Oct. 4, 2012
For immediate release

After a late start, former soccer player embraces challenges of her new sport

Alia Gray considered herself a soccer player until seven years ago, her stamina and competitive nature molding her into a talented midfielder.

Now, she sounds like a runner to the core.

The former Chico State standout and recent addition to the Sacramento Running Association’s Elite Team didn’t give running much thought until working out with her high school cross country team to recover from knee surgery.

Conversion came quickly.

“When I started running, I just had this feeling there’s a lot more in me,” Gray said. “It was just something I really wanted to pursue.”

She did with a passion. Gray earned All-America honors in track and cross country in 2009 and 2011 at Chico State, posting personal bests of 16 minutes, 40 seconds for 5,000 meters and 34:31 for the 10,000.

Gray, 23, graduated from Chico State last spring with a degree in Journalism/Public Relations and a sense her running career was still developing.

“I still feel like a really young runner,” she said. “I think it’s kind of exciting.”

Gray is focusing on the 10,000 and marathon. She’s eager to test her talents on Dec. 2 at the 30th California International Marathon, an event founded by the Sacramento Running Association which has attracted 8,800 entrants and more than 900 relay teams.

The CIM is part of her long-range plan to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

“I definitely want to qualify and think it would be cool to be good enough to make the team,” Gray said. “I know I have the potential to do that.

“I’m really excited about the transition to longer distances … That could be a really good fit for me … I’m a strength runner.”

Gray said she’s motivated by fellow Santa Rosan Kim Conley’s successful Olympic bid this year. Conley, a former UC Davis standout and SRA Elite Team member, used the SRA’s support to focus more on training and deliver a dramatic third-place finish in the women’s 5,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

“It was really insane to see her name pop up in headlights,” Gray said. “Everyone loves a Cinderella story.

“That type of story is really inspiring to me.”

Gray said she’s grateful for the SRA’s assistance.

“It’s really important,” she said. “I’m still trying to feel out how I’m going to continue running and not let my professional life slide, either.

“I want to train to become an elite runner. It requires a different type of lifestyle.”

Gray, an avid foodie who enjoys reading and writing, said she’s looking for a job that will leave enough time and energy for her to pursue a running passion she says has given back to her.

“I just feel good,” she said. “It’s really, really therapeutic for me. I put so much into it. But it’s also given me a lot.

“Running is the one thing I don’t want to stop.”

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

Other SRA events include the Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon on Oct. 28, the Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run on Feb. 3 and the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run on April 7.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.