Q&A: Catching up with Liz Lawton

Chicago Maroon sits down with third-year track star Liz Lawton, who heads to the national meet next week to compete in the 5K.

By Will Fallon

Third-year Liz Lawton is a runner. Not just in the sense that she is on the track team: She is the epitome of a runner. She truly understands The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. In the past week she was named UAA Athlete of the Week for her performance at the Chicago Penultimate. Her time of 16:41 was a personal record by 20 seconds. Her victory by 10 seconds was enough to rank her first in the country. Moreover, Lawton lives out one of Mike “The Situation” Sorentino’s motto: “You better be hittin’ the gym and if you’re not hittin’ the gym for like an hour or so, you know, you may have a problem. O.K., cause I’m at the gym for like an hour-and-a-half… ya know?… workin’ on my fitness.” I sat down to talk to her about running.

Chicago Maroon: I understand you’re not actually the fastest person on earth, but how does it feel to be top five?

Liz Lawton: I’ve definitely worked really hard and put in so much time. I work out more than an hour a day — almost two — and I have since I was injured. I definitely feel like I deserve this, but it’s an absolute honor. It’s kind of surreal to be ranked among these names I’ve heard since first year.

CM: You shattered your goal by 14 seconds; how does that feel?

LL: It was a 20-second personal record, but I definitely knew I could run that fast. It’s scary getting faster because it’s a feeling you’ve never felt before. When you’re running a race like that, you get scared. I’m still kind of shocked because I just didn’t know how to get to this point. I’m so happy though. Some people call them sacrifices, but I call them choices; I’ve made a lot of choices in my lifestyle to get to this point. You make a lot of sacrifices and at some point you don’t know if they are going to pay off. But it’s races and experiences like that when you see the payoff. They make them worth it.

CM: Are there any other goals you’d like to meet this quarter?

LL: I want to be the national champion. Everyone does, and most girls have the chance. I think five girls could be on top. I mean I hate to use the word luck; it’s not the luckiest person who will win. But it comes down to how the race pans out, how the pace goes out, and how the weather cooperates. Who is most prepared for the structure of the race that day will win. I’m going to make the situation so that I run the race as I do best. I wanted this more than anything. After my injury, I had to reevaluate how much I love this sport and how much I’m willing to put back into it. When I came back, it was kind of an all-or-nothing type deal. Running is one of those sports that is individual, and you get out of it what you put in. To make things worth it I want to put in 110 percent.

CM: Who are some of your major influences?

LL: My parents. When I was in fourth grade I was fat. My parents both jogged and decided I should start exercising because I used to pound rice krispies like it was my day job. They used to drop me off with one of my parents a mile away from home and make me jog home. I used to scream and cry until I realized no one was actually making me run. I started walking so my parents physically took my hand and made me run. I then started running more, grew taller, lost the baby weight and it got easy. Sixth grade I got cut from lacrosse and the track coach pulled me in. I’ve been running from sixth grade on.

CM: That’s a long time.

LL: It’s the stories that develop. When you come back from injuries or when you weren’t at your best, it makes the prize at the end all the sweeter. This season has been the most amazing season. I’m so grateful for how well it has gone. I don’t know if it would have been as great had I not been sidelined in the fall when I really had to give thought to how much this sport meant to me.

CM: Chariots of Fire or Without Limits?

LL: To be honest I have never seen Chariots of Fire. Without Limits is the Prefontaine movie, right? A friend of mine brought it on a bus ride. It’s the quintessential running movie. I rarely watch movies; I don’t like to focus on that. I love Prefontaine though. His quote, I don’t know it by heart: ‘A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.’ [Midway through the quote Liz pulled up the quote, already saved in a document on her computer.] I don’t want to have any excuses. If I’m going to lose it people are going to have to beat me at my own race. I think that’s the best way to run. It shouldn’t be a race of the best miler in a five-kilometer it should be the race of the best five-kilometer runner.

CM: Is there anything you listen to to get ready before a race?

LL: Uh, pump-up songs. I’m going to have to give a shoutout to the cross country team. Our song since sophomore year has been “Zombie” by The Cranberries. On my own playlist I have some nice rap songs and some Yellowcard. It depends on my mood before the race. I listened to some Ke$ha before my race on Saturday. Sometimes Ke$ha just does the job. Or a little Rihanna. Maybe some 50 Cent. It changes.