Making a Rapid Ascent in Distance Running World, PU’s Curham Primed to Build on Superb Debut Season
When it comes to running, Meghan Curham has come a long way in a short time.
Curham, a native of Warren, N.J, only joined the track team during the spring of her sophomore year at Villa Walsh in 2010.
By her senior year, Curham won the state Prep B cross country title.
She came across the state to Princeton University last fall and established herself as the top runner on the women’s cross country team, placing fourth in the Ivy League Heptagonal championship meet.
This spring, she set a program record in the 10,000 meters and ended up making the NCAA championships in the event, where she finished 11th and earned All-American honors.
While Curham got into track as a break from swimming, she quickly realized that she had found her passion.
“I was in competitive swimming since I was four; I had a lot of friends doing spring track as a away to get into shape for summer,” said Curham.
“I definitely liked it right away; it made me feel better than swimming. You got to socialize when you were doing it and you can’t do that in swimming. I like going out for a run, better than going into the pool.”
Deciding that she wanted to run in college, Curham decided to make up for lost time in the winter of her junior year.
“The recruitment process was beginning and I wanted to be in the pool,” said Curham.
“I got on my treadmill in the basement and I ran as hard as I could. I wasn’t even thinking about mileage. With the treadmill, you know how fast you are going and how far you are going.”
For Curham, her victory in the Prep B cross country championship meet represented a major breakthrough.
“The most exciting thing about that was the time, I wanted to break 19 because I couldn’t break 20 as a junior,” recalled Curham.
“I broke 19 pretty quickly that fall and that was the first race where I broke 18. I know it wasn’t a public school meet but there were definitely a few people in the prep schools that had talent.”
Once Curham was on the radar of college programs, she didn’t have to think twice when Princeton started recruiting her.
“Princeton has always been my dream school,” said Curham. “I have been going to swim meets there since I was young. We would walk around campus and town and I loved it. I wanted to go there my whole life.”
Upon arriving at Princeton, Curham had to go a lot harder than she was used to in terms of her training.
“I think definitely the workouts were different,” said Curham, noting that she increased her mileage to 60 miles a week from the 50 she was doing in high school.
“Workouts in general were more tougher; they were a shock. I asked the other girls and they said I would get used to them. We were doing long hard runs. We were doing 7 milers rather than 4-milers like in high school. The workouts were tailored to the actual event; they were a lot more focused.”
Continuing her rapid rise in the running world, Curham proved to be a quick study, winning in her college debut as she placed first at the Delaware Cross Country Invitational last September.
“It was crazy; I went out with my teammates,” said Curham, who clocked a time of 21:39.39 over the 6k course.
“There was one big hill on the course. I don’t like hills so I try to run as fast as I can to get it over with. I assumed my teammates would go with me. I got to the top of the hill and I was alone I was so nervous beforehand; it was so exciting.”
Curham went on to take fourth in the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships and qualify for the NCAA championship meet, where she finished 34th to earn All America honors.
Competing indoors for the first time in her career, Curham kept up her run of success, taking second in both the 3,000 and 5,000 at the Indoor Heps.
“In the 5000 we went out really slowly and then we were completely sprinting the last mile,” said Curham.
“The last 200 was better than what I do in workouts; it gave me confidence in my speed. It was great coming in second in the 3,000 a day later.”
Coming into the spring season, Curham was ready to take a step up distance-wise.
“Peter [Princeton women’s track head coach Peter Farrell] asked me if I wanted to do the 10,000,” said Curham. “He usually doesn’t let freshmen do it because it is a long race and it can break you down.”
Not backing down from the challenge, Curham made history, setting a program record of 33:24.79 in taking second in the 10,000 at the Outdoor Heps. Her time was 7.26 faster than the previous record set by Emily Kroshus ’04 a decade ago when she clocked a 33:32.45.
“My first real 10,000 was the Heps, that was really exciting,” said Curham, who also placed third in the 5,000 at the meet.
“I still can’t describe it in words. I had looked at records and I didn’t really think I could do that this year. I feel like I am a purely endurance runner. With the 10,000, the race is so long you can make up for mistakes. I go into it more relaxed.”
Building on that effort, Curham placed fourth in 10,000 at the NCAA East Regional to book a spot in the national championship meet.
“In the east regional, we ran about the same time but it was a very even race,” said Curham, who cruised to a time of 33:25.12. “It was really exciting to qualify. I thought I would be in the back. When I saw where I was late in the race, that felt really good.”
While Curham did really well in the NCAA championships, she had hoped to race even better.
“I wanted to get a personal record and I didn’t do that,” said Curham. “You don’t know how a 10k is going to go and whether it is going to be a tactical race. It was a good learning experience. I know what I did to not run a PR.”
This summer, Curham is applying some of the lessons she learned in her debut campaign.
“Over the season, I kept my strength,” said Curham. “I want to keep up my base but have room to get better in the fall. I don’t want to peak in the summer. We are not supposed to race, we are just supposed to do strides to help with speed. I was lifting real weights multiple times a week this year which I hope will keep me from getting injured.”
In looking ahead, Curham believes she has the strength to go much further down the road.
“I would really like to try racing a marathon someday,” said Curham. “I did the Disney half marathon as my Christmas present one year.”