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March 08, 2021
Heather MacLean is February 2021 Athlete of the Month
New Balance athlete ends indoor season with top 10 World ranking in 3 events
(New Balance Boston/Peabody, MA) is USATF-New England’s Athlete of the Month for February 2021.
The award comes in recognition of the sum of her performances in February. MacLean won the 1500m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in 4:06.32, giving her the best American time in the event this year. She also leads the nation in the 800m this year following her 2:00.53 performance at American Track League Meet No. 4. In January, MacLean also posted a world-leading 4:27.54 in the mile at American Track League Meet No. 1.
New Balance Boston
coach Mark Coogan
said that much of her success can be attributed to her meticulous training. “She does all the little things correctly. Diet, massage, prehab, stretching, strides, rolling, weight training. She seems to do all of the little things to the best of her ability, and they all add up at the end of the day,” Coogan said.
On top of training with other elite runners, Coogan also attributed the improvements MacLean has made in 2021 to her mentality. “She learned how to win and she’s taking it to another level,” Coogan said. “She sees that she can run in practice with (teammate) Elle (Purrier) who ran 4:16 in the mile, break 15:00 for 5000, and go to the World Championships. She is training with Katrina (Coogan) who won a couple of NCAA championships when she was at Georgetown. She's told herself, ‘If they can do it, I can do it. I belong.’ Her confidence is really high right now. She’s happy every day she comes to practice, she’s confident and healthy; what more can you ask for?”
Coogan also described Heather as a diamond in the rough. As someone who grew up in Massachusetts and ran collegiately at the University of Massachusetts, MacLean’s training conditions were often less than ideal. “New England kids get overlooked because they don’t get the outdoor opportunities due to the weather here. By the time the weather gets good in the spring, they’re already out of school, they’ve already gone home for the summer before they got an opportunity to run fast outdoors,” Coogan said. “Hopefully, some of these people will keep going after college, keep trying, and they’ll have breakthroughs.”
MacLean is now working towards training for the Olympic trials in the 800m or the 1500m, Coogan said.
USATF-New England spoke with Heather MacLean over the phone about her accomplishments.
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your training?
I would definitely say it is recovering - sleep or anything else that helps me recover faster. I’ve tried to incorporate the little things this year. I’m going to bed earlier because I tend to take longer to fall asleep, whatever sleep aids might help me. I’ve found tart cherry juice is very helpful for recovery, so I make sure I have some of that before bed. So, definitely sleep and little things that help me sleep better.
What’s your go-to race day meal?
: Since my races are usually in the afternoon, in the morning I like to just keep it simple and eat something that makes me really happy. I really enjoy waking up and being able to eat eggs with toast. I know it sounds kind of lame, but eggs with toast is just something I really enjoy. Two eggs over easy with toast on the side with some jam, that’s usually what I go for. And coffee, of course!
Do you have a performance that you are most proud of?
I guess my last race. I was just really excited because not only did my teammate and I race really well, but she was able to get the Irish record. It was just one of those moments where we had talked about it the day before, and how exciting it would be for us to race really well, and then we did, so it almost felt like we manifested it.
You’re currently ranked top five in the world in three different events. What have you been doing to allow yourself to perform at such a high level this year?
I would say just changing my mental game; I’ve changed it a lot. That was a positive thing that came out of quarantine. I was really forced to be vulnerable and figure out what has been bothering me and what I can work on these past few years. The big thing was just how I am mentally prepared for races and how I’m mentally prepared for training. I’ve really been working on that.
Could you explain what you have done to improve your mental state going into your races and training?
I started meditating. I use a guided meditation app and it has helped me a lot with my overall confidence and has especially helped me in running. I know in an app like Headspace, there’s a performance mindset subsection of it that I found really helpful. But even in everyday practices of meditation, it has helped me feel a lot less anxious, a lot more confident in myself, and a lot less analyzing what’s going on or how people are interpreting me because I just want to interpret myself in a positive light. I think that will radiate if I’m doing that.
How long have you been running?
I started in my junior year of high school indoor. Honestly, I was looking for a hobby for one, and two, my best friend had joined the team at the time, and she was my ride to school and work. So I was like, ‘Well if she’s doing it, why don’t I just do it too!’ So yeah, that’s my main thing, but of course, after my first few weeks on the team, I just loved being part of that community so I stuck with it.
Why did you choose to run with New Balance Boston?
I really liked the team and I really liked coach Coogan as soon as I met him. I felt like we shared similar philosophies when it came to training. I really enjoyed the girls because it seemed like they were more than teammates, I know for a lot of teams, sometimes it’s strictly business, but I felt like we could be teammates and friends. I knew if I was coming to Boston, I’d be looking for a community. That had a really positive impact on us individually, but also it made me really interested in the team because I saw not only are you getting these "coworkers" or teammates, but you’re also getting friends or people you can hang out with outside of the sport, which is so important because if you’re just hyper-focusing on the sport all the time, you’re going to have tunnel vision. It’s nice to have people who, when you’re running with them, you’re talking about the most random things, like ‘are we just a simulation?’
Do you have any goals that you are working towards right now?
I’m just going to say staying consistent and trying to do the best that I can for myself every day.