Former Oklahoma State University middle-distance star Kaela Edwards is embarking on her pro career in a very special training environment.
It’s one of those classic #motivationalquotes you’ll see floating around on Instagram, but it couldn’t be any more fitting to describe the set-up former Oklahoma State middle-distance star Kaela Edwards, 24, chose to kick off her career as a professional runner.
After signing her first pro contract with adidas in June last year, Edwards packed up her bags in Stillwater, OK and moved to Boulder, Colorado. She and boyfriend, US miler Chad Noelle, had decided on their new home pretty quickly – Edwards grew up in Highlands Ranch south of Denver and knew the area would provide endless running opportunities for both of them. “We decided on Boulder before we even knew what the coaching situation would be,” she says with a grin.
Her coaching situation, it turns out, couldn’t have worked out much better. In autumn she joined the group around world 3000m steeplechase champion Emma Coburn and Jamaican record holder Aisha Praught-Leer, who are both coached by Coburn’s husband, Joe Bosshard.
Edwards admits she had been eying up the training group around Coburn but was “really timid” at first. She thought “there’s no way Joe’s going to be interested in me joining their group! I’m a half-miler/miler, I haven’t done as much, and those two are Olympians.”
With the help of her management, Global Athletics, she reached out to Bosshard and he invited her to come out to Boulder for a visit to see how she would fit in with the group.
“I ended up staying with him and Emma which was really cool of them to just immediately invite me in, because I think it’s pretty personal to let someone in your house that you haven’t met before. I think it helped us work out if it would be a good match, kind of living together for a few days,” she recalls her first visit to Boulder.
Bosshard pacing one of Edwards' workouts
During her five years at OSU, Edwards had experienced highs and lows in equal measure. “In college I dealt with a lot of injuries and overcoming that was huge,” she tells us.
“Even though injuries really suck, I think they had the biggest impact on me now from a mental perspective. Realising I was really motivated not to let them hinder me made me realise my love for the sport and that I wanted to achieve big things.”
With the support from OSU head coach Dave Smith, she discovered “you can get strong in other ways” and says she never felt pressure from the team when dealing with set-backs.
“We realised I may not be running 60 miles a week like other girls, or even more, but I can run 30 miles a week and cross train and then come back and still be fast and get stronger, and I think that’s made me unique.”
Their approach paid off in 2016 when Edwards celebrated a standout season, setting an indoor mile personal best of 4:32.14 in January before taking NCAA indoor gold in the mile in March. In 2017 she set a collegiate indoor record over 1000m in
2:40.79, before improving her mile iPB to 4:28.75 at the Millrose Games in New York.
The outdoor season didn’t go as well as planned and Edwards admits, she “wasn’t feeling as confident as in 2016.” However, turning pro with the knowledge of joining a top training group and sharing a management with world-class athletes provided some self-assurance.
“As an athlete you always have to work on your confidence,” she explains. “Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have the backing from adidas and Global, and that’s huge, but now also having interest from a coach who is coaching Olympians, that means some people are seeing something in me that I am maybe not quite seeing myself yet.”
Coburn, Praught-Leer and Edwards training in Colorado
The support and attitude from those around her is paying dividends.
“Being surrounded by excellence makes me really want to be excellent myself,” she explains.
“They have high expectations, but they instilled in me that I am going to reach a new level and expect nothing but the best. Having that mentality in a group gives me so much confidence and is clearly taking everyone really far.”
Her appetite for more becomes visible as she recalls watching Coburn and Courtney Frerichs win steeplechase gold and silver at the IAAF World Championships in the summer: “Two American women doing something that not many thought was possible was incredible. I think I had tears in my eyes watching it thinking ‘this is amazing’ and asked myself ‘how do I become that?’”
Joining a world-class training group seems a good move to follow in these women’s footsteps.
“Expecting excellence in a group – and not in a negative, bad pressure way, but in setting goals – that is what you work for. I know I am training with badass women and it makes me want to strive to be at their level,” she says firmly.
“Knowing that there are people around me that have done big things tells me that, yes, I am meant to be doing this. I am on the right track.”