Eight Women Ready to Step It Up at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
The odds of making it this far didn’t seem realistic years ago for a select breed of elite marathoners. But the dream of going the distance to the Olympic Marathon Trials, taking place Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, trumped any obstacles that surfaced along the way—including injuries and training while maintaining a busy career and home life.
The early hours they awake to run, the 100-mile weeks they’ve tallied, their unrelenting dedication earned these women a spot in American distance running’s most exclusive club.
While their chances of making the Olympic team are slim – only three of the 259 women will advance to Rio – they’ll be there to give it all they’ve got in a race that blurs the line between amateur and professional. After all, the opportunity just to line up against the best distance runners spanning the country, like Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden, is an extraordinary feat. Of the 480 women and men that qualified for the Trials, 90 are on Strava. Get to know eight of the determined many we’ve been following along their journey.
Most women will never make it to the Olympic Trials once, let alone three times. Moeller is in a league of her own having earned her way in 2008, 2012 and 2016. What’s more, she is the mother of three children, Ryne, 11, Evelyn, 6, and 2-year-old Kellyn, who requires physical therapy twice weekly for Spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine.
In 2015, Moeller won her second Cellcom Green Bay Marathon title after she toed the line in 2:47, two minutes shy of the “B” standard (2:45) that would have qualified her for the Olympic Trials. So she attempted again. Five months later, at the Chicago Marathon, Moeller fulfilled her goal.
“Kellyn has taught me so much about never giving up and continuing to fight through adversity,” Moeller said. “Qualifying for the Trials, after completing our family of five, and proving to myself that at age 38 and as a full-time working mother, was possible.”
But maintaining her competitiveness has required waking at 3:45 a.m, when she’ll run upwards of 15 miles before getting her kids ready for school. Other days she’ll run during her lunch break.
“It can get a little overwhelming, but I’ve committed to doing everything I can to not take away from the kids and family time,” Moeller said.
I hope my training allows me to compete hard in Los Angeles and finish knowing that I gave it my all.
Alana Hadley | Charlotte, N.C. | Freshman at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Qualified for U.S. Championship; currently age-ineligible for Olympic Team
I’m really looking forward to lining up against Shalane and Desi,” Hadley said. “I think they’ll be in the top three, but I think the third spot is open.
Hadley, who turned 19 on Jan. 8, is eight days under of the eligibility cutoff for the 2016 Olympic Team. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body for the marathon, has a 20-year-old age requirement. Still, the race experience is will be invaluable, plus the U.S. Olympic Trials also doubles as the U.S. National Championships.
Having qualified for the Trials at age 16, when Hadley ran 2 hours and 41 minutes at the 2013 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, she seemed on her way to a lofty goal she’d established in her early teens. But the dream of making the Olympic Team will have to wait for now.
Growing up, Papenberg viewed running as her “meal ticket” to experiencing the world. Now, thanks to running, she’s about to achieve a back-burner dream of competing against the sport’s best, an opportunity afforded after she clocked 2:41 at the 2014 California International Marathon.
The race is yet another step toward Papenberg’s overall self-improvement. When she and her partner separated after an eight-year relationship, Papenberg quit a corporate job at GE Oil & Gas after serving various roles in the Air Force for six years, and restarted her life in Colorado, where she dedicated her training for the Trials.
“The move was nerve-wracking, but running has always been the one activity that quickly gets me into a routine,” said Papenberg, 29, who started running marathons in 2007. “I chose myself and am making the most of unique opportunities while I have this break in my life.”
Robinson’s athletic career has been stacked with injuries since her days as a national-caliber high school runner. She’d already had three knee surgeries prior to entering college at Colorado State, where she experienced another major blow shortly after receiving her race uniform to compete for the Rams – Robinson broke three vertebrae in a car accident freshman year. “[My doctor] asked why I couldn’t try a new sport. I just couldn’t,” Robinson said. “Running is my meditation and space to be.”
Though she resumed running after she emerged from wearing a back brace for seven weeks, it took a couple of years to rebuild, and Robinson rounded out her collegiate career with an appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Injuries continued to nag after she graduated in 2005 and moved to Seattle, Wash. Feeling burned, she slowed down, focused on a career in marketing and shifted her attitude to run for the sheer joy of it as opposed to under self-induced pressure. In doing so, “I let myself grow into other things I love,” said Robinson, who has a starfish tattooed over the once broken vertebrae as a reminder of her ability to rebuild, just as starfish can regenerate.
I’d rather be uncooked than overcooked. Mentally or spiritually, it’s about checking in and making sure I am finding joy in the journey.
