Before Emily Durgin ever stepped onto a track in high school, her father gave her some calming advice.
"Well, it's just a bunch of girls. They're no better than you and you're all just a bunch of girls running."
From then on, Durgin has taken that bit of advice and used it to help her understand her training, racing and herself.
Durgin said that since her freshman year at Bonny Eagle, she wouldn't run in college unless she earned a full scholarship for her running. Her hard work and fast times paid off for her as she went to the University of Connecticut on scholarship.
After UConn, where she double-majored in communication and journalism, Durgin moved to Boston and trained for over a year with a group of runners for New Balance.
"I joined New Balance Boston and I was there for a year and a half," Durgin said. "I lowered my 10K time, I think I was in the 32:50s, I came in second at the Falmouth Road Race, I was fifth in the U.S. 5K championship and I just kind of established myself on the roads a little bit more."
After some good times and positive training, Stephen Haas of Total Sports Management reached out to Durgin to try and sign her to a new contract.
"My first year I was on a group deal and so I was nannying to pay the bills," Durgin said. "I had really good training partners but wasn't on a real contract. Stephen reached out to me and said, "You deserve a deal, let's get you one." The first thing I said was, "I'm open, I'm very close to my group but I am open to any company." It was almost like my first year going pro was 2019. We shopped around and in January of 2019 I signed with Under Armour. Part of the deal was to move out to Flagstaff as Under Armour is trying to build a team out here in Flagstaff."
Durgin still resides in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she's done everything from 10K training to half-marathons and soon, full marathons.
With the COVID-19 pandemic reaching all corners of the world, Durgin, Under Armour, the IAAF and everyone in between is at a standstill as everyone waits to see if numbers of cases start to drop in countries so that races can be held.
The summer Olympics, scheduled for this summer in Tokyo, Japan, have been postponed to 2021 and so have the U.S. Olympic trials. Like many athletes, Durgin was disheartened by the news.
"It was upsetting for me because I had gotten my Olympic trial standard last May in the 10k," Durgin said. "I ran in the 32:20s so I was already qualified. It would have been my first time in the Olympic Trials, and not to say that the 10K will be my focal point but it would have been cool to say this is my first trials."
Right now, Durgin said she's running base mileage with her coach and a couple other runners in Flagstaff. She's planning on picking up her mileage in the next few weeks as she prepares for longer distance races.
The Cheverus alum has run two half-marathons recently, one ending in a victory in Phoenix where Durgin ran a time of 71:40, a coming-out party of sorts.
"There was a half-marathon in Phoenix and I convinced my coach to let me run it," Durgin said. "Galen Rupp was coming to run it to help get ready for the Olympic trials and I was running it to redeem myself and I won that. It felt good to set the course record and that's where I ran my 71:40. That was another moment that I felt, 'OK, I am here.'"
Moving to the longer distances was always the plan since Durgin signed with Under Armour. The company saw Durgin as an investment, and so far she's all-in.
"We had that conversation just the other day and for me the long-term goal is marathons for me," Durgin said. "The half-marathons were a taste for these longer distances. We are going to try to shift to them in the next three or so years. Me moving to Flagstaff and signing with Under Armour, they signed me as a long-term investment, not just a short-term track athlete. Part of the deal was getting my feet wet in those longer distances. I don't know if it will be 2021 or 2022 that I'll run a marathon but that's where the focus will be over the next 18 months, for sure."
After high school, Durgin went and ran at UConn. After college, Durgin wasn't quite sure how she felt about running professionally, so joining the New Balance group in Boston was a way for her to see how she felt mentally and physically.
"I gave myself a year as sort of a trial," Durgin said. "I asked myself, 'Do I want to do this running thing or am I not cut out for it?' I know that the New Balance group was the bridge from college to professional and it was really good for me because I was able to work, I was living with friends, I was enjoying myself and I was training really hard. I got to find out if it was for me. During that time I came out to Flagstaff for a training camp and I was out here for six weeks then I went and ran in my first U.S. championships. I did really well and that was my turning point and I was able to say, 'OK, I can do this... I am good enough, I can run with these girls.' That's when I realized that this is what I wanted to do for the next few years as a career."
At every step, Durgin has checked herself, and at this point, she's confident in her running and career path.
"In this whole journey of running and competing, I've always tried to keep this realist mentality," Durgin said. "If I am not good enough then I am just not good enough. Ever since I was a freshman in high school I told myself that I am only going to run in college if I get a full scholarship. Even though I love running, it is so much work that if I am not good enough I am not going to waste my time or a sponsor's time."
Since moving to Flagstaff, Durgin has felt at home. Her running is going well, she's healthy and is excited for what the future holds for her running career, even if races won't be happening the rest of 2020.
As Durgin starts to run longer distances and more and more races with Olympic athletes, her father's words still ring true.
"Being surrounded by Olympians out here in Flagstaff I see what the best of the best do," Durgin said. "When you're living and breathing the same air as them and seeing what they do has built a lot of confidence. I remember my dad saying before the start of high school racing, 'Well, it's just a bunch of girls.' They're no better than you and you're all just a bunch of girls running. It's the simplicity of it and I try to remind myself when I am lining up for a big half-marathon race that even if I am with the Molly Huddle's and the Jordan Hasay's of the world, they're still a bunch of girls and are doing the same thing. Obviously some of the women have been in the longer distances longer and have more strength, but the confidence comes from just being out in training with them and seeing what they do."