Runners Love Yoga? This UVA Alumna and Olympic Trials Marathoner Sure Does

Ann Mazur  stretching on a yoga mat

Ann Mazur teaches yoga at UVA’s Curry School of Education and Human Development and runs her own business, “Runners Love Yoga.” (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

While many elite marathoners run more than 100 miles each week, Ann Mazur has achieved success by doing far less on the roads.

Similarly, Mazur receives incredulous looks when she tells people it took only five years to get her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

At the heart of both triumphs is one thing.

It’s a thing Mazur teaches upward of six times per week at UVA. A thing she has turned into a thriving business. A thing that has helped turn Mazur from a walk-on runner in college to an Olympic Trials qualifier.

The thing is yoga – and Mazur can’t say enough about what it’s done for her.

“Sometimes yoga is the thing you think you have the least amount of time for, because you are so overwhelmed and busy,” Mazur said. “But it’s also the thing that if you carve out a little bit of time to actually do, it will make everything else so much better.

“You’ll get everything else done so much more efficiently, while you’re also way less stressed out.”

The efficiency factor has been huge for Mazur, who teaches yoga and running classes in UVA’s Curry School of Education and Human Development’s kinesiology department and conducts a half-dozen other ones through IM-Rec and Farmington Country Club – all while training full-time for the Olympic Trials marathon and running her own business, Runners Love Yoga.

“I feel like I’m doing five slightly-bigger-than-part-time jobs right now,” she said, laughing.

Ann Mazur headshot

Instagram helped Mazur build her “Runners Love Yoga” brand. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications).

Mazur grew up the oldest of four kids in Pittsburgh. Her father played baseball at Harvard University, while her mother was a gymnast at West Virginia University.

At first, Mazur didn’t think she had inherited any of their athletic genes. In elementary school, she was always the last kid picked for games on the playground.

“I would let people cut in front of me in line for kickball so I would never have to even kick the ball,” Mazur said. “I was that kid in gym class. The only thing I was any good at was dodgeball because I was naturally very scared of the ball and was good at dodging. But I could never actually win dodgeball because, you know, at the end you have to catch it.”

Mazur’s siblings thrived in sports.

Her younger sister was a high-level gymnast and went on to dive at Notre Dame University, while one brother played baseball at Emory University and the other was a swimmer and runner at Rollins College.

“They were like, ‘Is she related to us?’” Mazur joked.

Eventually, Mazur really started to like swimming. However, when she got to high school, she realized she was a much better long-distance runner.

She remembers nearly crying on one birthday when her mother put the figure of a runner on her birthday cake instead of a swimmer. “I wanted to be a swimmer; I didn’t want to be a runner,” Mazur said. “But I was just good at running.”

As the valedictorian of her high school, Mazur had several college options and wound up choosing Notre Dame. When she got there, she walked onto the cross country and track and field teams.

By her senior year, Mazur became one of team’s better runners, helping the Fighting Irish track and field team win its first Big East outdoor championship.

Mazur went on to earn her master’s degree in English at Notre Dame before coming to UVA in 2009 to pursue her Ph.D. in English literature.

“I’d like to go faster than I ran in Sacramento, but I know this Atlanta course is quite hilly, so I don’t know if that will be possible. I’d just like to have a really good experience and just sort of enjoy being there while running as fast as I can.”

- Ann Mazur

It was while at UVA that Mazur began to realize what yoga was doing for her. She was breezing through her Ph.D. work, and her iliotibial band – the connective tissue running alongside her leg and knee, which had long given her issues – was feeling great.

“Yoga helps you catch something that is tight before it becomes a real problem and develops into a real injury,” she said. “But also I think it just helps your body move more fluidly and effectively when you are running. Your stride just feels more fluid.

“And I think that a lot of the mental benefits from your yoga practice carry over to running and [it] makes you feel very empowered and gives you great body awareness. You know how hard you can push yourself during a given race or if you can push a little bit more. It just makes you so in tune with how you’re feeling in every way and every level. It’s like a very natural performance-enhancing thing to do.”

