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  • By Dave Pedersen

Hutch grad qualifies for 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials

If you went to the Twin Cities Marathon in October, you may have heard a familiar voice. Hutchinson native Kelly (Brinkman) Boler is the finish line announcer of the event, a position she earned in part through her running accolades. And Boler recently added another impressive feat to her resume. The 36-year-old qualified for the US Olympic Marathon Trials in 2020 at the Houston Marathon on Jan. 13. She broke the time standard of 2 hours 45 minutes by a minute and 15 seconds.

At Houston, Boler finished fourth among American women, 13th among all women including international elite runners, and 73rd overall in the field of 7,000 runners. “I was shocked when I was looking at the results and saw I was the fourth American women,” Boler said. “I had been so focused on my own personal time goal that I did not even consider the bigger picture of where I would actually place. To know I had placed that well against such a competitive field was incredible. I am still glowing from the experience.”

Taking it one mile at a time

A major tactic for Boler was to take it one mile at a time, writing on her hand a break-down of the mile paces. If she looked at the overall picture it is very daunting.“My coach and I set times and I knew I was pretty darn close to them when heading into the stretch,” she said. “For the last three miles, I stopped watching my clock because at that point no matter what my clock said I wanted to give it everything I had. At that point everything is tired and just hurts. With 50 meters to go I could see the clock over the finish line and that is when I knew I was going to do it. I screamed ‘Yes’ and was really excited.”Boler says she was helped by learning to control nutrition on the course, taking in some calories as fuel when running. She carried eight 100-calorie little packets of “gooey sugar” in the back of her shirt, taking one every three miles. In the past she would run out of gas and not be able to finish strong. Boler prepared for the Houston Marathon for the past year and a half with her new coach, Eric Pooley of the Dakota Distance Project, getting a higher return for the quality workouts and more recovery time in between. It was her first attempt to qualify for the 2020 trials. She said it is “super exciting” to be one and done, and now has two years to get ready for the challenging trials.

“My coach is trying to teach me to be patient at the start of a race, which is not one of my virtues,” Boler said. “In the past, I would want to start a race really fast to be in front of the pack. He says to start slow and finish fast.” The strategy played out well at Houston. Boler started in back of the lead pack of women and by mile 20 she said, “I was just flying by people. I was passed up by only one runner and that was a man. The first half of my race was a minute slower than the second half. For a lot of people in marathons, that does not happen.” The site of the 2020 Olympic trials has been narrowed down to four host cities: Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee and Orlando, Florida.

Boler says she will focus on short distance training this year and will go back to Houston in 2019. Ideally, she will be faster and can work at the higher mileages to be at her peak strength for the 2020 trials.

“This time I am going into it with my eyes wide open. I know what to expect and have confidence in my coach,” she said.

First run at trials not so good

That was not the case when Boler says she qualified for the 2012 Olympic trials “kind of by accident.” She still did not have a coach or sponsors and “qualified for the trials by my own will and want.”

After finishing the 2011 Twin Cities Marathon, Boler was informed that her time was less than 10 minutes away from the Olympic qualifier time, and she had until January to find another qualifier. She flew to California and did qualify for the 2012 Olympic trials, but only had four weeks until the race. “For me it was all about just getting there,” said Boler, who ran 2 hours and 53 minutes to finish 135th among women at the Olympic trials. “I was running on tired legs and was not very competitive ... By then it was my third marathon in four months. Usually, you want a few months before a marathon, but it was my last chance.” Boler was injured or sick for much of the 2016 Olympic trial qualifying cycle and did not make the time standard in her two chances.

Dedicated to her goals

After the 2012 Olympic trials, Boler was approached by a coach and started working with a club. Since then, she has been more dedicated to the sport and has more plans and goals in mind. The top three finishers at the trials represent the U.S. in the Olympics. Making it to the Olympics is called a “real long shot” by Boler since she likely would have to cut 15 minutes off her best marathon time.

“So it is a really big deal to just get a chance to run that day,” she said about the trials. “I am just thrilled to be in the conversation, and to be able to toe the line with all of these amazing ladies. I have had breakfast and conversations with some of the most prolific marathon runners in the country. To me, it is fun to show up and be treated like royalty at the trials.”

Continued recent success

Boler has qualified for some national championship events, including the two Olympic marathon trials. Other highlights in her adult running career include placing third at the 2013 USA Half Marathon Championship, named 2013 USATF Minnesota Female Runner of the Year, 2016 State 25K Champion and earned several state age group titles and records.

She has run in the Twin Cities Marathon three times and finished as high as 15th overall for women. Twice she was the top Minnesota woman to finish. Asked what factors go into her ability to rise to the top of the sport, Boler said there is a genetic element to it since both her parents (Dan and Deaun Brinkman) were good athletes, and there was always an active mindset in the family. “You have a choice each day. Do I go for the 10-mile run or do you sit on the couch and be comfortable. For me there still is that fire and passion to where I want to go for that 10-mile run every day,” she said. “I revel in it. It lets me know I am alive and I can still better myself. I don’t seem to have an easy gear, it is all or nothing.”

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