To say that Cindy Anderson is an overachiever is a significant understatement.
“I always loved trail running,” said Anderson, who has been running since high school. “When I heard about the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, I decided to sign up.”
This was a decade ago, back in 2008, the very first year the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship was held at Kualoa Ranch.
“I wasn’t doing a ton of running at the time,” said Anderson. “I definitely don’t run every day. Because I’m prone to injuries, I combine low mileage with a lot of cross training, which works for me.”
This isn’t the typical profile of distance runners, who routinely log up to 100 miles or more a week. But the 2008 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship showed that Anderson is anything but typical. She put her cross-training, sunny disposition, and her competitive heart to the test and came away as the XTERRA World Champ in the inaugural event. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, Anderson returned in 2009 and placed second and again in 2011 and finished fourth.
What’s amazing is that Anderson kept up her running speed and fitness while pursuing her Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology at the University of Hawaii. By 2013, Anderson was pregnant with her first son and in 2014, her husband – who is in the Coast Guard – was stationed in D.C. which necessitated a move back to the mainland. Anderson finished her dissertation just in time.
While many people would be overwhelmed by the rigors of trying to finish a Ph.D. as a new mother, Anderson tucks challenges in her back pocket as if they were just something she picked up along the way. Growing up on Long Island, Anderson played softball, soccer, and ran indoor track. In her senior year she ran cross country instead of playing soccer and in the spring, instead of softball, she ran track.
“I knew I wanted to do a sport in college and I thought I had the best chance at running.”
It was no surprise that Anderson earned an academic scholarship to the University of Rhode Island, a Division I team with a stable of excellent athletic teams. While she was looking at the school, she set up an appointment with the track coach, who encouraged her to train so that she could “walk-on” to the team, referring to the process of joining a sports program to which you aren’t recruited for.
“Despite the fact that they had so many good runners, the coaching staff was really welcoming,” said Anderson. “It was such a privilege to work with Laurie and John Melnick, who truly helped me realize my distance running potential. From that first visit, they laid out expectations and a schedule and told me what practice was like. He also connected me with other girls on the team."
When spring rolled around her freshman year, Anderson proved herself as a walk-on, competing primarily in the 800-meter run. She moved up to the 3000-meter run her sophomore year and then the 5K. She posted some seriously impressive PRs of 2:18 in the 800 and 17:20 in the 5K. While most 800-meter runners never run a 10K on the track, Anderson did that too. In her senior year, she was the Outdoor Track Atlantic 10 Conference Champ in the 10K. Even before her senior year, her success on the track earned her an athletic scholarship to supplement her academic one.
“A 10K was definitely a long way to run on a track,” she admitted.
However, her performances at the 21K at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship display what a truly versatile runner she is. She mastered the three challenging climbs, narrow single-track, and technical downhill with apparent ease.
Although these days, Anderson does some of her runs with her two boys – now five and three – the family is back in Kailua and Anderson will return to run at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship
“I just love running,” said Anderson. “I love racing and have a real passion for it. Even though it adds more to my schedule, it somehow balances being a mom and working. Kualoa Ranch is such a beautiful place to run. I seriously can’t wait.”