Following the Passion

This interview took 11 months to make.  But it was worth the wait.

Back in January 2012, HepsTrack provided a summary of the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials race held in Houston, Texas, initially reporting five Ivy alumni finishers. We got feedback from two readers about six other runners who started that day and amended our results entry accordingly. One of the names listed in the feedback kept nagging at me, because somehow, I recognized the name “Kristin Barry” but could not figure out where. A quick Google search of the name led me to many running interviews with this mysterious Kristin until I finally found my answer.  I had previously read about Kristin Pierce Barry (Dartmouth ’96) in a 2011 interview in Runner’s World magazine, as she and her training partner, Sheri Piers, were competing in their second Olympic Marathon Trials while working full time and raising their children. Runner’s World highlighted them as names to know, even though they were not the fastest names in the field.

After reading the other online interviews about Barry, I discovered that she was the 1996 Heps 10k champion after only running the race twice in her collegiate career (she led a Dartmouth 1-2-3 sweep in the event), was a member of the Dartmouth cross country team that dominated the conference in the mid-1990s, and helped the team to an 11th place finish at the 1995 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Since then, she has had a lot of success in road racing from distances of 5k up to the marathon.

So of course, I wanted to see if she would like to share a few words about her Trials’ experience. I sent a message on facebook to someone that I hoped was the right Kristin Barry and waited for a response.

And waited… and waited…

And then forgot I even sent the message.

But last week, I saw a new message in my Facebook account and was surprised to find it was from Kristin Barry! Apparently, if you send a message to an individual on facebook who is NOT your friend, it hides it in a folder called “OTHER” and facebook does not send out a notification of receiving it. Barry learned of this recently and discovered a number of hidden messages, including my original message from January.

Lucky for us, she was still game for an interview. With the cross country season still fresh on our minds, I asked Kristin (Pierce) Barry about her Ivy League cross country memories, as well as her challenges to running once she graduated in 1996.

Can you share with us a fond memory or two of your time on the Dartmouth teams or competing within the Ivy League? One of the best memories I have is from XC Heps in the fall of 1995. We won for the second year in a row and broke the record for lowest score (23 points). The men won that year as well and I remember being so excited about all of it, about being a part of it. While we were always focused on qualifying for Nationals there was something special about Heps and it meant a lot for us to do well there.

Both the men’s and women’s squads won the 1994 Heps XC title.  Barry is in the front row, fifth from the right.

In 1995, you were part of the Dartmouth cross country team that finished 11th at NCAAs. What do you recall of that day? I remember we ran in Ames, Iowa and that it was incredibly windy that day. I think there were gusts up to 30 or 40 mph. It was very cold but we were used to that training in New Hampshire. All of us got out well, way up in the front of the race. I remember my Dad saying it was great to see a big wave of green up at the front of the race like that. My roommates (Maribel (Sanchez) Souther and Kristin Manwaring) both had outstanding races.  

Did you, your team, or coach have any idea you would do that well? Do you keep in touch with anyone else from the squad? We had qualified for NCAAs the prior 3 years but didn’t actually run that well when we got there, so I remember we were determined to run to our potential. We had beaten Providence once that season and I cannot remember where we were ranked going into the race but I know we had a top 10 finish in mind and were pretty fired up. We ended up only 2 points out of 10th! 11th was the highest the Dartmouth women had ever placed at that point though so it was very exciting. My Dad and I actually flew out to Tucson the following year after I had graduated to watch Dartmouth compete at the NCAAs. Dartmouth was 5th (!) that year, which was outstanding for a non-scholarship school. I do keep in touch with many of my old teammates, all of them at least through Facebook. It’s funny, most of them think I am crazy to still be doing this. (They’re probably right). They jokingly (or not!) say, “give it up KP! move on.” Our team was incredibly close and we did everything together. We all roomed together, we went to practice together, we ate dinner together and then we went to the library and studied together. I loved that team experience.

Was it initially hard to motivate yourself to keep running after graduating? It was because I missed greatly the team aspect of everything, but it also was not because I felt like I had a lot more that I wanted to do running-wise. I ran very low mileage in high school (15-20 mpw) and so I had a lot of improvement in college running 50-60 miles per week but I also had some injuries while making the adjustment. So, I felt like I did not have a long enough stretch of consistent training. When I moved to DC in 1997, I was fortunate to have a great group to train with (Matt Centrowitz’s group) and then when I moved to Maine in 2005 after having kids I met up with Sheri and that has worked out incredibly well for both of us.

Recently, you have been noticed by many publications for your marathon races. Why did you move up to the marathon? What aspects of it appeal to you? I still run (and prefer) shorter races like 5k and 10k  and even sometimes still race a track mile or 3k. But, I feel like my greatest chance of improvement is probably is in the marathon. I qualified for the Trials twice in the marathon and there’s no way I could do that at my age in the 5k or 10k. The educational aspect of the marathon appeals to me. It’s been a challenge to figure it out. Each time I run one I learn something (nutrition, pacing, mental strategies, etc) and I try to incorporate the things I have learned into the next one.

Runner’s World magazine profiled you and your training partner, Sheri Piers, before the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. Why do you think your training partnership with Sheri Piers has been so successful for both of you? Are you two aiming to do another marathon together in 2013? I cannot say enough about Sheri and the partnership that we have. It’s been great and I know I would not have accomplished the things I have in the past few years without her. Running-wise it’s a great match because she is so much stronger on the endurance side. She really pushes us in the kinds of workouts I dread — long tempos and long cut-down runs. She is not a fan of speed work and I love doing 5k-paced and faster intervals so we complement each other. Seeing what she has accomplished in the marathon has made me set higher goals and push myself more. We also are so much alike in that we are very driven, goal-focused and never quite satisfied. Right now it looks like we both will run Boston and then Twin Cities in the fall. The 2016(!) Trials window opens August 1 so we feel like we have to give it one more shot. 

Are you still coaching a high school cross country team? If yes, how did your team do this year? Do you happen to note any coaching techniques that you currently use that you originally noticed while you were at Dartmouth? Yes, I am still coaching the Cheverus [Maine] boys high school XC team (with Sheri Piers). This year we had a couple of boys qualify for the State meet individually and all improved a ton over the course of the season. I definitely use a lot of the same techniques. I have so much respect for my coach, Ellen O’Neil (Dartmouth ’87) and what she did for all of us. I have the boys do many workouts that are similar to ones we did at Dartmouth. We used to run an uphill tempo and I try to replicate that for the team by driving them to a three mile long hill in our area. Many of the repeat workouts they do are variations of workouts we did in college.

Do you follow any of the current or recent Heps scene? If so, what are your impressions/thoughts about how Heps has evolved since you’ve graduated? Yes, I do follow it pretty closely. My impression is WOW. Heps is so competitive now, it is unbelievable. I look at results and am stunned by both the winning times and the depth. It is fantastic to see that. It was exciting to watch Abbey D’Agostino run and do so well at the Olympic Trials.

Lastly, do you have any advice for the current Ivy athletes on staying with the sport after they graduate? I guess I would just say follow your passion! If you still feel the desire to compete then go for it. Find a training group or a running partner and stick with itmake it a priority and find the time for it.

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