Run, Hannah, run


Although junior Hannah Lesko (left) takes competitive running very seriously, she enjoys participating in runs designed for fun, such as the Color Me Rad race in Detroit, which she completed with her friend Lauryn Hauncher (right) this past summer. “Fun runs make running more of a social event,” said Lesko. “It is good for me to take a break from the super intense runs every once in a while” (Photo Credit: Allia McDowell).

In the movie Forrest Gump, the title character decides to go for a run one day and doesn’t stop running until he has traversed from one end of the country to the other. When asked why he was taking this epic trek, Forrest responds, simply, “I just felt like…running.”

For junior Hannah Lesko, her reason for starting to run was a bit different.

“I actually started off as a competitive swimmer,” said Lesko, laughing. “When I moved to Michigan in the third grade, I joined the Spartan aquatics club. But I got pneumonia and had to stop swimming for a while. My lungs got weak, and I thought to strengthen them for swimming I should start running. It just kind of clicked for me.”

Lesko now runs for cross-country and track. In addition, she participates in several road races at distances ranging from five kilometers (just over three miles) to a half marathon (just over thirteen miles). Lesko says that running events are different than participating in just about any other sport, because you line up and compete with runners from a wide range of skill levels – from weekend athletes to some of the world’s elite professionals.

“I love how at some races, you are running with elite athletes,” explained Lesko. “Even though they are lined up right at the front, it’s cool you are experiencing the same course, weather and race they are.”

Competing at the highest level is something Lesko would like to do at some point in her life. She says her goal is to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Japan, and to help get there she would like to train with the Nike Oregon Project team, which is coached by distance running legend Alberto Salazar who won multiple marathons including the New York City and Boston marathons. In the meantime, Lesko keeps busy by running with several clubs including ones sponsored by lululemon and Running Fit. She also competes for the Ann Arbor Track Club and a club called 501.

She trains almost every day, and her running mileage depends on her race schedule, but Lesko says she typically logs at least 25-30 miles per week. Though this regimen sounds grueling to most non-runners, she says that the benefits of her daily runs go far beyond race preparation and fitness.

“I like how running can transform you into a totally different person,” she said. “I think it makes you a better person inside and out. For me, I know that it really helps sharpen my brain and makes me more alert.”

Although Forrest Gump doesn’t make the short list of idols for Lesko, she does cite Mary Cain, an 18-year-old American middle-distance runner from Bronxville, New York. Cain is the 2014 World Junior Champion in the 3000-meter event and is the youngest American athlete ever to represent the United States at a World Championships meet after competing in the 2013 World Championships in Athletics in Moscow.

“Mary Cain has just been smashing times in high school cross-country track,” said Lesko proudly. “She is literally a running prodigy. Along with her great talent for running, she is super-smart, too, which I really admire.”

Lesko also admires health teacher Ms. Ann Jamieson, who just competed in the New York City marathon.

“I think it’s awesome how much dedication Ms. J puts into her running. I aspire to be like her one day,” explained Lesko enthusiastically. “She is such a great role model not only for young runners like me, but for people who want to start running. She really shows that you can run at any age to qualify for some of the most selective marathons around the world. I hope she wins her age group!”

Forrest Gump is renowned for some of his quirky sayings. One of the most famous involves a box of chocolates. However, more appropriate to this story is what he says to a woman seated next to him on a park bench. “My momma always said ‘you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, where they go, where they’ve been.’ ”

For Lesko, what you can tell from her shoes is the mileage they’ve racked up. Run, Hannah, run. From Farmington Hills to Japan is just 6,219 miles, and you have until 2020 to get there.