Erdelyi Leaves USC With Her Name Etched In The Record Books
Sept. 21, 2012
Distance-running great Zsofia Erdelyi graduated from USC in 2012, but not before establishing quite a legacy. Before she left USC, Erdleyi established four school records, setting the 5K cross country record and three standards in track and field in the 3000m steeplechase, 5,000m and 10,000m races. After completing her collegiate eligibility, Erdelyi represented USC and her native Hungary at the 2012 London Olympics in the marathon. The following is a Q&A with Erdelyi:
Q - You started your USC career running the 3000 meter steeplechase and you finished it by running the marathon in the Olympics. Talk about how that happened.
A -I started running the steeplechase when I was 16 years old. My first big meet was in 2006 at the World Junior Championships, and I think that's when coach Walsh and USC started paying more attention to me. I was an All American during my sophomore year at USC, but I wasn't fast enough to make the Olympic Team in 2008. We decided that I needed to move up to 5000 and 10,000 meters, and that is when my times started to get better. I was prepared to finish in the top 3 at the NCAA Championships during my senior year, but I got a cyst in my stomach and had to redshirt that season. We petitioned to get a medical redshirt year back, and the NCAA said yes. So, I stayed at USC for a 5th year, and that gave me a chance to also train in Los Angeles and try to make the Olympics.
Q - When did you and your coach decide to try to qualify for the Hungarian Olympic team in the marathon? And how was the preparation for the marathon race?
A - Coach Walsh and I thought that my best chance to make the Olympic Team was in the marathon. We started doing marathon training in the fall of 2011. I ran a half marathon in October and I did really well. That helped me to make the Olympic "A" standard, and run 2:36:56 at the Houston Marathon in January.
The preparation for the marathon was so much fun. I mean, you have to run for hours and hours, and your workouts are twice as long as they were before, but you can find joy in it. You can get to know yourself and your limits better. When you run 2 hours and 30 minutes alone, you can't get away from yourself. You have to spend 2 hours and 30 minutes just focusing on you.
Q - You qualified for the Olympics by four seconds (2:36:56). Tell us about the last part of that race. Were you aware it was that close?
A - Yes, by just four seconds. I am glad my time was not 2:37.01. That would have been really bad. During my race, I knew that I was running very well, but I did not know that the end would be so close. I thought that I was a little faster than our race plan even though I had my best running friend/partner with me, my Garmin Forerunner 610 watch. When I hit the 30km, I was waiting for that magical "hit the wall" part - which is usually not so magical- but it did not happen. I was able to pick up the pace a little bit, and run my heart out. I ran my heart out, especially at the end. I had no idea how far I was from the finish when I saw the clock turn 2:36.00. But I knew I had to sprint like crazy, so I did. I sprinted the last 300 meters like a lion was chasing me. But I beat the lion, and also made the Olympic standard by just 4 seconds. I was laughing and crying at the same time, and I couldn't believe that I qualified for the Olympic Games.
Q - How was life in the Olympic Village? Tell us what that experience was like.
A - That was my first Olympics so I didn't have any expectations. It was amazing. It was a tiny Olympic Village, but for me it was just crazy. They even had an Olympic Village Newspaper. The restaurant was 24 hours a day, and everything was free. They had food from every nation, and I could get my hair done for free if I wanted to. It was like living in a fantasy land. I loved running into athletes that I had only seen on TV before. I saw Lolo Jones, Kara Goucher, and Shalene Flanagan. I love all of them, and they are such an inspiration for me.
Q - Tells us about the Olympic Marathon race. What was the course like? And did anything happen to you during the race?
A - I loved that the course had three loops because I like knowing where I am going, and how far I have to run. It was also spectator friendly, and the roads were slippery because of the rain. I had some issues at one of the water stations. I dropped my water bottle which had my gel taped on, and I thought I needed to pick it up. Well of course it was after running 30 kilometers, and my legs did not function the way I thought they would. I tried to bend over and pick it up but my legs gave out and I started to fall. I was lucky enough not to hit the ground but it was a close call. I knew if I fell I wouldn't be able to get up because my legs were so tired. But the funny part of this story was the spectators reaction. They were giving the sound effects, and I had to smile about that. They were clapping when I finally managed to stand up, and I was happy to get out of there.
Q - USC was the only university to have two people running in the women's Olympic Marathon. Did you get a chance to meet the other USC Trojan, Tina Kefalas? And what does it say about women's distance running at USC
A - Unfortunately I did not get to meet Tina Kefalas but I know that she ran at USC, and I have heard many good things about her. It is amazing that USC was the only University with two marathon runners in the race. Coach Walsh is an excellent coach, and he has helped me in so many ways. I have improved every year, and I am happy to have run for such a great school. I think this says a lot about distance running at USC. It says you can go to USC and be a great distance runner.
Q - What are your plans for the future? What races will you run? And what are your goals?
A - I will focus on getting better in the distance races. I plan to run in the European Cross Country Championships in Hungary next year, and then focus on the marathon. I want to run in the World Championships in track and field, and then the Olympic Games Marathon in Rio in 2016.