- ABOUT US
It’s been a while since Leah joined the CITIUS MAG Podcast. Now she’s got a new sponsor, a new home and a new last name after getting married to Louis Falland in 2020. Most importantly, she’s running really well on the track and just paced Elle Purrier to an American record in the two-mile at the New Balance Indoor Games, which were held in New York City. I recorded this conversation with Leah at the end of January and since then she’s run 4:12 for the win in a 1,500m at a small meet in Arizona. Her personal best of 4:11.04 was set in 2015 so things are trending in the right direction. She is slated to run the 5,000m at the Trials of Miles Texas Qualifier on Feb. 26 and Feb 27, which will be broadcast on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel for free. In this episode, you’ll hear much more about the refreshed perspective that she’s adopted in the past 18 months that have propelled her forward in her career.
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“I’m enjoying what I’m doing so much. I thought to myself that a few years ago this was not even in the realm of possibilities in my mind that I would be this happy, doing what I love and married to an amazing person. I wouldn’t have expected this. I’m really happy I’ve stuck with it.”
“When I was younger there was this angst and anxiety (going into races) and it just felt so big and heavy. Now, when I’m getting into racing experiences, I just handle it better. I’m able to slow things down and realize that it all doesn’t have to happen at once. I ran a 4:35 (for the mile) over the weekend and it’s funny because I wanted to run a 4:34 at least. I ran a 4:35.8 and if I would have run 4:34, I would have gotten a pretty nice bonus from my contract. I crossed the line and I wasn’t even that dead. I felt fine! .9 seconds away from a bonus! Typically when I was younger, I would have beat myself up for it but immediately I just started laughing. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll just do it again.’ I feel like I just have a healthier attitude toward running. That just comes with age, experience and having things not go my way for so long and having to build myself back up.”
“I’ve been open about how I struggled with depression and anxiety in the past. If I get to a place where I’m feeling super worn down mentally and a by-product of that typically is that you feel pretty worn down physically as well. When I was younger, I would probably put my nose down and try to barrel through. Now, I know when to stop. I know when to go to Dathan and tell him I need to back off or that something needs to change…It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, I take it very seriously. I respect myself a lot more instead of feeling that I have to do certain things in order to be successful. If I’m not happy and my marriage isn’t thriving or certain things in my life aren’t lined up, then running isn’t going to go well. I love running but all of those things matter so much more in the long term.”
“For me, it’s about staying in the moment. That’s always been the hardest thing for me. It’s allowing myself to be where I am and feel good about where I am as opposed to ‘I have to do X, Y and Z to be better.’ At some point, you realize even if you hit those goals if you’re a competitive and driven person who has a tendency to think that way, it’s just going to reset and you’re going to have another set of goals that you want to hit and so there’s never a point where you sit back and think, ‘Man, I’m accomplishing a lot and I feel good.’ I want to keep feeling that way and allow myself to be excited. Even though 4:35 this past weekend isn’t at my PR, it’s still a big step forward and I felt amazing doing it. Instead of being like, ‘Oh man. I have so far to go in order to PR.’ It’s more like, ‘Hey! That was really good and I’m happy.’ It’s about keeping the door open for good things to happen and not beating myself up for not being in certain places of feeling like I have to hit a goal or a time in order to be successful.”
“The devil works hard but Dathan Ritzenhein works harder.”
“It’s a bit daunting because I haven’t done it in so long but when I think about it I get good butterflies to be able to go back and try it again.”
“I don’t think about them being the standard that I have to hit personally if that makes sense. It’s awesome and it’s cool that they did it. It’s a reminder to me and everyone else who steeples that should be what we strive for. When we think about the development of women’s steeple – even from the time I was in college or started college – it didn’t take that much to get to the trials. There were a small handful of women who could run anywhere close to 9:30. I remember Jenny Simpson (Barringer at the time) was out of this world when she was steepling. Just the times have gotten so much faster. It was hard for me to imagine that women in the U.S. would run anywhere close to nine minutes in it. I thought wrongly that the only people who could do it were not clean. It just did not seem fathomable. Then they did it and I was like, ‘Oh. Yeah, we can do that!’ It’s not out of reach. I take encouragement from it. Obviously, they are my competition in the event but I’m in such a different spot that I can’t think that way. It’s not healthy for me to think that way. When I ran my 9:18 in 2016, that was like a 13-second PR in the event on one day. I think the steeple is different. It’s not like the 1,500m or the mile where you’re chipping off seconds. Sometimes if you have a good race, you pop off, you’re fit and everything aligns on that day then you can run a 10-second PR. I’ve done it. My main focus is just getting fit and getting back into steepling and getting back into doing it – and hoping that my body is just there for it and my mind is ready to get back to the grind. At this point, anything is possible for me.”
“I don’t mind when people compare me to my college self but it’s just that I’ve been through so much from being that age and through the lows and the struggle that it doesn’t even feel like it’s fair to compare…One of the reasons I did change my name – and I got some flack for that – I don’t think it’s necessary if you get married to change your name to your husband’s if you get married. I almost didn’t. I really liked the idea of leaving Leah O’Connor behind and being Leah Falland and starting this start with Louis (Falland). It sounds silly to say aloud but kind of closing that chapter because so much of my struggle I associate with those years where I was solo and Leah O’Connor. Now, I just feel different…It feels nice to have a new name on my bib and just be in a different place.”
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FOLLOW @trialsofmilesracing for more information on the TEXAS QUALIFIER happening in late February. If you’re a sponsor or brand with an interest in getting involved with the meet, please feel free to contact me: [email protected]