Ten Mountain Running Questions with Alexia Hecico (Romania)
â€śTen Questionsâ€ť is a series of interviews with top mountain running athletes from around the world. USA junior team manager Paul Kirsch contributed this edition of Ten Questions.
Alexia Hecico is a 3-time member of the Junior Womenâ€™s Mountain Running Team for Romania Athletics. She was their top World Mountain Running Championship scorer in 2017 (4th Place, Premana, Italy) and 2018 (6th Place, Canillo, Andorra). She helped lead the Romanian junior women to a team gold medal in 2017 and a team bronze in 2018.
PAUL: Tell us a little bit about where in Romania you grew up.
ALEXIA: When I was very young, we moved around a lot. I can't even remember where I first lived but it sure wasn't the city I was born in. I was born on July 13, 2000, in a small city in Romania called Campia Turzii. I only spent a few weeks there and after that we kept switching to new places. I think I first lived in the capital, Bucharest, for about 6 years.
At the age of 6 my family and I moved to Baia Mare, a much smaller city on the other side of Romania. I've been living here for about 13 years know but
Bucharest will forever be my home.
PAUL: At what age did you first get into running?
ALEXIA: I've been running for as long as I can remember. Both my parents are athletes, long distance runners to be more precise, so I grew up looking up to them. I started competing at about age 5 I think, but it wasn't anything serious even though I won races in which I had to compete with girls 3 or 4 years older than me. Most of the times I cried before a race, not wanting to disappoint my dad or just because I was too scared.
I did swimming for about 6 years and at around 12 I quit and started running. I still remember going to practice with my dad, chatting about all kinds of things and listening to his stories. Sometimes we used this time to do math exercises or even practicing our English skills. I love thinking about those times and realizing how fair I have actually come. For me, the end of 2016 is when I knew I was fully ready to chase my dreams and actually start training seriously. Everything before then was kind of just a game.
PAUL: What led you to the sport of mountain running and how did you learn about the Romanian Junior Team?
ALEXIA: In 2016 my mom and I went to my first ever mountain running race, having no expectations. I remember calling my dad, asking for advice. He told me "Go have fun and try not to fall.â€ť Best advice ever!
I ended up winning and qualifying for the Balkan Mountain Running Championships. As a 16 year-old, competing against girls 2 years older than me, then coming 2nd at the Balkan Championships and going to Europeans, still feels a bit unreal. But that year opened my eyes and made me realize running is what I want to do. I was ready to give up on the things that dragged me down and focus on becoming not only a better athlete but the best version of myself. My mom, who is also my coach, helped me get where I am today and I owe her everything.
PAUL: Do you plan on trying to compete for the Senior Womenâ€™s Team for Romania? If so, can you explain how the team is selected?
ALEXIA: Competing in the Senior Womenâ€™s race would be a whole new thing for me. A new level, longer distances and new talented, hard-working competitors. It would be an honor to toe the line with big names such as Andrea Mayr, Luci Wambui Murigi and our senior athlete Denisa Dragomir.
But to be part of the team will mean finishing in the top 4 senior female athletes at our qualification race. Before the international competition we have a qualifying race with a similar course profile and the top 4 runners make the team.
I also still have one year of eligibility for the Junior Team. It will be an honor if I am selected again as well.
PAUL: You are in the middle of the off-season for mountain running - do you mix up your running training with other sports in the Winter?
ALEXIA: During winter I try to diversify as much as I can but it depends on a lot of things such as weather conditions, time, and schoolwork. I love to swim, maybe go cross country skiing with my parents or go to the gym.
PAUL: When you are not doing athletics, what are your other interests?
ALEXIA: I'm a passionate reader. I try to make time to read every single day but it's easier said than done. I also love writing, hiking, watching cartoons with my dad, playing sudoku and from time to time I like to do logic quizzes.
PAUL: What are your future plans- are you planning to attend University after high school? And will you be competing for their track or cross country teams?
ALEXIA: This fall I am headed to the United States where I will attend University at Buffalo SUNY (in New York state) as a freshman student-athlete. I'm extremely excited to see where I will be in the upcoming years and work with amazing people. I will be part of their distance team and I plan on majoring in Business.
For younger runners looking to try out the sport of mountain running, what would be your advice on why they should get involved with the sport?
When I was little I couldn't understand why my mom loved mountain running so much, but now everything makes sense. You are never alone, you're always
surrounded by nature and its beauty. What makes me love mountain running so much is the atmosphere. You will never believe how many amazing people you
will get to meet, the friends you'll make and the places you'll see. Also, your biggest enemy during the race is not the girl in front of you, but the mountain and its power to mess with your mind. If you can be tougher than the mountain you can do anything.
PAUL: Can you share with us your favorite memory from competing at the World Mountain Running Championships.
ALEXIA: In the past few years the World Championships brought me so much joy and taught me new lessons. In 2017 I learned to give myself a chance, to run with my heart and to be grateful for what I get. I finished 4th, just 2 seconds behind bronze medalist Lauren Gregory and it made me realize how much I'm capable of if I just believe in myself. I remember hugging Lauren after crossing the finish line, not thinking about what I've lost but what I've earned. I made new friends, I got to sing the national anthem with the rest of my team while tears were running down my cheeks, tears of happiness.
In 2018 I got the chance to put into practice everything I've learned from the previous year. This time I was the one who had a better finish, coming 6th in the last 50 meters. Although we didn't win team title it made more determined to want to fight for what I want.
PAUL: How do you overcome adversity during a difficult race- any insights you can share?
ALEXIA: I still have a hard time trying to find inner peace before and during a race. Sometimes things can get a bit overwhelming but I try to remember that stressing about it won't help me. I think about all the hard workouts I did, about the people who believe in me and how they have a reason to do so and also how I should give myself a chance even if no one else does.
Before most of my races I spend some time with my mom discussing race tactics and also seeking comfort. Since she is my coach we get to be together for most of the competitions and that helps me a lot, just having someone who believes in me and knows how to help me relax. She is the last person I hug before a race and the first one I look for after I cross the finish line.
My advice is to go give your best during the race, see how much you are capable of and enjoy all of it. Make those minutes count and finish the race knowing there was nothing else you could have done.
Follow Alexia's progress through the 2019 mountain running season on her Instagram.