A Runner Shares Her Path to the Olympics—Plus, the Only Shoes She Trains In

For most of us, going for a run is the ultimate challenge (and chore). Every day, Chari Hawkins takes on that challenge — times seven.

As a Team USA heptathlete, Chari professionally competes in seven back-to-back track and field events — 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin, and 800m. After qualifying for the 2016 Olympic trials, she now spends her days in sunny San Diego training to qualify for the 2020 games.

Anyone who’s ever tried to run knows that running shoes can make or break a run, and finding the perfect pair can feel impossible (who has the time for a month of running in pain to break them in?) Chari debunked information on running shoes, and talks all about her favorites: On Cloud X. Unlike many running shoes, they don’t look like your grandma’s geriatrics — they’re designed for runners, by runners, and are chic enough to wear all day long. The best part? Chari explained breaking them in isn’t necessary.

Chari also spoke with us about a day in her life, her transition from running as a hobby to running professionally, and all about her running must-haves.


Name: Chari HawkinsHeptathlete
Age: 27
Current Location: San Diego
Education: Master’s Degree


What was your first job, and how did you land it?


Besides babysitting, I was a hostess at Texas Roadhouse. Honestly, I just applied for it, interviewed, and started the next week!


You started running track in seventh grade — what are your first memories of running? When did you first feel a passion for it?


All I really remember is not really wanting to run the two laps before practice — that seemed like way too many for me! I also remember laying on the high jump mat with my friends and not actually doing anything.



You went on to be a college athlete, and were even named NCAA College Sportswoman of the Year in 2015. How did you decide to make the commitment to continue track into college?


I think after I won my first championship myself in high school, I knew I was going to continue doing it. I really wanted to do volleyball as well, but I didn’t quite go to hell enough to be able to go to the school I wanted to go to.


You’ve been participating in track for the majority of your life — take us through your transition from running for enjoyment to running professionally.


It started out just to be with my friends, and I started learning that the better I got, the more fun I was having. That’s how I really decided to just put all my effort into getting as good as I could. Have the best time ever, right?


Your event is the Heptathalon, which consists of field events in addition to running. Can you describe this in your own words? Do you have an event that you look forward to the most? The least?


My two favorite events are the first two events: high jump and hurdles. After those two events, I start to get really nervous. I wish that they were more in the middle of the event, to be honest — I think I’d be more comfortable throughout it!


What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your athletic career thus far?


The first thing that comes to mind would definitely be staying healthy, and surviving an injury. Mental strength and physical strength are so important, and when you find yourself injured, both of those things kind of take a hit.


What is the thing you’re most proud of in your athletic career?


I would definitely say qualifying for the 2016 Olympic trials, as well as winning the British championship last year.



You’re currently training for the 2020 Olympics. What does a current day in your life look like?


I would say it’s exciting for me, but it may be boring for others. All day of track, recovery, eating well, sleeping well, and doing whatever I can to make sure that my body gets what it needs.


You’re engaged — congrats! How do you balance your training with a relationship, and with the other aspects of your life?


I’m incredibly lucky to be engaged to someone who is both an incredibly independent person as well as insanely supportive of what I do! He helps with all of my needs when possible, and is always helping me to get better every step of the way.


What do you see yourself doing five years from now? 10 years from now?


I see my happy self definitely having a family. I am absolutely in no hurry to have one right away, but it’s something that I’ve always known that I wanted to do. I would also love to help other people in some aspect of my career.



What would you want young girls starting out in sports to know about pursuing them professionally?


It’s not up to any one else, even the people who believe in you — it’s only up to you. What do you want? It doesn’t matter what anybody else says, you need to do what will make you happy, because only you can control your own destiny.


What is the biggest impact running has had on your life?


Running has allowed me to travel the world, meet new people, and push myself mentally and physically harder than I ever have. It’s definitely defined a big part of who I am.


What advice would you give someone trying to get into running, but struggling to start?


Consistency is key. Chip away at any little thing long enough and soon you will have accomplished your goals. One step in front of the other will always get you there, no matter how many miles away it is.



What do you think makes On so different from other technical apparel brands?


There’s something about putting on a pair of On Running shoes that makes you know that the manufacturers understand and are runners themselves. I can wear a brand new pair of shoes and never once experience “hot feet” or foot cramping, or anything that would assume that you need to “wear in your shoes first.” They are shoes that were made by runners, for runners, and I honestly felt that I knew they were different from the moment I put them on.


Do you generally eat very healthy? What are some of your go-to meals and snacks?


I love trail mix and nuts in general. I love fruit, cereal, and protein shakes. I try not to do too much snacking outside of practice, because it is very slow for me — soon I’ll be too full for dinner!


If you could tell your 20-year-old self one thing, what would it be?


Every single thing that goes wrong prepares you for something to go that much more right. Keep seeing the positive, but definitely work on your anxiety sooner! Also, take supplements — they are your friend.