Kristin Ihle Helledy’s storied career has been marked by a number of successes both on and off the track. Whether focusing on her own performance or dedicating her time to helping evolve human performance in general, Ihle Helledy’s drive and ambition are second to none. As a collegiate athlete she became a six-time All-American athlete and competed post collegiately as a Nike athlete. Some of her biggest successes happened during races that pushed her to limits she didn’t even know she had.
One such race was the 14th Annual Deseret News/Granite Furniture Women’s 10K, which had Ihle Helledy facing a distance and format quite unlike what she typically pursued. Primarily a track specialist who preferred races at or under 5K, the 10K race proved to be a test of her limits and motivation in the sport. In typical fashion, Ihle Helledy did not disappoint herself, taking first place with a personal best time of 31 minutes, 41 seconds. While not a marathon in the traditional sense, she noted, “This was like a marathon for me,” while her performance outpaced her prior personal best of 33 minutes, 9 seconds at that distance.
Kristin Ihle Helledy’s approach to the race was one of personal motivation and ambition. “I looked at this as a race against myself rather than against the others,” she commented afterward. With a strategy to simply do her best and run as quickly as she could for as long as possible, she was able to outpace the field for the majority of the race, which happened to feature a bevy of worthy contenders, including Olympic athletes and the former race record holder. Former Olympian Lyudmila Petrova held pace with Ihle Helledy for the first mile of the race and then fell back by the 2-mile marker.
While the 10K race was certainly not her strong suit going into the event, Ihle Helledy was no stranger to the format or competitions of that length. Ihle Helledy had raced in several 10Ks before this event, including competing as a finalist in the 1996 Olympic trials and in the 1997 World University Games later in 1997. However, one of the unique challenges for this particular race was the altitude in Utah, causing Ihle Helledy to train with her coach, Lyle Knudson, for weeks in Colorado in preparation. This event also marked her first trip to Utah for competition, encouraging her to do all she could to prepare in advance. She commented on the support locals provided the runners along the way, noting, “To see them lined up, six people deep was awesome. This was a great celebration for the people of Salt Lake.”
Knudson was impressed by his protégée’s performance, noting that her strengths lie more in track races than road running and that she exceeded her own expectations. “It’s a tremendous credit to her to do this well against great international competition,” Knudson shared. “It’s amazing that she broke away like that from a world-class runner.”
Kristin Ihle Helledy’s success came on the heels of a sixth-place finish and 1st American in the Utica 15K, where fellow runner Petrova came in first. One of the differences she noted that contributed to her success this time around, other than the shorter length, was the fact that much of the Deseret News 10K course contained downhill stretches that allowed her to push herself further than before.
Her running performance is just one aspect of an illustrious career that Ihle Helledy has built for herself. During a hiatus from running from 1992 to 1995, she pursued her master’s degree. Later, she completed her education by earning a Ph.D. in multicultural psychology, but that didn’t mean that she left the world of sports behind. Instead, she used her combined background to create a career consulting in sports psychology for NCAA teams and individual athletes. Her company, Avant, was founded to support these efforts, and has since branched out to coach teams and leaders from all industries on how to improve their performance, recruit top talent that blends with their corporate culture, and enable acquisition integration.