By Sara Campione
Photos: Bill Cardoni
After a journey across the pond, women’s cross-country, indoor and outdoor track and field mid-distance runner Mae Thompson found her stride at FDU as a Knight and Division I athlete.
The senior humanities major was recruited by Fairleigh Dickinson University for her stellar running skills. “I am from the United Kingdom. The college process is slightly different there. We have to choose a major really early on, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Thompson. After receiving information in the mail about attending college in the United States, Thompson realized that might work for her. “Obviously here you don’t have to specialize quite so quickly, and of course, it sounded cool. So I just went for it. FDU found me, and the rest is history,” says Thompson.
Recruited to run the 400-meter women’s hurdles, Thompson has made quite the mark on FDU and the Northeast Conference (NEC) in her first three years.
Freshman year she ran only the 400-meter hurdles.
Sophomore year her coach suggested trying cross-country, too. She did, and quickly noticed the benefits. “I felt a lot stronger with the 400-meter. I could continue longer into the season, where I would have burned out before.”
And, after running the 800-meter once, the event seemed to stick. “My coach asked me to fill in. Now it is kind of my event.” She loves the 800 in a way she never thought she would. “It definitely opened my eyes. I have a lot more respect for distance runners. As a 200-meter and 400-meter runner I thought, ‘There can’t be anything harder than this,’ but distance runners are a whole other breed.”
She has broken both school records and NEC records — the indoor and outdoor school record for the 800-meter, the indoor 500-meter school record and the school record for the 4x400 meter relay. “It is just nice to know that I am in the record books. People can see my achievements. I currently hold the indoor 800-meter [NEC] record.”
“I always wear my lucky socks; I can’t race without them. They actually have stars and stripes on them — I went with an American theme,” says Thompson. “The first time I wore them, I achieved a personal record, and after that it just stuck. Now all my great races have been in my lucky socks. I am not sure what I would do without them!”
Thompson suggests those who want to pursue running invest in a good pair of sneakers.
“Don’t try and do too much too quickly. A lot of people think, ‘I am going to get into running and go and run a 10k from nothing.’ Ultimately, that is going to hurt you. Just increase the amount you are doing every time.” She also says don’t force it. “If you aren’t enjoying running as a novice, then don’t force yourself. Take a couple of days off and you may feel like actually going.”
At FDU she has grown not only as an athlete, but also as a student. “I know how to conduct myself around competitors and not let other people get to me. I have self-belief and integrity about my training. As a student, my time
management and communication skills have improved. Coming to college has helped 10-fold with that.”
In the U.K., there are not as many resources for sports, especially track and field. So Thompson decided to follow her passion, and she has thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
“Pushing myself out of my comfort zone to live 3,000 miles away from home is a great experience. It’s something that I really treasure.”
As for postgraduation aspirations, “I’m interested in joining a graduate program here in the U.S., and depending on how this year goes, continuing to run track as a member of a club,” says Thompson. Alternatively, she would return to the U.K. and start job hunting!
Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Winter/Spring 2018 edition of FDU Magazine.