Interview with Melissa Gulli - February 2004
by Trackshark dot com
Melissa Gulli is a 5 time NCAA All-American, finishing 2nd in the 5K in
the 2001 NCAA Outdoor and the 2002 NCAA Indoor meets. She gave birth to her
and fellow All-American (2003 XC) fiance Andrew Cook's child Natalie in May of
2003. After receiving a medical redshirt for last spring, she is back to
competition. She and her fiance will be featured on "Sports on Sunday" on Fox
Sports Southwest at 9 PM CST on Sunday, February 22.
1. Coming into this year, you've mentioned that it's somewhat of a no-pressure
situation. Does that give you an advantage, where you're more able to have a
nothing-to-lose attitude in races?
I feel that I do not have as much pressure on me this year because my
coach and I do not know what to expect after having the baby and being out of
competition for so long. I ran cross country in 2003, but I have not run track
in 2 years so this year is a trial and error year. I guess I am at an advantage
in that I feel like I am having more fun this year, but I still feel pressure
to perform well and will always have high expectations for myself.
2. No pressure doesn't necessarily mean no expectations. Do you have any
specific goals for the season, and later on for outdoors and the summer?
My goals for the season are to qualify for the Olympic trials and to run
well at nationals. I am fortunate to have a coach who always peaks me for big
meets, so hopefully things will fall into place.
3. You continued to run through your pregnancy, which many doctors are now
saying is much better than not. Did you still receive any negative attention?
I ran through most of my pregnancy under my doctor’s approval and it made
me feel better. I think I received a little bit of criticism for running cross
nationals but overall the attention has been positive.
4. Was there ever any doubt about returning to competitive running?
Once I found out I was pregnant I just figured I would graduate and be
done with collegiate running. When my coach asked me to stay and run the next
year, I just laughed, but had a serious decision to make. If you are given a
chance to do something that you love to do, why pass up the opportunity? We had
our families' blessing, and I was able to take time off from school and stay
home with Natalie. I did not want to look back in my life and think "What if I
would have done this?" I was dealt a lot of difficult situations, and I feel
that I have dealt with them all well.
5. Have there been many unexpected additional challenges to coming back?
Getting back into shape was a lot harder then I was expecting. I was
anemic in the fall and would have a good week and then a bad week, so overall I
was frustrated. I also felt that people were already knocking me down before I
even got started. I also now have the challenge everyday of taking care of my
family so scheduling things can be difficult.
6. Does it help having a running fiance, or does it create more challenges?
Sharing the same activities is always nice, but can it create schedule
I love having a partner who enjoys the same activities I do and
understands when I am tired. Andrew has helped me keep my head up and stay
positive. Long distance running takes up a lot of time and energy so I was a
little nervous of trying to figure out our schedules and just having time for
ourselves. I thought it would be hard to go to school and practice without
conflicting each one's schedule but it has worked out great. We have awesome
friends and family who help us out all of the time plus we practice at
7. Do you think the increased responsibility has allowed you to take a
different approach to running?
This might sound untruthful, but running is my second priority now and I
have so much happiness occurring everyday in my life that I feel that I have
become more laid back. I do not beat myself up if I take a day off. I can give
myself a pat on the back and be proud of all of the things I am doing and that
I never gave up.
8. Many runners seem to lose their competitive edge after an extended break
from racing. You, on the other hand, won your first race back (Bayou Bengal
3K) by over 30 seconds, and then placed 3rd, both qualifying automatically and
setting an indoor PR in a loaded field at the PAC-10 Invite 5K. What do you
think has allowed you to maintain your ability to compete?
I will always be a competitive person, and I love the feeling when I
accomplish a goal or push my body to its limits. I think running and staying in
good shape allowed me to lose the weight fast and to keep my strength. Staying
mentally tough is a huge component to be a successful runner and I never lost
that. I have dealt with a lot of challenges through college and somehow I have
come out on top with most situations.
9. Has your training load adjusted from years past? What is a typical week of
My sophomore and junior year I started running high mileage and did not
see results until the end of my junior year. It was hard to run a lot of miles
at first but I eventually adjusted. After having my baby I found it difficult
to run a lot of mileage, so it was a gradual climb to where I was before I had
my child. I have found that my body can handle a lot and now I am running high
mileage and I feel great. A typical week of training is 2 hard workouts on the
track and 1 off the track and a Sunday long run. I run about 80-85 miles a
10. You've been the NCAA Runner-Up twice, and represented the USA at the 2001
World University Games. Does any one experience stand out as the most
memorable, and why?
Nationals in 2001 stands out the most because that was a break out year
for me and I did not think I would run that fast or get second. Oregon is so
beautiful and I had a lot of friends come up for the trip so it was a memorable
experience. Plus, I was ranked to get seventh or eighth, so it was nice to do
11. Post-college opportunities for women seem to be expanding quite a bit.
What does your ideal post-college situation look like?
I would love to run after college because I think if I put my time,
energy, and heart into running over the next few years that I have a legitimate
shot at making an Olympic team. Also, I have to remember that I have a family
now and I have to do what is best for all of us.