Tyler McCandless, Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon Champion and Youth Running Program Coordinator’s interview with Emily Naylor, Gatorade Player of the Year Winner.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Emily Naylor, who won the Female Cross Country Gatorade Player of the Year award and was given $1,000 to give to a charity of her choice. Emily decided to donate to The Kauai Marathon Youth Running Program sponsored by Kauai Coffee in order to foster the growth of running in Hawaii and hopes to see more young runners out there, keep everyone athletic and loving sports! In this interview she shares some great advice for running and having fun in training and racing. We know that Emily has a very bright future in this sport we all love and we’re very thankful for her generosity. As someone who has been running races for almost two decades, I found Emily’s advice to be fantastic for runners of all ages and all abilities.

How did you get introduced into the sport? “I always thought running was lame and not fun, but once you’ve actually started you realize how much fun it is, and kids experience just how awesome that is when they run. Both of my parents used to be runners and my dad still runs and always wanted me to run. In 6th grade I got a major concussion and found out I could not do contact sports and that led me to try running. I did Girls on the Run in North Carolina and then joined a cross-country team in Hawaii and just had so much fun on runs with the team. Makes you want to be better not only for yourself but for the team. Truly had fun in the summer training and got better without even realizing it.

What are you most proud of in your running accomplishments thus far? I am proud of the last cross country season with winning states when not expecting it. It was the most amazing feeling to pass (eventually) 2nd place girl and move into the lead. I got to have fun in Maui with the team – a real team bonding moment that made it so special.

What are your career and academic goals? Not 100% decided on a career but would like to become a professional runner. Would also enjoy maybe something in education – creating lesson plans for elementary school sounds fun. Environmental jobs outside sounds really fun too. I’m keeping options open right now.

Are there things you’ve learned from running and applied to classroom? I have more confidence in myself and also have definitely learned work ethic too. You have to be dedicated and focused but keep having fun. This is similar to times in the classroom – running is not a pretty sport, running has helped me normalize the feelings of presenting.

Any insight on your road race experiences and advice for others?  I like to compete against all genders and ages – it’s fun to race against the guys! Learn from competing against more experienced athletes and see where you stand. The crowds on the sidelines are so awesome and it’s so fun when cheering you on. Kids on the sidelines and folks cheering for top females has so much positive energy. Courses are fun – switching up the terrain every so often. (Interviewer note – she really needs to run The Kauai Marathon (half marathon) as there is no course like The Kauai Marathon!!)

How did you hear about TKM YRP? “When Gatorade said we could donate, I looked at sports non-profits in Hawaii and TKMYRP stuck out. I wanted to donate to the sport I love. This is perfect.

Do you think you’ll race TKM half or full one of these years? Definitely. I do not want to race a marathon until I am a little older, but maybe in a few years! I would love to run the half marathon soon too.

What advice to get a high school or middle school student to run for the first time? Find a group! Running alone can be fun, but starting off with a group brings you close together and makes it fun. A strong bond with people – runners have much stronger relationships because we put our bodies through so much together – (with laughter she says) traumatic situations brings people together!

Mahalo Emily for your generosity from the ‘ohana at The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon. We wish you the best of luck with your running endeavors!