Born and raised in the small farming town of Croswell, Michigan, Leah Falland (O’Connor) was competitive from an early age. Surrounded by a sporty family, Leah played basketball and volleyball before committing to running full time and landing a spot of the track and cross country team at Michigan State University. While there, she won two NCAA titles, was the captain on the 2014 NCAA cross country national championship team and won over a dozen Big Ten championship titles.
Why running and how did you get started? I got started running, honestly, because I wanted to beat my brothers in road races. My parents would run 5k fun runs and take us along to run in the mile fun run (probably because they didn’t want to get a babysitter) and I would get much too competitive!
On days where you might not feel like training, what inspires you to get out there? I’ve been running for the majority of my life now, so what inspires me to get out the door has changed as time has gone by. But I think the common denominator is my love for how I feel after runs. I’m constantly challenged by the sport and pushing myself in training makes me feel healthy and accomplished.
Can you tell us about a race that taught you a few lessons in this sport? The 2016 Olympic Trials taught me some big life lessons. I ran the 3000m steeplechase and was running through a really painful foot injury. Through that process, I learned that I’m a lot tougher than I ever imagined. But I also learned that I never want to run/race through a serious injury again!
Do you have a special pre-race ritual? I try to stay pretty flexible before races because you can’t control all of your surroundings before meets, especially if you’re traveling to different countries. Food is always different, sleeping arrangements vary, and you have to be ready for curveballs. If possible, I usually spend the day relaxing, watching TV, with my legs up. I start getting ready about 90 minutes before I’m supposed to leave for the track and I drink coffee! Lots of coffee.
Is nutrition a big focus for you? And, what would you say is your go-to meal after a tough run? If you’re an athlete, nutrition has to be a focus to some degree for long-term health. I eat lots of fruits and veggies, carbs, and healthy proteins. But honestly, after a really tough run or a race I love to reward myself with a burger and beer.
What are your top tips for a speedy recovery after training? Take naps. Embrace naps. Love naps. And rehydrate!
Who is your “team”? My parents, my siblings, my best friends and my husband. The people I lean on when times get tough and the people who will always be there through the highs and lows.
What was the best piece of running advice you ever received? Don’t forget to have fun. Running is definitely a difficult sport and sometimes competition can be stressful, but at the end of the day, it’s just running. Opportunities are fleeting and you have to remember not to take everything so seriously.
Apart from running, what are your passions? Traveling, meeting new people, camping, laughing with my friends until my stomach hurts, spooning with my dog and napping, going out dancing, having wine nights and chatting with my husband – to name just a few.
What’s something you nerd out on? Books, podcasts and articles about mental-health related research. Depression and anxiety run in my family, so learning more about how our brains operate the way they do is fascinating and discovering techniques for improving mental health is empowering.
Who is your role model? My best friend, Julia. She’s the most empathetic, kind, intelligent and caring person I know and being around her makes me want to be a better person.
Finally, why On? Aside from the extremely high-quality gear, I really liked the idea of being a member of a team that is going to bring something fresh, new and exciting to the sport. Everyone at On seems dedicated to building up their athletes and making a positive impact wherever we go.