Polina Carlson XTERRA

Originally I was a tennis player at the University of North Carolina. After one semester at UNC, I transferred to the University of West Alabama and continued playing tennis there. At practice, my coach noticed that I outran everyone in his running drills, even all the members of the men's team. He encouraged me to work out with the cross-country team to simply “stay in shape” and to increase my competitive edge. Little did I know that doing so would change the entire direction of my life. I fell in love with distance running and eventually gave up tennis so I could work towards becoming a faster runner. Challenging myself to increase my speed became fun and addicting! 

In 2012 I raced my first marathon, in the backyard of Honolulu, which by that time had become home. On that day, I had no idea how many doors would swing open for me. Taking the last few steps over the finish line, I became the first girl from Hawaii with the highest podium finish and made top 10 among the elite women. It was all so surreal. I was a tennis player who had stepped over the walls of the court to race as an elite runner. Now, I am seeing the world and embracing moments that the sport allows as I compete with other dedicated and exceptional runners. I am living my dreams and learning of other cultures while making friends. 

Our community has lavished me in love and support. I love talking to young girls as they share their passion for running with me. My greatest desire is for them to discover that no matter how successful one becomes, it’s important to remain thankful and humble. Running is selfless. When we are out there running a race, the experience is so unique that it unites all the competitors. I am always encouraged by the support that runners give to each other. It is truly special and inspiring.

It’s not always easy, but I want to inspire everyone who has ever had a dream to follow it. Step out and find the courage to just give it a try to make that dream a reality. I believe that the possibilities out there are endless and can be greater than the depths of the ocean our little island rests on.