Iowa's distance runners rack up the miles year-round


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Two members of Iowa's track and field team just can't stop running.

McKenzie Melander and Betsy Flood, two of Iowa's elite distance runners, are simply always running.

It doesn't matter the day or the weather. They could be nursing injuries or be completely healthy. Both were NCAA qualifiers last spring — Melander in the indoor season and Flood in the outdoor — and they continue to press on. They run, and run, and run some more.

So how much do they actually run?

"It varies a lot day-to-day depending on what kind of day we're having," Flood said. "During our peak week, we probably do around 70 miles."

The peak week might only come around once or twice a season — but if the two athletes were at their peak all year, they would end up running 3,640 miles.

"There are points in the season when we start to feel a little fatigued," Melander said. "But for the most part, we're pretty used to it by now."

Used to it would be an understatement, because both Flood and Melander have plenty of accolades as they enter their senior seasons. Flood, a native of Des Moines, was a two-time Big Ten indoor runner-up and a second-team outdoor All-American at the NCAAs in 2011.

Melander holds the school record in the mile (4:39.78, set last year), and the Apple Valley, Minn., native claimed a second team All-American spot at the NCAA indoors last season.

Aside from their stellar track careers, both of the runners have run cross-country for Iowa (all the harriers compete in indoor and outdoor track). This only adds to the total miles each athlete runs throughout her calendar year — and yet, they plan to keep on running.

"We're really passionate about it," Flood said. "There's a lot of things in life that I'm like, 'Why am I doing this every day?' Like going to school, or doing homework, or things that I like a lot less than running.

"[Running] every day is a joy compared to the other things we do every day."

When asked which running medium they would prefer, both said they'll take the track over the terrain.

"For me personally, I've always been a little bit better at the speed-work stuff than at the distance," Melander said. "It's more of my strength area to do track."

Head coach Layne Anderson is in charge of both the Hawkeyes' women's track and field and cross-country teams. He said the amount of effort he sees from his runners — whether for cross-country season or for track and field — shows their dedication to the sport.

"They're definitely putting in some significant work, but you have to," he said. "In the Big Ten, you have to be among the best in the nation. It's a tremendous sacrifice and a lot of work."

A lot of work doesn't even cover the total distance his star seniors have put in throughout their careers. In fact, they couldn't even tell you how far they have run.

"At least 1,000 miles," Melander said, smiling. "I'm not exactly sure."

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