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US Olympic Team Trials thoughts with Kelly & Tessa

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

My OTQ thoughts: wa-wa-waaaaaaaaaa. End of story. Just kidding.Ok for realz…

Mine has taken on a little bit of a different tone considering my situation AND it got really long. Let me know if you’d rather have something different I don’t know what I’m doing.

I qualified for the 2020 Trials by running a PR at the 2018 Houston Chevron Marathon (2:43:46). With my qualification, this will be my second time running the Olympic Trials Marathon (also ran in 2012 and missed the 2016 qualifying standard time by five seconds...not that I’m bitter, LOL).

But that was 2018, and here we are in 2020, less than one month out from race day, and with the most female qualifiers ever, the Olympic Trials Marathon is going to be STACKED. But instead of being fully amped, I’ve been facing some major challenges.

First though, let’s talk about the “good stuff.” I FREAKING LOVE RUNNING. Every year I think to myself: maybe this is the year I just run and don’t worry about racing. But every year, every day actually, I wake up with a fire in my belly to compete. I thrive on the mental & physical challenge. That being said, I’m super-duper pumped to be returning to an awesome weekend of celebrating US distance running with the best of the best. The host city of Atlanta has already shown that it is committed to providing all participants with an unforgettable experience. And I’m also thrilled to be doing this with my Dakota Distance Project cohort: Coach Pooley and teammates Tessa Stoltenburg & Mary Wirtz, along with many other running partners, friends, and family. My “A” goal was to qualify for the race and I did... “BOOM” goes the dynamite.

However, it would be fake news not to report I’m also facing some serious “bad stuff” when it comes to my preparation, fitness, and race day goal. After suffering a calf strain on January 2, I have not run a single step. That’s right, folks... marathon training with no running. Yikes. This has been beyond disappointing because, even though I wasn’t buying my ticket to compete in the Tokyo Olympics Marathon, I obviously wanted this to be one of my best races.

My injury has been physically and mentally challenging, forcing me to figure out how to maintain fitness while not inhibiting the healing process. It’s been difficult trying to keep cardio fitness and leg strength (via lots of cross-training), but not prolong the injury. I’ve also spent A LOT of time visiting chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, physical therapists and doctors to get poked, prodded, evaluated, scraped, rubbed, taped, and more.

So that’s the long way of saying this has been anything but your typical journey to the Olympic Trials. All things considered, my goals for February 29th are now: be pain-free on race day; remember how to run (LOL); get to the finish line (which has the added challenge of a time cut-off this year: women must be averaging 6:27/mile pace or they will NOT get to continue); have fun with my teammates and celebrate their accomplishments. Qualifying to run the Olympic Trials Marathon is cool, but finishing the Olympic Trials Marathon is cooler. #runfree ~Kelly Boler

When I had found out about the process to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials, I was really excited, yet nervous, to have discovered such a high personal goal to pursue. It was just what I needed to provide me with a confidence and motivation boost towards searching for my potential.

When I crossed the finish line in the 2019 Chicago Marathon with a qualifying time, it was so surreal. The amount of outpouring support which I received made me realize how big of a role running has played in my life through the years. As I returned to school with four exams ahead of me, I barely had time to soak it all in. I kept reading all of these amazing messages from friends and family, reminding myself that the 2:41 was real. That moment of time proved so much more than the opportunity to line up on the start line on February 29th. My running career hasn’t always been smooth and filled with improvements. I battled injuries and feelings of inadequacy that removed my name from the roster in high school and college, and at times I felt that I wasn’t meant to be a runner. I will always remember, though, the deep feeling within me that it was a lifelong passion. I knew I wanted to marathon someday. Qualifying for the Olympic Trials validated to me that the perseverance and dedication was worth every bump in the road. Win or lose, something is always learned along the way. With accomplishing this goal, there comes an intense motivation to keep moving forward. I am hopeful for an exciting career ahead, and it almost feels like I’ve been given a fresh start.

Many know that marathon training is busy with the running and other components that are helpful in maintaining overall health and strength. Not only that, but the majority of runners are balancing their training with a career. I am in graduate school to become a physician assistant and the intensity is high. Free time is non-existent, but what exists is a burning desire to check the workouts off the list. My days are filled with running, studying, eating, and sleeping. My training is not perfect, but I am proud of the effort. Some people ask why I have continued to train and marathon during my graduate program, but the answer is easy: I love it. I’m not saying that I love the blaring early morning alarms, rushing here and there, listening to lectures as my run entertainment, and not to mention both the physical and mental stress. What I do love is that it keeps me driven and focused, and it makes me a better person. I am better at everything in life when running is in it. Some may assume there are sacrifices. However, I really don’t believe that I am ‘sacrificing’ anything to be doing it. To me, the word sacrifice means I am giving something up to have a higher purpose. Nothing else in my life feels like a sacrifice to be “all in”. That is just part of who I am, to give everything my all and to never quit if it is meaningful to me. I believe that if my purpose is positive and it brings an opportunity to give more to others, then I am not sacrificing anything.

I do feel an exciting sense of duty to owe myself, and my family, friends, and coach an exciting, memorable time in Atlanta. I can’t wait to share every moment and absorb the opportunities that will arise race weekend. The Olympics provide athletes the opportunity to represent their country by competing. I am utilizing this race as my own Olympics to represent all those who have supported me throughout my running career, and I am eager to do just that! ~Tessa Stoltenburg

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