At mile 20, anxious emotions turned into excitement as Samantha Polack picked up her pace to finish the Rock N’ Roll marathon better than she ever imagined. Flowing with endorphins, Polack will never forget the moment she felt like she had become a “real runner.” Her pace time would lead with a seven in the front. Polack completed the race in 3 hours, 24 minutes, 50 seconds placing her eighth in the female division.
A senior in mathematics, Polack fell in love with running more than 10 years ago. In 2015 she grew determined to complete the 26.2-mile run. Her first marathon proved to be a challenge. It did not prevent her, but rather motivated her to compete in additional races, seeking continual improvement. Even when fear sets in, she pushes through, never regretting her decision to not quit. In fact, it took Polack three marathons before she enjoyed the experience. It was during her fourth race at Grandfather Mountain that she remembers having the time of her life. To date, Polack has completed five marathons and five half marathons. Polack placed first overall in three of the five half marathons.
Her goal is to become the first overall female finisher of a marathon. According to Polack, “ this goal will probably take me years yet, I’ll have a ton of fun working towards it.” Her journey continues this summer as she returns to compete in the Grandfather Mountain marathon for the second time.
A habit learned from her mentor, seasoned marathoner Graham Swift, Polack runs 20 consecutive miles each weekend leading up to a marathon. She spends additional time performing strength exercises, focusing primarily on her core. She builds leg muscle outside of the gym by running hills at Lake Johnson and Umstead Park.
In her most recent race, physical preparation was not the only challenge Polack faced. Her biggest struggle was the mental aspect, rather than physical. She recalls having little confidence, terrified that she would not reach her goal. This mental and emotional journey allows her to connect with those she meets through her position as a group fitness instructor at University Recreation.
According to Polack “It’s easier to tell people that they can accomplish something they feel is hard if I’m also faced with challenges and know how they feel.” Further adding value to her position at UREC, her extensive research allows her to provide quality advice to individuals who seek her help. Polack recommends embracing hills for muscles, complex carbs for energy, and strength training to improve form and posture.
Lastly, her advice to anyone considering a marathon is “ It’s worth it. You will not regret going through with it, even if it scares the crap out of you. It’s the best feeling in the world when you work so hard and it pays off.”