It’s an understatement to call Alisha Ebert a former standout runner at Longwood University.
Six years after graduating, she still dominates the Farmville school’s cross country record book, holding the school’s two fastest times in the 6K and seven of the Top 10 times in the 5K. She also earned Eastern College Athletic Conference Championship All-East Honors as a junior and a senior.
She’s still fast — no matter the distance. Alisha ran an impressive 3:08:06 in the 2019 Boston Marathon. And in June, she won the women’s title in the Downtown Sundown 5K in 18:19 (5:53 per mile), good enough for 13th place overall and nearly two minutes faster than the second place woman.
Alisha’s trail racing resume is pretty impressive as well. She heads into this weekend’s Brush Mountain Breakdown undefeated.
Alisha, a William Byrd High graduate, started mixing occasional long trail runs into her training last spring.
She didn’t ease into it. Her first trail run in May was a doozy — a 15-mile training loop in the Jefferson National Forest that climbed 3,000-feet past the Cascades and Barney’s Wall to the Butt Mountain Fire Tower before looping back down to the parking lot in Pembroke.
Alisha’s first trail race – the Odyssey Trail Running Rampage Half Marathon at Douthat State Park in September — was even more impressive.
“I had no expectations going into that race my plan was to use it as a learning experience,” she Alisha, a regular at the weekly Track Tuesday workout at the Virginia Tech track. “I wanted to stay relaxed and conservative for the first couple of miles … I had no context of what a trail race would be like, how to approach fuel, water, how to stay mentally engaged, etc. After mile 5, I started to feel confident that I could push the pace a little more and challenge myself which might have been a gamble that early in a race – luckily it paid off.”
It did, indeed. She left the entire field behind – beating all the men and women by more than 20 minutes.
So, how did it feel to win the race outright?
“Exciting!” says Alisha. “It was a really cool moment to come off the trail towards the finish line and realize I was going to win. I had a ton of fun and definitely want to keep at and try a few more trail races out.”
So, which does she prefer now – trails or roads?
“Oh, this is a tough one,” she said “I love running around town or when I visit a new place exploring by running around it and I LOVE a great road race. But I’ve just started running on trails and I’m really enjoying it. I plan to keep it up and spend some more time on the trails.
Luckily, she doesn’t have to choose a favorite. Living in Blacksburg offers easy access to both.
Hometown: Florence, South Carolina. I’ve lived in Virginia since 2006
Occupation: Virginia Tech’s Capital Asset & Financial Management office.
Why did you start running? When I was 11ish – I joined a local track club after my soccer coach at the time told me I was fast. For a while, I tried to do both but in South Carolina, middle schoolers could run and compete with the high school team and remember my mom telling me I need to pick one to focus on. I thought running with the high school team seemed cooler than soccer.
Best memories of running for Longwood? I’ve got so many! I loved running for Longwood it taught me a lot about being a competitive runner, overcoming setbacks, and enjoying how multifaceted running and racing can be. One of my favorite memories is racing at McAlpine Park during my senior year. It was where I ran in one of my first ‘big’ races as a kid that sold me on running. It was a really special full-circle moment on a course that has meant a lot to me and my running story.
What led you to Blacksburg? I moved back to Roanoke after college but in 2014 a job in Tech’s Internal Audit office opened up and I got it. It worked out because then I got to be closer to my now-husband (Matt) when he was in grad school. We really enjoy living in Blacksburg and getting to know more about the area.
How did you get connected to the Blacksburg running community? There were a few people I’d run with every now and then after moving to Blacksburg, but I really missed having a solid group of people to run with (aka a team). I’d gone to a few Pub Runs in the past but never consistently attended so I decided this past January to go to Pub Runs as regularly as possible. Luckily, I’ve found a great group of awesome people to run with and have really enjoyed meeting new people!!
Favorite distance to race? Right now, the half-marathon. I think the distance is fun and challenging.
Favorite training workout? I’m a sucker for any type of repeat workout regardless of distance. I like settling into a pace and the rhythm of the repetitions. Also, a favorite is 3 sets of 600, 1000, 600, 1000 with 200 jog recovery between reps and 2-minute rest between sets. It can be a little bit grueling but a fun way to get some distance at a quicker pace.
Who inspires and/or motivates you? There have been so many that have inspired or motivated me over the years. My family and husband, Matt, definitely inspire me and motivate me to be a better person.
Any funny running stories to share? I once found myself in a ditch during a 1000-meter repeat. We would train at this farm when I was in college and the 1000-meter loop was between two fields but you had to cross through some woods to get to the second field… well, I tripped on a root and VERY ungracefully rolled/fell into the ditch.
Worst injury? I tore my ACL the week before Thanksgiving in 2015 and couldn’t run until early March of 2016. It felt like forever but thankfully I was able to bounce back quickly. (Shout to my PTs!) I remember the first time jogging on the treadmill during a PT appointment and being unbelievably excited over 5 minutes of jogging. It was bliss!
Advice for new runners? Stay patient and be honest with yourself. Personally, I think being able to reflect and analyze your effort is an important skill to develop as a runner. Running requires you to be honest with how your training is going, how you’re feeling, and the effort you’re putting in. You’ll be the only one that can truly judge where you’re at.
Best marathon experience? I loved running Boston because of the history, the number of people, spectators and the environment is like nothing I’ve raced in before. But I think my best marathon experience was my first one – the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. I was able to negative split the second half and have a strong finish and I felt really in control of the way I was racing.
Any running superstitions or rituals? Not so much for a regular ole run but mornings before a race I’ve got to have a bagel with peanut butter, some coffee, good music, and good conversation. I’ve never liked silence before a race. I’ve already thought about what I want to do in the days leading up to the race – so I’d rather spend the time before a race enjoying it maybe even having a little fun.
Fact many people don’t know about you? I’m actually a really good baker.
Favorite place to celebrate with a beer? Our deck/patio!
Training/racing goals? I’d love to break the 3-hour mark in the marathon and sub 1:20 in half.
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