Running Back From The Brink
July 22, 2010
By Amy Farnum
Only two years ago, Miriam Khan thought she would never compete in collegiate track and field again.
Khan, a sprinter for The College of New Jersey, attended Boston College in her first two years of school, but then transferred closer to her home of Titusville, N.J., and decided to concentrate on academics and her aspirations of going to medical school.
After the transfer, the former coach at TCNJ tried to persuade Khan to run for the Lions, but she declined. Some of the athletes on the track and field team continued to encourage Khan to come out for the team, and two years ago she agreed to meet with current assistant coach Justin Lindsey, who convinced her to just give it a try.
Khan did return to the track with limited training due to a back injury, and she competed in outdoor track in 2009. She re-injured her back in a car accident last December, which delayed her training schedule last season. Khan competed in only two indoor meets, but improved throughout the outdoor season, qualifying for nationals and running the third fastest time in NCAA Division III history to win the 100 meter dash with a mark of 11.67.
The victory, and her stellar time, gave Khan a lot of confidence, and left her wanting more, prompting her to use her final year of eligibility in 2011, despite being one summer class away from finishing her undergraduate degree.
“I was never planning on coming back for a fifth year,” said Khan. “I didn’t think that I could run 11.67 and when I did that at nationals I felt so good, and I felt like I had so much more in me.”
Lindsey, who earned the 2010 USTFCCCA National Women's Assistant Coach of the Year award, was obviously thrilled to get another chance to coach his star sprinter.
“She was really excited about winning the 100 meter dash, but she actually favors the 200 and she really wanted to try to go after that win,” said Lindsey. “The chance being the fastest women’s runner all-time in Division III really sparked her interest to come back one more year and give it a go.”
In addition to Khan’s goal of winning the 100 and 200 meter races at next year’s outdoor championships, Lindsey began thinking about a post-collegiate career for the runner. Khan is an American citizen, but her father is from Pakistan, and there is a possibility of her applying for dual citizenship in order for her to compete internationally.
“She has the fastest time for a female in that country, and she is just a tenth away from the standard to qualify for World Championships and the Olympics,” said Khan. “I actually approached her with the idea because I saw that at the last World Championships, the fastest times from Pakistan were around 11.90. I asked her if she had ever thought about running track after college. She was kind of leery about it at first but then she thought it would be a great idea and she spoke to her father about it and he was on board.”
When she arrived at TCNJ Khan’s personal best in the 100 meter dash was in the 12.3s, and in only five months of serious training, she improved drastically.
“It made a huge difference, and it wasn’t even that long,” said Khan. “I feel like now with a whole year’s worth of training I am going to be able to improve a lot.”
Lindsey has worked with Khan on a lot of technical issues, including her mechanics starting out of the blocks, as well as increasing her strength level.
“I saw a lot of potential because of her leg length and her ability to maintain her sprint mechanics after she’s up and running,” said Lindsey. “We call of the Usain Bolt (Jamaican three-time Olympic gold medal winner) of the women’s team because she has a long stride like he does and she maximizes every step that she takes.”
The work paid off with her dropping times, and Lindsey believes Khan will continue to get faster.
“Based on how she’s been progressing, I believe she could make the semifinals at World Championships this summer,” said Lindsey.
Khan continues to work out throughout the summer, and is excited to start preseason training for the upcoming season at TCNJ.
“Everything fell into place that I was still able to come back for another year,” said Khan. “This opportunity will never come again, so I thought I should take it while I have it. I really want to see how well I can do. My coach and I have a lot of faith in my goal and I think I’ll do really well.”