Q&A: Olympic runner Bridget Franek

Ohio native Bridget Franek says she feels like a superhero when she puts on her Team USA uniform. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Olympian Bridget Franek, understandably, doesn't race against her friends.

The 24-year-old centaur is saving her horsepower for the world's best opponents in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, beginning Saturday at the Olympics in London.

"She's a female Teddy Roosevelt. She's got this unconquerable and irrepressible will to make it happen," raves Angus McDougall, her former history teacher at Crestwood High in Mantua, Ohio. Childhood friend Allison Monroe recalls, "At recess, we all joked about her going to the Olympics. She worked hard her entire life to get where she is."

Playbook recently caught up with Franek by phone from London as she prepped

for the biggest competition of her life.

Playbook: Are you often challenged to get into footraces with friends or friends of friends at bars, at house parties or anywhere really?

Franek: Yes, everyone thinks it's the most hilarious and original joke in the world -- to challenge me to a race. I have never actually raced anyone that has asked like that. I am a distance runner, not a sprinter, and I will not risk my career by racing some idiot without having the right shoes or warming up properly.

If you could be any animal, which would you be?

I guess I liken myself to a bird. To fly is to completely trust in the abilities of your own body and the talents God gave you. Not worrying about the "how" of life (how you will defy gravity, how you will get your next meal, how you will survive winter) and just trusting the process and the flow that life presents to you. Even in my toughest competitions, I am not an angry or vicious competitor, out to kill or attack, rather I do better just having inner peace and trust in my preparation and what I am about to do.

Most people consider running punishment. What makes it worthwhile for you?

I love the feeling you have when you finish a run -- that buzz of adrenaline and euphoric hormones. After a hard workout, showering the sweat and dirt off, you just feel healthy and clean from the inside out."

What do you think of the Olympic uniforms?

The USA uniform this year makes me feel like a superhero -- skin tight, all red. All I need is a mask and cap!

If you could marry Batman or Superman, who would win?

Ohhh ... that's a tough one ... I'm into the street acrobatics of Superman, but Batman has a nicer car! Dating is tough for us runners because we are traveling a lot and usually on weird schedules. We work out in the morning, and our free time is generally in the afternoon when most people are still at work. We work out again before dinner and then go to bed early. It doesn't match up with very many other careers.

Who is your greatest competition in life?

Myself. I tend to set very high standards, most of the time without meaning to -- but every time I think about why I don't have something I want or why I'm not the person I might aspire to be, I can always trace it back to myself. It's frustrating but also comforting to feel like it's all on me -- whether it's holding myself back or accomplishing my dreams. People have helped me tremendously along the way, and I couldn't have done it without them and God, but the last barrier I seem to always be up against is me.

When you line up to race for the gold, how do you anticipate feeling?

Anything is possible, and I am here for a reason. I have worked as hard as I know how and have prepared my body to the best of my abilities. I just have to be confident that that will be enough to do amazing things and trust in whatever happens between the gun and the tape!

If you win a medal, how will you celebrate?

Upon crossing the line, I might do a few fist pumps. Someone will throw me an American flag, and I will wrap it around my shoulders and blow kisses to the crowd. I will wave at every cameraman I can find to try to get as much TV exposure as possible, so that everyone at home can see me! That would only make it that much sweeter if it did happen.