In 2012, with the encouragement of a friend who had benefitted from some of the things her yoga routines had taught her – and with the help of some film school friends – Mazur made a yoga DVD geared for runners.

Brisk sales led to the start of a website,, and Mazur was further able to build her brand and develop a following through an Instagram account in which she posted monthly yoga challenges.

All the while, Mazur’s running times kept getting faster and faster, and her work toward her Ph.D. moved along at an equally impressive clip.

“The tagline for Runners Love Yoga is, ‘Do yoga, run faster,’ but honestly I joke that it’s ‘Do yoga, get your Ph.D. faster,’” said Mazur, who earned her Ph.D. in 2014 and went on to become the Edgar F. Shannon Teaching Fellow and work as a lecturer in the English Department for two more years.

“I actually came out of my Ph.D. in better physical and mental shape, which is really hard to do. Nobody really understands the process until they try and go through it themselves and have seen their friends go through it. Getting your Ph.D. is no joke. It’s really hard. Yoga definitely helped me come out better on the other side.”

In 2017, Mazur – feeling so good physically and mentally – decided she wanted to take a stab at something she once never thought possible: qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.

To do so, she needed to finish a race in the Olympic “B” standard time of 2 hours and 45 minutes or faster.

That year, she won Kiawah Island marathon in South Carolina in 2:52.

From there, her times steadily improved until she was able to run a personal record of 2:44:45 in this past December’s California International Marathon in Sacramento.

On Saturday, Mazur – who still supplements her training with swimming – will run the Olympic Trials marathon in Atlanta.

Yes, she has come a long way from gym class.

Ann Mazur running across the Olympic Trial marathon finish line with arms stretched out and a huge smile on her face

Mazur qualified for the Olympic Trials marathon at a race in California in December. (Contributed photo)

Mazur, who will compete against roughly 400 other runners, knows she isn’t fast enough to be one of the three qualifiers for the United States Olympic team.

“I’m definitely not making the Olympics,” she said, “but if I’m even in the top 25%, that would be awesome.

“I’d like to go faster than I ran in Sacramento, but I know this Atlanta course is quite hilly, so I don’t know if that will be possible. I’d just like to have a really good experience and just sort of enjoy being there while running as fast as I can.”

Mazur’s 29,000-plus Instagram followers will be cheering her on.

Third-year UVA student Alex Markiewicz has taken Mazur’s courses for a couple of semesters and now considers her a role model. “She goes above and beyond by how much she cares about her students,” he said. “She radiates positivity and encourages people in a way that feels like it’s coming from a place of warmth and kindness.”

Marathoner Samantha Mason said doing Mazur’s videos lessened her running injuries, helped with anxiety problems and eventually led to her becoming a yoga teacher herself. “Ann’s videos are easygoing, no frills or anything too complicated,” she said. “When I’m doing them, I feel like I’m just hanging out with a friend.”

Long-term, Mazur – whose husband, Phillip Robb, is a cycling enthusiast – hopes to keep teaching at UVA and running Runners Love Yoga.

The business is twofold. The first part entails creating online yoga workout videos that are available in a wide variety of packages. The second is the selling of activewear – something she said has grown organically from her success with the videos (UVA students and staff get a discount by using the passcode “WAHOO”).

Mazur designs all the clothes herself. She said many of her offerings have come about because of her unhappiness with available options. “There are some really uncomfortable leggings out there,” she said, laughing.

But Mazur’s biggest thrill comes from helping other runners.

The impetus behind the custom workouts was constantly being asked by runners what they could do for various injuries, such as ones to the knees, calves and hamstrings.

“If there is one thing I highly dislike as a runner, it is being injured,” Mazur said. “It’s the worst, especially here in Charlottesville because there are just so many runners and when you can’t run, you’re looking outside and you see like 10 runners go by in 10 minutes. I understand what torture that is for people, because I know how much running can help people – not just physically, but spiritually in their lives. If Runners Love Yoga can help other people keep running, then that’s awesome.”

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