DiCamillo, 29, has continued a successful running career since graduating in 2009 from Providence College, where she made four appearances at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. One of her most notable post-collegiate performances includes competing at the 2012 Olympic Trials for the 10,000 meters. Though she didn’t advance to the London Olympics—DiCamillo finished 21st at the Trials—the experience help prepared for her running future.
I learned a valuable lesson on how to tame pressure to perform,” DiCamillo said. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed and create high expectations.
DiCamillo transitioned to the marathon in 2012 and intended to debut at the New York City Marathon that year, but when the race was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, she showed up at the Philadelphia Marathon two and half weeks later and ran for 2 hours and 38 minutes to place third in the women’s field. A year later, DiCamillo circled back to the New York City Marathon and showed her ability was not, in fact, a fluke when she finished as the second American woman (and 15th female overall).
DiCamillo has only continued to improve. Last March, she bested her marathon time to 2 hours and 37 minutes at the USATF Women’s Marathon Championship, placed sixth overall and punched her ticket to Los Angeles.
“Having already experienced an Olympic Trials race, I have a feeling of what to expect and can better prepare mentally,” DiCamillo said.
She’s averaged up to 100 miles a week in preparation for what is bound to be another consistent performance.
The aspiration of making it to the Olympic Trials turned reality in 2014 at the California International Marathon, Goodman’s marathon debut. She clocked 2 hours and 39 minutes, six minutes under the Olympic Trials “B” standard, granting the privilege to line up alongside Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, idols she once watched from afar at the 2008 Track & Field Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.
Shalane and Kara inspired me to continue competing after college, which has defined the past six years of my life.
Though Goodman didn’t qualify in the 10,000 meters for the 2012 Trials (she was two seconds from making the cut), her running ambition remained alive and expanded to taking on the half-marathon followed by the marathon in 2014, an intimidating decision, she described.
“I thought I’d known pain on the track. But in the marathon, it’s a whole other ball game,” said Goodman, who competes for the Strava Track Club.
The 29-year-old has positioned herself to relive the marathon experience in Los Angeles.
“I’m in shape to run a PR. My goal is to run smart the first 20 miles. The course has many turns, and I expect it to be tactical,” said Goodman. “I want to be in a position to race the last 6.2 miles.”
Fullove grew up playing in a long jump pit while her mother ran laps around a track near their home in Southern California. Baited on running at age five, Fullove pursued the sport throughout high school and into a successful career at Stanford, where she was one of the team’s most versatile athletes.
Her life, however, took an unexpected pause in 2005 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Fullove took a year off from running throughout treatment. The diagnosis motivated her to run at a higher level when she was healthy enough to resume training.
“I was pretty determined to get back at it,” she said. “In my mind I wanted to prove that I had really beat the disease by getting back to training.”
Remarkably, 10 months after her final radiation treatment, she ran a personal best at the Chicago Marathon and eventually qualified for the marathon Olympic Trials in 2008. Now, eight years later, she’s ready for her second go.
Since her first Trials experience, Fullove has been training under the watchful eye of Michael McKeeman, who has coached her since 2013. Her training leading into the Trials has emphasized threshold work, and she maxes out at running 75 miles a week. The work she’s invested will speak for itself when she steps to the start line, representing Oiselle, in Los Angeles.
Dinius, a former four-time Stanford All American, will make her marathon debut at the Olympic Trials, for which she qualified in 2014 at the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston.
Two years prior to making the cut, Dinius underwent hip surgery for a torn labrum and a sacral stress reaction, immediately halting her goal of qualifying for 2012 Olympic Trials in the 10K.
“I was heartbroken,” Dinus said. “The hardest part was that there was no guarantee the surgery would work and that I would return to competitive running.”
Having evaded injury up to that point in her athletic career, Dinius found herself vulnerable. She was devastated by the news that she wouldn’t be able to run for up to six months after surgery. Still, Dinius, 26, didn’t knock her running goals, which included getting back into race shape so she could again compete at a high level.
Prior to the Trials, Dinius relocated from her home in Boston to Stanford to train on the same grounds she established her successful collegiate career and also where she got into shape after surgery.
“I can’t wait to line up with former college teammates, club teammates and women I’ve met along the way at various races,” Dinius said.
It is such a privilege to race amongst this incredible field of women.
In addition to helping five of these eight women get to Los Angles through the Marathon Trials Program stipend, we’ll be joining them on the ground as they prepare for race day. Watch the event unfold through our @stravarun Instagram.
*Women may qualify for the Olympic Trials for the marathon under the half marathon standard of 1:15.