Anna Shields Bounces Back
“Not being a D1 runner, sometimes the path seems a little harder. I think that I’ve come as far as anyone could have come in that short amount of time and I’m not putting any more limits on myself."
By Jeff Hollobaugh, Track & Field News
As a high school junior in 2008, Anna Shields had all the promise in the world. That year she won the Nike Indoor 5000. She broke Connecticut’s state record in the Mile with a 4:48.52 at the Penn Relays and rated #9 on the national yearly list. And yet somehow, it all crumbled. In hindsight, she thinks she was suffering from a serious protein deficiency.
“I didn’t understand what was happening,” she recalls. “I kept training hard and just every race kept getting worse and worse. I was trying to write it off like, ‘Oh, this is a bad day for this reason…’ But things started trending downwards to the point that I went from running 4:48 to only being able to run like a 5:13. The colleges that had been really interested, the D1 schools, they weren’t anymore.” She signed a letter of intent with North Carolina, only to be told later that she wasn’t a good fit. “I guess they saw me as a young girl that had talent at a young age and wasn’t looking like I could continue with that potential.”
She ended up at Central Connecticut: “I competed for a year, and I did worse and worse. Racing felt very painful, like I was going to faint. I remember the conversation I had with my college coach. I don’t blame him at all because he could tell how miserable I was. He said, ‘Is this really what you want to keep doing?’”
The one-time burgeoning star thought of all the races where people who had seen her as a high school ace now watched her struggle at the back of the pack: “It was humiliating. It took away a lot of the joy I had running.” She now says it was a relief when her coach asked the question. “No, I can’t keep doing this,” she responded.
She left school and went to work full-time as a bank teller. For 6 years she barely ran. “I would go for little jogs after work sometimes,” she says. “I wouldn’t even change out of my work clothes. I was wearing loafers and work pants and I’d jog for like 15 minutes.” Then the bank put on a “steps” challenge. Whoever took the most steps that month would win a free week of groceries. “Money was tight,” she explains of her decision to go for a 6 mile run. “I felt that runner’s high again and I felt good and it just made me think, ‘Maybe I can do this.’ It was so many years later that there was nothing to lose.”
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