For Olympic trials marathon competitor Sara Petrick, an active lifestyle and career in public health go hand-in-hand.
“Staying active and healthy has always been a priority for me,” said Petrick.
The Tampa native earned her bachelor’s degree in health and human performance from the University of Florida in 2009, before coming to the USF College of Public Health. While at COPH, she was training to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the marathon and thanks the program for allowing her to balance her schedule between schoolwork and training. Petrick officially qualified for the Olympic marathon trials after finishing in a Houston qualifying race. During her time at USF, she also was a member of the USF Graduate Student Association and the Public Health Student Association.
“I appreciated the convenience and the flexibility of classes,” said Petrick. “I spent about half of my time in face-to-face classes and the remainder online.”
Petrick credits her early interest in health to her childhood and to the way her parents rewarded her healthy and active choices. She remembers receiving positive reinforcement during her youth for healthy behavior, which has gone on to shape her approach to public health today.
“Given such an upbringing and realizing the numerous rewards of such engagement, I strongly believe that population-based health promotion and improvement can elicit significant gains for communities at large,” she said.
A quality assurance analyst at MED3000 since 2011, Petrick beat out some 6,000 other contestants to win last year’s 15K Gasparilla Distance Classic. She won the same race in 2012. While she hasn’t felt the itch to throw herself into another all-consuming marathon just yet, Petrick still enjoys running on her own time to eclectic playlists of Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Pink.
“The training requires an enormous amount of personal, emotional and psychological investment, and I am not currently prepared to relive that,” she said. “I do, however, love to run, and do enjoy running competitively … just in shorter, more manageable events!”
Petrick started building her running resume before she was even out of the womb and hasn’t taken off her running shoes since.
“My mother ran regularly while pregnant with me,” she said. “I completed my first 5K race when I was 7 and started running regularly when I was 13.”
When she isn’t pounding the pavement or the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, Petrick spends her time on brain-stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles and creating hypotrochoid (or geometric pattern) drawings.
Whatever she’s up to, it seems one thing is for certain: Armed with the motivation and drive she learned in marathon running, the passion for better health she learned during her childhood, and her public health education, nothing is getting in Sara Petrick’s way.
Story by Shelby Bourgeois, College of Public Health writing intern. Photos courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times.