Abby Culp never realized how much she loved running until she couldn't do it any more.
After her freshman cross country season at Winters Mill, Culp's family moved to Florida for six months, and she had to take a break from running during a brief struggle with an eating disorder.
Back in Carroll County at Manchester Valley, she got back into serious running as a junior.
Last fall, she was an All-Metro second-team selection after finishing second in the Class 1A state cross country meet. She also made the All-Metro second team in indoor track after winning the 3,200 meters in Class 1A record time and finishing fourth in the 1,600 meters. At last week's county track championships, she ran second in the 3,200 meters and sixth in the 1,600 meters.
Culp, who has a 4.2 weighted GPA, will run next year at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, where she plans to major in exercise science.
How did you get started running?
I started running in elementary school. A friend asked me to join a club track team with her, Excel. I remember the first day of practice. It was awful. I think we did like a mile warm-up, and I thought I was going to die (laughs). I kept at it, and I think because both of my parents were runners, I just liked being with those kind of people. I liked the team, so I kept at it and eventually got better at it.
What do you enjoy about running?
A lot of it is a release for me. It's kind of a stress-relieving thing. Originally, I liked to do it for fun. Then it got to be competitive, because what else are you going to do with it (laughs)?
After you came back from Florida, why did you want to get back to running?
I had a lot of personal issues when we were in Florida, and I was kind of sick. It was an eating disorder/depression kind of thing, so I wasn't supposed to be running just so I could get my weight back [up] to where it was supposed to be. Then, sophomore year, I did indoor track, and I played lacrosse (laughs). Sophomore year, I wasn't as serious about running, and since I was at a new school, I wanted to make different friends, so I was just trying different things.
Why did you get back into it more seriously?
I always knew that running was a passion of mine, and I knew I would go further in running as far as running scholarships. I wasn't an awesome lacrosse player, and cross country is definitely my top sport. Cross country trumps track, so I trained all summer to get back into it.
How did the break affect your running?
I think it made me appreciate it a lot more since there was a season in my life where someone told me I could not run. That is always in the back of my mind — that, "You can run now. It's a choice that you have, and it's something that you're good at." It was a fuel knowing that I have the freedom to run and that I can be good at it.
What did you learn during that period about running and nutrition?
I learned a lot about nutrition and fueling your body. You don't realize how much of an impact it will have on your performance. I read a lot of running magazines and running articles about fueling. I read about training methods, too. I saw where I was when I didn't have the nutrition and how weak and tired I was, and it was interesting to watch how once I got back to being healthy, I felt so much better and so much stronger.
Has having the year off and then learning so much about different aspects of training helped you be a better runner?
I think so. I think it gave me more passion, more motivation. It made me smarter to put research into it. I want to study exercise science, so I'm very into researching different training methods, how the body works, biomechanics, the nutrition element. Over the past couple years, I've just become more educated.
What do you want to do with exercise science as a career?