If you don’t recognize this face, maybe you’ll recognize this song.
Years ago in Chicago, Tom Higgenson met Delilah DiCrescenzo at a party and promptly fell in love with her, despite the fact that she had a boyfriend. He told her he’d write a song to win her over and then he did—well, he wrote the song, at least.
He and his band, The Plain White Ts (RANDOM TANGENT: band names like this annoy me for some reason, it’s just so…schticky? Like, I bet one or all of the members of this band own a keyboard necktie that they wear ironically), spent years performing and building a fan base and “Hey There Delilah” became a crowd favorite. Eventually, the song was nominated for a Grammy.
She kept dating the boyfriend she had when she first met Tom (they’re still dating now) and let the song gain popularity, living her life anonymously and training to compete in the Olympics. Oh yeah, she’s an elite athlete and her event is probably one of the most grueling and ridiculous events in track and field. This is what she does for 3000 meters:
You know who else steeplechases?
HORSES. Big, brawny horses.
Delilah didn’t make the Olympic team in 2008 but she’s still training and will probably try to qualify again next year. Training for her means traveling around the world and doing STEEPLECHASES.
Sorry, this event just has me in awe of human beings. People can just do that? Regularly?!
Delilah competed in the Ivy League for Columbia University in New York and had done pretty well but was not enough of a standout to land sponsorships post-college. So, she ran off and on for a couple of months, then moved back home to Chicago where she figured she was pretty much done with running. Then she got a phone call from the Kenyan runner Isaya Okiwaya. He wanted to coach her and like anyone worth admiring she said yes to the new opportunity.
Having a coach allowed her to have financial support for lodging and traveling for races (not to mention biweekly massages—we should all be so lucky to have someone pay for that) but she wasn’t actually getting paid to run. During this time she was not only training, traveling and running, but working full-time at a marketing and advertising firm. This girl understands the side hustle.
After one year and one third place finish in the steeplechase at the 2006 Outdoor Nationals, Delilah decided to commit to her running full-time, crossed her fingers and moved out of the city. That year she trained full-time and worked as an assistant track and cross-country coach at Bryn Mawr. It paid off when she won the 6K title at the USA Track and Field National Club Cross Country Championship.
In 2009, she became a member of the US Track & Field team, where she was able to travel to Amman, Jordan and compete for the United States at the World Cross Country Championships. In 2010, she was inducted into Columbia University’s Athletics Hall of Fame, where she is now studying to get her master’s in Sports Management. She also works as a part-time assistant for the cross-country and track & field team there. Remember what I said about the side hustle? She does not quit!
Delilah is one of only two American athletes sponsored by PUMA, which is such a sweet fact when you consider how close she came to giving it all up after college. As for the song? She says she doesn’t get asked about it much now, a fact that she’s fine with. It was fun and flattering, she says, but she’d like her running to dominate the conversation now, please and thank you.
I think it will. Easily.
If you’re intrigued by Delilah, PUMA is hosting a video series tracking her training in a short web series. I don’t think any video is longer than three-and-a-half minutes and new episodes are uploaded every Monday.