You can’t always measure a person’s dedication in units of distance and time, but 130 miles every week for 12 weeks about sums up Rhiannon Johns’ commitment to running this season.
That was the Sault Ste. Marie native’s training regime at University of Alabama at Birmingham up to late February as she prepared for the current NCAA Division 1 outdoor track season.
To put that in perspective, Johns was putting in about twice the mileage a typical member of her track team puts in. She even kept up her pace — including a full marathon every Sunday — during a frosty three weeks at home over Christmas.
“Doing that much is risky. But to get big returns you need to take a bit of a risk,” said Johns, 22, who is completing her masters in mathematics at UAB.
It’s working so far. In California this March she set a new school record and a new personal record in the 10,000-metre at Stanford University Invitational. Her time at Stanford — 33:29.99 — shaved 45 seconds off her previous best and set a new school record.
She’s ranked 10th in the NCAA for the 10k, which has her well placed for the championship portion of the season, which kicks off with a conference championship at Rice University in Houston, Tex. in about a week and a half. Johns is a two-time conference champion for the 10k. NCAA regionals follow, with nationals in early June.
It’s the Sir James Dunn graduate’s final year of NCAA eligibility, so she’s trying to make the best of it. She said these next events are going to be a challenge, and they’re going to be tough, but she’s looking forward to it.
“I know I’m in a better place running than I’ve ever been before, so I have confidence going into these races,” said Johns.
This season marks a return to competitive running for Johns, who has competed at the Division 1 level every year of university except last year, when she ‘red shirted’ to maintain eligibility while she trained for this season.
Even during an off year Johns managed to be the fastest Canadian woman at the Tamarack Homes National Capital Race Weekend in Ottawa last May.
Her time at Stanford makes her the only Canadian female at the university level so far to hit the qualifying time for her distance, which may give her the opportunity to represent Canada at the World University Games in Russia this summer.
Then there’s Canadian nationals at the end of June in Moncton, N.B. As for what happens after that, Johns said she’s not sure. She has taken a teaching assistant position for the summer and fall while she finishes off her masters degree, and suspects she’ll be “running somewhere.”