How She Did It

How She Did It


By Greg Bach

While four-time NCAA champion Sara Slattery was interviewing some of the greatest female runners on the planet for HOW SHE DID IT: Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from 50 Legendary Distance Runners, among the many powerful insights shared was how instrumental being multi-sport athletes during their youth was in helping them forge successful careers.

“In the interviews that we did, 90 percent of the women we spoke with who performed at the highest levels and had the longest careers played multiple sports before high school and weren’t one-dimensional athletes,” says Slattery, who co-authored the book with two-time Olympian Molly Huddle. “That’s a really big stat for parents and coaches and young athletes. Encourage your kids to try other sports and don’t specialize too early. I know it’s hard. I’m the parent of a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old and everything is club already, but the more athletic you are when you are younger the higher your ceiling is.”

Slattery can relate. It’s the path she ran to a dazzling career.

She played a bunch of sports growing up: soccer, softball, and basketball among them.

And she dreamed of Olympic glory in the pool.

“I was infatuated with swimming,” she says.

But when she racked up three second-place finishes at Arizona’s high school state championship track meet – as a mere freshman – she found her sport.

And during the next three years made it a habit of being the first one across the finish line.

She went on to become a 10-time state champion in track and cross country; she set several school records at the University of Colorado and was inducted into its Hall of Fame; and she went on to coach the men’s and women’s cross-country teams at Grand Canyon University for many years.


Slattery knew Huddle from their days competing against each other.  

Their friendship flourished when Huddle began coming out to Arizona, where Slattery lives, to train. They would go on runs together and as the miles piled up their discussions about the challenges female athletes faced went deeper.

And got more serious.

Soon an idea on how they could help today’s female athletes was hatched and the interviews with giants of the sport and writing began.   

“We were seeing some girls having bad experiences,” Slattery says. “But there were a lot of great women who have had long, successful and healthy careers and we started talking that it would be great to highlight their stories and help girls understand what they were going through and that they can have a long, healthy, successful career too if they make the right choices.”

They began talking to runners they had competed against or admired, and the insights these greats shared was captivating.

The book hits on a variety of key topics: overcoming challenges; dealing with injuries; sleep; nutrition; mental health; and more. 

“Taking care of your body is one of the key messages of the book because your body is the vessel to get you to accomplish all of these things,” Slattery says. “You can’t take shortcuts. Fueling well, sleeping well, and taking care of your mental health are all really important in helping you not only perform well and have a healthy career but a healthy life.”

And the book tackles important topics like menstrual cycles that impact female athletes.

“It’s talking about the menstrual cycle with your athletes as a normal bodily function and not making it an awkward conversation is huge because that’s a key piece to their health,” Slattery says. “And it’s proven that you are going to have bone injuries if you’re not having your menstrual cycle regularly. That wasn’t something that was talked about when I was an athlete and there’s just so much more information now that we have that can help us be healthier.”

And with insights from legendary performers in the sport readers gain a goldmine of information on how they dealt with the challenges that all young athletes face on their journeys.

“It was really interesting to interview these women and hear the back stories on their careers, the struggles that they faced, and how they navigated things,” Slattery says.

Sara Slattery Track Cross Country Specialization Multiple Sports Training Confidence Injury

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