Berlin, Germany - Running marathons is nothing new for Head Women's Lacrosse Coach Kate Mayhook. The fifth year leader of the women's lacrosse program has competed in prestigious marathons such as the Boston and New York City Marathons, but her newest challenge took her overseas.
This past September 29, Kate faced a new challenge as she was part of the 47,000 runners to participate in the Berlin Marathon. Out of the 13,290 female participants, Mayhook finished 346th - inside the top 3% of runners with a time of 3:14:10.
Leading up to the trip to Berlin, several factors were at play for Kate and her family. Aside from her training, the decision to bring the whole family played a big role.
"At first my husband and I debated on whether or not to bring our two kids, Balin (13) and Selia (8), with us to Germany," said Mayhook. "I would not have had it any other way."
Joining the Mayhook family were Kate's parents and her friend from college. The group spent four days in Berlin, one day in Dresden, Germany, and three days in Prague - adding to the already exciting trip.
Family plays a huge role for Kate in each marathon she runs. They are a source of comfort and motivation for her during the race, but being able to share the experience with them is an extra incentive.
"I find having my family there gives me a sense of security and motivation. I like knowing they are somewhere along the course, whether or not I see them (which I did at two places!) and will be there at the finish to celebrate and support me. It was a lot to ask of my family and friend but when I first mentioned running a marathon in Europe, they were all so excited and fully on board."
With her family invested in the process with her, Kate's focus shifted to training - a process that was consistent with what she had done in the past. She continued to work with her running coach, Mary Beth Scott of OnwardRun coaching, and received personalized training plans to bring out her best. The biggest obstacle for Kate during the training process was was coming back from a long-term running injury that plagued her for years.
After taking time off in the spring of 2019 and working with a physical therapist, part of Kate's plan was to ease back into training, building up her speed and mileage progressively to avoid reinjuring herself. Her training had a greater emphasis on sustaining fitness and mileage without damaging her hamstring - a goal that the group was able to achieve.
Once physically ready, Kate's focus shifted to being mentally prepared for the the six-hour jump ahead from Buffalo to Berlin. However, Kate adjusted well with two days from arrival in Berlin to race day.
"We arrived in Berlin on Friday morning and the race was Sunday morning," said Mayhook. "Having two days was enough time to hydrate, loosen up my legs and get some sleep. I rarely sleep well the night before a race and I certainly did not in Berlin. Some nerves got the best of me but it ended up not affecting me too much on race day."
With all of her preparation, Kate came out of the gate strong with the mindset to break her personal record of 3:09:18 through the first 10k - setting the tone for the rest of the race . However, the crowded course left Kate with a bit of "trouble finding the space to run how I wanted," putting her behind her desired mark.
The course was different than any other big race that Kate had run in prior, offering different challenges in layout and space. The Berlin Marathon course is flat and on a loop, compared to the Boston and New York City Marathons that are point-to-point and offer elevation changes. Despite Mayhook's delight to run on a flat course, the course brought numerous changes of direction, constant turns, and narrow streets that limited her ability to establish a desired pace and move amongst a crowded group of runners.
Once surpassing the first 10k, Mayhook had to alter her plan for the rest of the race.
"I was running smart, I did not go out too fast and my legs were ready to go but I had a lot of trouble finding my way through the crowd and making the turns," said Kate. "I was not able to get into a rhythm and really open things up which was frustrating for me. About half way through I knew I was not going to break my PR but that I could still run a good time. So I had to mentally shift gears, tell myself my time does not dictate how this race goes, enjoy my surroundings and take in all Berlin had to offer as I may never be here again."
That shift in mentality resulted in Kate posting her second best marathon time of 3:14:10, five minutes off her career best time.
With all of the challenges of recovering from an injury, training both mentally and physically, time change, battling the elements, and having to shift gears during the race on an unfamiliar terrain, Kate was able to come away from the experience with positive memories to cherish for a lifetime.
"Looking back, I am so happy that I ran Berlin and proud of the work I put in to get to race day, but what I will remember most is having this experience with my family and friend. The race itself was challenging in ways I was not expecting, the course was different, the weather was not ideal but overall the experience was once in a lifetime. When I look back, I remember how lucky I was to be there with my family and friend and see a part of the world none of us had been to before."
At home, the fifth-year head coach of the women's lacrosse team just finished the shortened 2020 season with a 2-1 record and five player of the week awards in just two weeks from two different conferences. Mayhook and the team entered the spring off the heels of their best season in program history in 2019 with a 7-10 record.
Kate has led the team to an increased win total every year that she has been in charge of the program, beginning with zero (2017), to four (2018), and finally seven (2019). She coached three North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) All-Conference players last season and has built the program from club team to NEAC playoff contender.
Running wasn't always a passion of Kate's as she began running fafter college as a way to stay competitive and in shape. For four years at Colgate University, kate established herself as one of the premier athletes at the school and an exceptional women's lacrosse player. During her four years as a Raider, Mayhook was a three-time Collegiate Northeast Women's Lacrosse All-American as well as a two-time Patriot League Player of the Year. She led her team in total points (goals and assists), draw control, groundballs and steals in 1999-2000. Kate was also a team captain in 2000 and graduated from Colgate with a Bachelor of Arts and History. Following her time at Colgate, she was inducted into their Hall of Fame.
In addition to her coaching duties at D'Youville, Kate serves as the athletic department's administrative assistant.