Bethany Graham is truly next level. An eight-time Virginia state champion, 2019 Footlocker Nationals Finalist, Virginia Cross Country Gatorade Player of the Year, and voted member of the Virginia Cross Country All-Decade Team, Graham was making headlines even before she came to Furman. Yet her success has only continued since joining Furman’s #GirlGang. Graham was the fifth woman and first-ever freshman in Furman history to break the 16:00 mark in the 5,000 m. She is a member of the All-SoCon team in both Outdoor and Indoor Track, a 2021 SoCon Outdoor Track Champion, SoCon’s 2021 Woman Runner of the Year, and, most recently, the sixth lady Paladin ever to receive 2021 USTFCCCA All-American honors…all before the second semester of her sophomore year.

The Paladin recently had the opportunity to sit down with Graham and learn more about the all-star runner (and her equally impressive teammates), student-athlete life at Furman, and what it really takes to run a 4:20 1500m which, for those who don't know, roughly translates into a 4:39 mile. That’s right, 4:39. Impressed yet?

 After some pleasantries, Graham walked reporters through her usual schedule, though admitted her day-to-day life fluctuates based on the season. In the fall, her alarm goes off at some otherworldly hour before the sun has arisen to ensure Graham makes her 6:30 a.m. workouts, where she and her teammates pound the pavement for about 2.5 hours doing anything from tempo runs to hill-repeats. Then it is off to class in the morning and meetings with coaches or rehab in the afternoon (with breakfast and lunch somewhere in there), and then back to the gym for a 5 p.m. session that can include more running or some form of cross-training, whether that be strength and conditioning, swimming, or biking. After practice, Graham and her teammates head to dinner and then hit the books or catch up with family, all before retiring only to wake up and do the same thing again the next day. Talk about a full schedule.

However, in speaking with Graham one quickly realizes that she is much more than a running machine, and in many ways acts just like a regular college student. She is spunky and enjoys a good coffee shop, with Village Grind coming in as her current caffeine provider of choice. She looks forward to DH dinners with friends after a long day and loves bingeing Euphoria (who doesn’t). A health sciences major, Graham’s favorite classes at Furman have been Public Health or Philosophy, though she admits, that philosophy can be really boring if not taught correctly — shout-out to Dr. Gandolfo, Bethany said you made the class quite enjoyable. Tandem is her (and her team’s) favorite restaurant, as their sausage and potato crepe is the perfect capstone to a particularly long run on the Swamp Rabbit, and she believes, with expert logic mind you, that straw has one hole, not two (she actually convinced me of such). She even helps co-run a food Instagram account with her teammates, @Hungryrunnerz, where the girls post all about their love of cooking, and importantly eating, yummy food! So in many ways, Graham is just like you and me — she just happens to also be really, really fast.

But again, because of her speed and skill, Graham is, in many ways, undergoing an entirely different college experience than the rest of us. The stress of elite Division I running combined with Furman’s strenuous course load is a lot, and Graham admitted to feeling overwhelmed at times. However, with the support of her team and her coaches, she has really been able to hit her athletic and academic stride here on campus (excuse my pun). What comes after Furman for Graham? She has no set plans as of now, though following in the footsteps of her former-teammate Gabbi Jennings and going pro is certainly a possibility on the horizon. But for now, Graham is focused on the present — specifically, the team’s upcoming meet at South Carolina on January 28-29.

Graham undoubtedly has a bright athletic career ahead of her at Furman, surely a result of her hard work, dedication, and a positive mindset. We cannot wait to watch all Bethany accomplishes, as well as the rest of the #GirlGang, and will be sure to cheer when we see them sprinting around campus in the future!