Feb 21, 2020

A Fearless Mother

By Arria Minor

Grady Sports Media 


Five time Olympic trials qualifier Melissa Johnson-White is no novice when it comes high pressure meets, and knows the drill for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. 


This time though, she’s racing for different reasons. After having two daughters, her perspective on running has changed drastically. While running is beautiful yet so chaotic, being a mom is something special to her. She says she has learned to cherish the little things and take the pressure off of herself to put her kids first. 


White didn’t start running seriously until she got to college. She walked on at SUNY-Geneseo, and from there her career took off.


White became a seven-time All-American and an NCAA indoor champion. She also earned a business degree. She greatly enjoyed her time at Geneseo, but there was a daunting question she faced and was challenged to answer, “what’s next?” 


Having only run Division III track, she had no idea what was out there for her. She thought that running competitively had just come to an end. 


However, she became one of the original members of the Hanson-Brooks Distance Project after being recruited during the Boilermaker half marathon. This team of runners was founded to help post collegiate runners reach their full running potential, and this helped her to transition from college track to post collegiate track gracefully. At only 22 years old, she moved from New York to Michigan to be part of a brand new team.


“It was intimidating,” says White, “but it was just a really good experience.” 


For the first time in her life, White was completely immersed in running. With 100% of her time fully dedicated to her craft, she was able to work on improving her mind and body to become the notable runner that she is today. 


Shortly after she met her husband and built her career. White was travelling all over the world making six USA world teams, winning three Walt Disney World Half Marathons, and taking 4th in the US 25k Championships. 


Recently she had two daughters, ages three and eight months, and she sayshaving kids has changed her mindset. 


“I’m a mom first,” White explains. “Everything takes a back seat to my kids. They don’t care if I had a bad workout, but they need me there to be Mom.” 


She now has an added passion in her life, and it’s easier for her to take less of the stress off of herself as a runner. 


“Running is just running” she says. This perspective has also changed her goals for the 2020 Trials. She wants to perform to the best of her ability, but after recently having a baby, she knows she is not in the best shape of her life.


 “I honestly want to go out there and have fun this time,” White says. “No more pressure, no stress, just have fun and enjoy myself.”


Leading up to the trials, she often trains with her husband and her daughters in a running stroller. Having her family around her as she executes her workouts motivates her, she says. She was able to take away the stress and anxiety that can come with competition, and become completely fearless. She’s not afraid to line up with the best runners in the country after having a baby just eight months ago. 


“Running has its ups and downs” she says. But having her family there to support White on race day will be one of the many ups of running.

Leading up to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon, Atlanta Track Club partnered with the Grady Sports Media program at the University of Georgia to profile some of the competitors in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. The authors of these stories are undergraduate students enrolled in the program and have been lightly edited by the Club. See all of the stories at https://www.atlanta2020trials.com/news/uga-trials-project.