Clif Bar Athlete of the Year: Marisa Hird


Marisa Hird had an outstanding year of running in 2014. She had high hopes of crushing her personal best in 2015 to qualify for the Olympic Trials, but despite her diligent training, the year didn’t end according to plan.

In 2014, Hird won the Fox Valley and Naperville Marathons, which took place within seven weeks of each other. In breaking the tape in Naperville, she also set a new personal record: 2:50:57.

Her success in 2014 gave her the confidence to try for an Olympic Trials qualifying time, which would have required either a 2:37 to meet the “A” standard or a 2:45 for the “B” standard. She spent 2015 training for the California International Marathon in December, known for producing fast finish times with its net downhill course and historically marathon-friendly weather.

“2014 was an awesome year,” Hird says. “Everything was great. Everything kind of fell into place and I enjoyed every step of the way. My goal all year long for 2015 was to hit the standard. It’s really off my confidence in 2014 that I really thought I could do it. I was very diligent when it came to strides and form drills and strength training and stretching.”

Her training was flawless. She never missed a workout and her nutrition was on point, but unfortunately, a perfect year of training doesn’t always lead to a perfect race.

“I started puking by like mile four. I completed CIM, but it was walking, running, honestly puking the whole time, pulling off on the side of the road,” Hird says. “Everything I would try to do in the middle of this marathon wasn’t working so I was getting more depleted. Not only was I getting more depleted, I was also feeling more defeated.”

While the race didn’t turn out as she would have hoped, Hird has a unique advantage when it comes to training. Her husband, Nick Hird, doubles as her coach.

“He’s really one of the most insightful and most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met in the sport, so I truly trust in him,” Hird says. “He reads, he studies, he’s a student of the sport. If he wants to try something out with me, I’m more than willing to try it.”

To prepare for the California International Marathon, Hird and her husband evaluated her workouts on a daily basis.

“I’m very lucky that he’s so accessible,” Hird says. “There are some days where he’ll give me a workout that I’m going to do tomorrow, but then I wake up in the morning and don’t feel it or it’s just not happening or something comes up with work so we can modify it right away.”

Having a big goal helped Hird stay focused during 2015.

“Two things that motivated me the most was that I really, really wanted success and I knew that I couldn’t cut corners,” Hird says. “I wanted to be at the starting line of CIM, I wanted to be in California and I wanted to know that I did every single thing I could. I wanted to be on the starting line not questioning anything. I wanted to have all the ammunition I could.”

While Hird didn’t qualify for the Trials this year, she still has an Olympic dream.

“I will run a marathon again, and I will make it to the Olympic Trials. The window doesn’t open for another two years, but I absolutely will hit the standard,” Hird says.

2015 may have came to a disappointing end for Hird, but her love for the sport remains intact and she plans to continue training in 2016 with new goals in mind.

“I’m calling 2016 ‘the year of fast’ because I’m going to do a lot of different stuff,” Hird says. “I want to run a really fast mile. I want to run a fast 5K, run a fast 10K. I want to do something totally different, set totally fun goals, torture myself a little differently, but still stay in the game.”