Samantha (Bluske) Palmer
My running career is intertwined with a theme of polite rejection. I have been told “no” and “you’re not quite good enough” many times. This gentle but sharp reminder began in HS and persists to this day. It keeps me on my toes and reminds me to keep forging ahead.
In college I was consistently on the verge of taking my running to another level but never did. I was average. I never made an NCAA final as an individual. I was never an All-American. I did not have the running resume to pursue a post-collegiate running career as a standalone way to support myself. I was told “no” by a few training groups, clothing companies, etc but I had a burning desire to keep running. A DI coaching opportunity was given to me (after spending a few months living in the basement of a mentor and working as a barista) and I jumped right on it. Within a few days I was packing my car and moving to Toledo, Ohio. Coaching was a career path I explored while I was in college but it wasn’t until my fifth year of school when I realized it was a legitimate career path.
For the next 4 years (I originally told myself that Toledo would be a 2 year stop for me but I ended up LOVING it) I worked full-time (if anyone understands the lifestyle of a collegiate coach, you know it is not a 40 hour / week job) and trained full-time. This lifestyle worked for me. Coaching gave more to me than I probably gave to it…it filled me up. I was running PRs from the 10K – marathon.
After finishing my first marathon in April 2015, I caught the marathon bug. My first experience was unconventional…I made a wrong turn at 21 miles so ended up running 27.2 miles rather than 26.2 miles. I went on the run the Olympic Trials Standard that December and finished 4th at the USATF Marathon Championships in 2017 (2:31.55).
2018 was a year of many life changes. My husband and I got married in July after we had been living in different states for about 4 years. He is also a collegiate coach so finding jobs in the same city had been a difficult task so when he was offered a coaching job at the University of Alabama about 2 weeks after our wedding I packed my car once again and moved to Tuscaloosa. Since his job can support the two of us, we decided that this was the perfect opportunity to allow me to put more emphasis on competing.
To be honest, the transition has been far from easy. Coaching filled me up in a way that my own running doesn’t but each athlete is only given a finite amount of time to compete at an elite level and I don’t want to look back on my career and regret not putting all of my energy into this sport. I will always be fighting an uphill battle in this sport — I never broke 11 minutes for 3200m in high school, I was never an All-American and I never made an NCAA Championship as an individual. But what I do know is that I have a lot of heart and passion for this sport and finding out how good I can be motivates me every single day.