Former collegiate runner Samantha Bowen joins Rose City Track

As a collegiate cross country and track athlete, Samantha Bowen (Lewis & Clark ’20) had her senior season end early due to COVID-19. All of a sudden, Bowen’s big goals were pushed aside as the running world went dark. For several months, Bowen—like many—navigated through grief, abandoning running altogether for several months. But in Feb. 2021, Bowen returned to her sport, running casually and rebuilding her base.

This fall, seeking a new team to challenge herself with, Bowen reached out to Rose City Track. Surrounded by fellow athletes, Bowen says she’s inspired to train with a team again and return to speed work. We reached out to Bowen to talk about her collegiate running career, her current goals, and her favorite running memories.

Tell us your running origin story.

Like many runners, I started as a soccer player, specifically midfield. What I loved most about soccer, though, was outrunning everyone else. In middle school I started track and field where my love for running grew. Freshman year of high school I realized I loved running more than soccer, so I quit soccer and joined cross country. In high school, I competed in varsity cross country and track all four years. I then went on to run for Lewis & Clark College.

What do you think about when you’re running?

Honestly I don’t even know what I think about! Sometimes when I run I think “hmmm what am I thinking about? what do I do while running?” and I still don’t have an answer. I feel like my mind just goes blank or the thoughts flow, kind of like meditation. I hate running with music so I either run in silence alone or with friends.

Where are you at with your running right now?

Like many other collegiate athletes, my senior year (2020) came to an abrupt end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I had big goals for my senior track season so when my last season of collegiate running ended before my first race, I became depressed and stopped running all together for several months. I started causally running again in February of this year but it has been hard because I’ve never trained on my own or run without a team. Currently, I’m trying to build my base back up and start doing speed workouts again.

Why did you decide to join Rose City Track Club?

I found Rose City Track by looking up running clubs in the area. I chose this club because it has a competitive group of people and also individuals who race the 800 (other clubs ran the mile as their shortest distance). I’m excited to train with people who are faster than me and can push me to reach my time goals. I also look forward to meeting people and having a new team to train and bond with.

Word association: what comes to mind when you hear the words ‘tempo,’ ‘long run’ and ‘recovery?

‘Tempo’ makes me think of a tempo run with my college team in the forest roads at the coast during pre-season camp.

‘Recovery’ run makes me think of the “revolutionary run” where we did loops at the center of a roundabout (dangerous, I know) and we couldn’t stop laughing.

‘Long run’ makes me think of team runs on Leif where inevitably someone had to use the bathroom halfway through the run and many miles from the port-a-potty at the start.

What’s your most memorable running experience?

My most memorable run is actually the only race I have dropped out of, but it is memorable for mostly good reasons. In Summer 2019 I ran the Trail of Ten Volcanos, my first 25K, in Faial (a Portuguese island). I was there visiting my family who convinced me to sign up for the 25k instead of 10k even though I had not been training much.

The race started off perfect – we started by running up the caldera and along its rim. The scenery was stunning, I felt strong, and was so grateful to see the island from this perspective. About two hours in, though, I started to feel shaky and realized the race was taking much longer than I anticipated. Eventually my vision went black as I fainted.

Luckily, a group of runners caught me before I hit the ground. One raced ahead to notify the medical personnel, while the other helped me walk to the ambulance where the medics treated me for hypoglycemia. I was so thankful and surprised that these runners had sacrificed their own race to help me. This is when I learn the ultra running community are incredible people. I plan to go back one day and finish the race, next time with actual training and proper water/fuel with me.

Was it scary returning to running after that incident?

It wasn’t scary to return to racing because I knew what I did wrong: lack of long runs and hilly runs, lost my water during the race, and did not bring any fuel for the race. I returned to racing the 6k that fall which was a distance that I knew how to handle (and one you don’t need to eat or drink during). I left that incident mostly embarrassed and with my pride bruised because I figured “I’m a college runner, a 25k trail race should be no problem.” Definitely a lesson learned! 

Now that you’ve graduated, what’s next?

I’m working at Oregon Health & Sciences University as a medical scribe while applying to medical school. It is a year long application so I hope to start medical school in Fall 2022. If I don’t get in this year I’ll apply again next year! Other than work, I’m also a volunteer clinical researcher at OHSU and volunteer as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line.

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