Get To Know Your MileSplit Oklahoma Writer: Collen McLain

Hello, this is Collen McLain, your newest MileSplitOK writer and social media content producer. I am excited to get to work covering a sport that has been largely under-covered here in the great state of Oklahoma. As a start here is a little bit about me and what we are hoping to accomplish moving forward.

I grew up in the northwest corner of the state in the town of Mooreland. I began running in 7th grade to get in shape for the other sports I played. I was never very good at any of these other sports, but I was always the guy who tried hard when we did conditioning drills because that was the one area I excelled at. I was a shy nerdy and uncoordinated kid who lacked confidence, running became the catalyst for me exiting my shell. The summer before Freshman year I started to take running more seriously as I had heard there was a chance, we could start a cross-country team in the fall. The Tuesday before school started, we got word that cross country was going to be added as a sport. A bunch of kids signed up because "Cool, new sport!" but none of us had a clue what we were doing. Our coach asked us after our first practice whether we wanted to go all in or take the year to learn. As any group of naive high schoolers would we decided to go all in. We ended up 3rd at 2a State in our inaugural year. I was hooked, running brought me out of my shell and I became obsessed. I worked hard day in and day out and refused to rest. This led to a handful of state championships, a state meet record, and the opportunity to pursue the sport at the next level. Running quickly consumed my life.

In 2017 former Guthrie athlete Trevor Sallee and I decided to start an Instagram account trying to highlight Oklahoma High School running the best we could. This account is now known as OKRunCO although we both stopped being directly involved in 2020 when we left for university. Through this account, I made a bunch of friends in the state and became known as the guy who carried around a gallon Ziploc of cookies.

After being recruited by schools ranging from junior college to NAIA to NCAA D1, I chose to go to the new upstart Washburn University in Topeka Kansas. This was an exciting and slightly terrifying move. I moved five hours away from friends and family to help a new program blossom. Merging my two loves running and science I decided to study exercise and rehabilitation science and graduated with my bachelor's degree three years later. I had a ton of fun at Washburn and my growth continued as a person as I was now in a place where I didn't know anyone and was forced to form new relationships. I met some of my closest friends at Washburn and learned so much about the sport at a different level. Topeka was a different world and having training partners better than me was all foreign. It helped me grow immensely and the diverse group of humans that comprised the team and university gave me a larger perspective on the world that I wouldn't trade for the world. It was a great experience for a small-town boy from Mooreland. My racing career as an Ichabod was rocky as I became immensely better at training and started producing great results, but I also could never stay healthy for an extended length of time.

My final semester in Topeka sums my time up well, I came off a cross season where I improved by minutes and finished higher in the big races. I carried this momentum into winter training and ended up with a stress fracture in my tibia and was sidelined from running for a couple of months. I had to miss the entire indoor season knowing I was in the best shape of my life. I did come back to racing late in the outdoor season, but the extensive time off produced some of the worst running results of my college career. At this point running had beaten me down and my life was at a dark point I wasn't sure I wanted to continue as an athlete in the sport. I stopped getting excited to race.

Academically I finished at Washburn and wanted to continue my schooling at Oklahoma State University. I decided there was still potential in there somewhere I just needed to make a radical jump to get it out so I decided to reach out and see if the Cowboys would allow me to walk on. I was granted the opportunity to try out. I went all in and put in my biggest summer of mileage to give myself the best chance I could. Over the summer I loaded my car and drove out to the Rockies to get a couple weeks of training at altitude before heading to Stillwater. I slept in my car and traveled between different towns to train with friends I made along the way. This was one of the most exciting adventures I had been on, I was living the dream I had full freedom to do as I pleased and got to meet and interact with a larger variety of runners. I would 100% recommend every runner to go on their great adventure if they get the chance.

Once the summer was up, I headed for Stillwater and began training with the Cowboys. They took me in as this oddball tryout and showed me a lot of love and respect even when training and racing weren't necessarily going my way. As the fall season ended unfortunately so did my collegiate career. Running was still not going my way but not for a lack of trying. I was cut from the team; it was a brutal end to something I had chased hard and had largely consumed my life for the past eight or so years. I understand that I was unable to perform to the necessary level and have nothing but respect for the program at OSU. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. My story is only sad if this is where I gave up.

There is a silver lining to this. I now have more freedom to chase things I enjoy and do things I wouldn't have had I continued. I get to spend more time on this new project of bringing Oklahoma the coverage I would've loved to have when I was coming up in the sport. I also will be able to travel to meets for coverage and expand the running community. I am working on a master's of applied exercise science and I now have more time to work on research and my master's thesis. Next year I'm looking to take a role as a graduate research/teaching assistant. This love of human movement and physiology has spawned a love for all kinds of sports but recently I have become most intrigued by combat sports. I frequently watch the UFC and other combat sports in my free time and one day hope to dabble in it, but I plan to wait until I dial the running back a bit more for that. I do still train pretty intently and have recently begun working under my old graduate assistant coach to work toward a couple of running goals I want to accomplish before hanging the spikes up. Outside of sports I enjoy watching standup comedy and have become a big fan of the show "Kill Tony" which I watch every Monday night. I also have a cat named Lila who is the sweetest girl although she enjoys standing in front of my screen while I work...

The biggest thing I hope to bring to the state is a wealth of knowledge from the many corners of the sport I've been in. I hope my experiences can bring the coverage up to the level the state deserves. I also hope to grow the community and build connections with everyone. Community is what makes our sport great. Runners are a special breed of humans. It's a sport anyone can take part in which creates this beautiful melting pot of personalities and backgrounds. I have met some of the coolest people through this sport and I hope growing MileSplit in Oklahoma helps current athletes do the same. We're starting with articles and soon to have our social media up and running plus some exciting other content is in the works. You all will be seeing plenty of content with my name attached to it. If we cross paths at a meet don't hesitate to stop and say hello!

Collen McLain

MileSplitOK Writer and Social Media Content Producer