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Ann Mazur: Doctoral student, fitness instructor, entrepreneur and Olympic Trials qualifier

A U.Va. instructor’s nontraditional running career

<p>Ann Mazur running during mile 26 of the Olympic Trials.</p>

Ann Mazur running during mile 26 of the Olympic Trials.

Traditional intensive marathon training entails building a 100-plus weekly mileage. Most runners typically switch daily between multiple short runs, a long run, interval training and anything that helps build speed, mileage and strength. Many professional runners and aspiring Olympic runners devote themselves fully to the high intensity and rigor of training. However, all this considered, Ann Mazur has dedicated herself to training up to 61 miles a week while running her company Runners Love Yoga and teaching kinesiology classes at the University where she earned her doctorate. Mazur qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials Dec. 8 — a feat that seems almost improbable considering all her commitments. 

The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials took place on Feb. 29. Mazur finished with a 2:51:53 time, landing in 260th place. It was her 11th marathon. 

When Mazur went into the Olympic Marathon Trials, she was seeded 435th. Even though she would’ve liked to be closer to her personal record of 2:44:45, she was able to move up over 170 places despite the race’s challenging weather conditions and hilly course. Mazur, however, thought the wind contributed to the fun and said she viewed the entire race very positively. 

“I have done many, many races but have never experienced what I experienced while racing on Saturday [Feb. 29],” Mazur said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “At times the volume of cheering was so loud that if I hadn't been running, I would have needed to hold my hands on my ears. All in all, a very incredible experience, which will serve as motivation for getting back there in 2024.” 

Mazur’s marathon journey began while she was a doctoral student at the University. Due to her many other commitments, her training has usually involved less running than other marathoners, who typically average 80 to 110 miles a week compared to her 40 to 60. To compensate for the less demanding mileage, she crosstrains with yoga and swimming to round out her training. 

This well-roundedness has translated into a life of versatility beyond marathon training as well. In addition to being a marathon runner, Mazur has also found success as an entrepreneur and fitness instructor, and she manages to incorporate her love for athletics into every position she takes on. 

Much to her frustration, Mazur was not a very athletic child when she was young. She came from a very athletic family where she was the oldest of four kids. Her father played baseball in college and her mother was a college gymnast. In elementary school, Mazur wrote in a journal, praying she would be able to become a fast runner to keep up with kids in gym class. However, she first discovered her talent for endurance through swimming.

“I learned to swim at age 11 and immediately loved swimming, and then it just turned out that I was good at endurance sports,” Mazur said. “I love doing things for a long time, I guess.”

After walking on to the University of Notre Dame varsity cross-country and track teams in college, Mazur discovered her love for something that couldn’t be further away from sports — English literature. 

While Mazur entered college as an engineering student, it was during her introduction to mechanical engineering class halfway through her sophomore year that she realized she wanted to pursue a different path. Her homework was to read Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” and Mazur felt that she was the only one in her lecture hall who kept raising her hand and answering questions because she had loved reading the novel. Afterwards, she switched to a math and English double major. 

“Pretty much right from the get go, as soon as I was in those English classes in college, I wanted to be just like my English professors,” Mazur said. “Anyone who knew 10-year-old Ann would not be surprised that she went on to get her Ph.D. in English because I loved reading. I was not always a good athlete at all, but I was always a very good reader. That was the one thing that I was good at, and I read like a book a day.” 

After earning her undergraduate degree, Mazur was drawn to both the University’s 19th century British literature doctoral program and the city of Charlottesville itself because of its ideal running landscape. She applied and was accepted to the doctoral program, eventually earning her degree in 2014. 

Throughout earning her doctorate, Mazur began running marathons, her first marathon being the Kiawah Island Marathon, a marathon based in South Carolina, in 2012. Since then, she has run 11 marathons and won the Kiawah Island Marathon in 2017. After winning with a time of two hours and 52 minutes, Mazur set her sights on shaving seven more minutes off of her time, which would allow her to qualify for the Olympic trials. Even while only doing half the mileage training of some of her competitors, Mazur was able to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, Calif. this winter. 

Beyond running, Mazur has also dedicated a large portion of her life to yoga. Her love for yoga developed from doing yoga with one of her best friends, who inspired Mazur to make a yoga DVD, which is still available for sale. The success of the DVD led her to continue to create yoga videos and even move on to establishing her own brand — Runners Love Yoga.

“I was doing all this yoga running stuff and it just kind of kept getting bigger and bigger without me even really trying necessarily,” Mazur said. “It just kind of took on a life of its own … From there, we started making clothing and designing [clothing]. I've always loved running clothes and activewear, and so I ended up designing those and selling that as part of the brand, too.”

In addition to selling activewear, the Runners Love Yoga website has streamable yoga workout videos as well as a blog with tips on how to run better, recover from injuries faster and eat healthy. Currently the Runners Love Yoga Instagram account has over 30,800 followers.

While managing her brand, Mazur still finds time to swim for club swimming at the University. Since 2009, she has been teaching one-credit yoga classes in the Aquatic & Fitness Center, and in the fall of 2017, she began teaching running for fitness and cycle 45 classes. Sometimes she even gives her students small discounts for Runners Love Yoga. While some of her students chose to take her running class because they enjoyed running, others were able to develop a love for running through her constant encouragement. 

“Initially I chose to take the class because I hated running, and I wanted to just kind of get over that,” fourth-year Engineering student Fiona Teevan-Kamhawi said. “But I’m taking it again because I just really enjoyed it. It’s nice to have a schedule and it’s nice to have someone to motivate you.” 

Fourth-year College student EmmaRae Gunia took Mazur’s yoga class last fall, and this is her second semester in the Running for Fitness class. Since enrolling in these courses, Mazur has made her become more comfortable with the sports. 

“I feel like I can do anything because she pushes us and she believes us and supports us,” Gunia said. “It makes me feel more confident in myself, whether I’m running by myself or I’m taking a yoga class with a different instructor. I think her values of being so supportive and so open has made me feel like I can be more confident and out there when it comes to running and yoga.” 

Despite having a multitude of commitments, Mazur has been able to juggle all her passions. Teaching at the University allows her to combine her love for fitness with her love for the classroom, while simultaneously managing her careers as a business owner and marathon runner. 

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