day became my favorite part of the day. For me, running is an escape from everything else in life. Simultaneously, it also aids me in meeting my academic or professional goals. Starting or ending my day with a run has helped me so much with everything else in life, setting a foundational base for my day or finishing it off by letting go of some pent-up energy. 

2) Training for a marathon requires dedication and discipline. Can you share some insights into your training routine and how you balance it with your academic commitments at JCU?

Training for any race is never easy. Planning my schedule as well as making sure to check off my non-fitness goals for the day is a continuous challenge, especially after long runs on the weekends. Somedays, it really takes it out of me and all I want to do is take a long nap. But with everything else I plan to do, this isn’t possible and I have had to better figure out how to make them work.
Moreover, I found with distance running planning nutritious meals was a whole separate challenge that required a lot of mental energy and planning. However, in time it becomes easier, as everything does.
Even through these difficulties, I find that without running I am less productive, less focused, and more anxious. While it’s a challenge to stick to something, I find that once you get in the habit of it it becomes second nature and you can’t picture your life without it. At least that’s how it is with me for running.

3) What role do your teammates and supporters play in your journey as a long-distance runner? How do they contribute to your success and motivation?

To get over these challenges it’s so helpful to find a group of friends to run with. I could not have become half the runner I am today without my running buddies. Having people that constantly push you is so important for growth. That is why I have been passionate about getting a group together at JCU.
I have met so many people from all over the world through running with the Athletics department.
I first met Nick because of the weekly gym runs and have been exposed to so many more people from the running community because of it. I now have friends in varying parts all over the globe that I still follow on Strava and get to see and be inspired by their activities daily.

Creating this community isn’t just about growing as a runner but also fostering an environment of people who care about their health and want to feel good, as cheesy as that sounds. While it’s nice to go out with friends for a nice meal or a few drinks, starting the day together to run around the city or the parks of Rome at sunrise is such a different feeling.
I started to lead the JCU run activity after Nick left to continue to build this community across campus, hoping to meet new people to join me on my runs and have friendly competition and motivation on those days when it’s truly tough to get out of bed. 

4) How has being a distance runner influenced other aspects of your life, such as your mindset, resilience, and overall well-being?

Running has taught me that your body can do a lot more than you think once you train it enough. I used to think that a marathon was never in the picture for me and now it has become the next goal of mine to complete.
To be completely honest, I started running because I was not good at it to begin with, and I wanted to prove something to myself. I still remember going to the gym with family members and almost in tears from having to do any sort of cardio. Now, I find myself in tears, not literally, if I’m unable to go for a run. Self-disciplines like these teach us so much more in every sphere of life. Since I have run distances or paces I once thought impossible, I also relate that to other parts of my life continuously. For example, when I’m writing a long paper or studying a concept that is especially confusing, I think of how running used to be in that same boat and that I managed to do that too. 

We want to thank Michaela so much for telling us about her experience, and we wish her the best of luck on her brilliant future as runner!
Also, we invite the JCU Community to join Michaela on the Running Classes she leads, starting from Gianicolo Residence, every Wednesday morning 8amsign up using the Athletics Booking System (all recreational activities are suspended during Spring Break).
Last but not least, we will have our JCU Fun Run happening on Sunday, April 7 at 10am, and remember to join Team JCU for the Komen Race happening on Sunday, May 12 – save the dates and sign up when spots open up on the Athletics Booking System, later in March.

Go Gladiators!