The 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials: Meet a few of your local Chicagoland qualifiers

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From September 1, 2017 through January 19, 2020, runners all over the United States dedicated their training to attempt to qualify for the the Olympic Marathon Trials, taking place in Atlanta on February 29th. Men had to run a sub-2:19 marathon or sub-1:04 half marathon and women needed to run a sub-2:45 marathon or sub-1:13 half marathon. Of the 776 total qualifiers, no two stories are the same. I was lucky enough to talk to three of our local Chicagoland runners and hope to shed some light on this incredible journey they have taken to get to toe the line at the Olympic Marathon Trials.

Quick stats:
Men qualified: 264 (234 by marathon, 30 by ½ marathon)
Women qualified: 510 (498 by marathon; 430 of those with the sub-2:45, 82 via sub-2:37)
State with most qualified athletes: California (99), Colorado (93), Oregon (46)
Illinois athletes qualified: 28 (7th out of the 50 states!) including 12 men and 16 women

Our local Chicago athletes who have qualified include Matthew Blume, Dan Harper, Kevin Havel, Dan Kremske, Brett Lustgarten, Christopher May, Oscar Medina, Colin Mickow, Brandon Mull, Jackson Neff, Tyler Pence, Alan Peterson, Kristina Aubert, Jane Bareikis, Kayla Brown, Sarah David, Jenelle Deatherage, Kate DeProsperis, Shari Eberhard, Crystal Harris, Kristen Heckert, Marisa Hird, Kristin Johnson, Lauren Kersejes, Amanda Macuiba, Chirine Njeim, Alyssa Schneider and Kati Snyder.

Chicagoland athlete bios:
Kristina Aubert: elementary certified school nurse at CICS-Bucktown, lives in Chicago, spends free time with puppy and wedding planning, and runs with DW Running.

Kate DeProsperis: 40-year-old mother of two young boys (ages 2 and 4), works full-time in investment banking, and runs with Jenny Spangler Racing.

Dan Kremske: works remotely as a certified medical coder for Neurospine Institute based in Eugene, OR, also works a few shifts per week at Heartbreak Hill Running Company in Lincoln Park, spends free time with family and with former Illinois teammates living in Chicago, and runs with Second City Track Club.

Photo credit: @krishnaakkaram

Briefly describe your running background and how qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials became a goal:

Kristina: I’ve been running competitively since junior high and ran Division 1 XC and Track at Arkansas State University (and 5th year at University of Arizona). After graduating college right before the 2016 Olympic Trials, I decided to attempt the sub-1:15 half standard after running a 1:17 in my first ever half marathon. I qualified with a 1:14 at Indy Monumental, but unfortunately suffered from a stress fracture and only was able to run the first 5 miles of the 2016 Olympic Trials. After this race, I knew I wanted to run a marathon and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. I ran my first marathon at Grandma’s Marathon in 2018 and qualified in a 2:43 despite a few hiccups in the 10 days leading up to the race.

Kate: I ran at the University of Notre Dame for 2 years, starting marathoning in my senior year of college as my next running challenge. Without a time goal, I finished my first marathon in 3:48 and have dropped 1 hour and 6 minutes since then! I kept progressing and decided to get a coach as I was approaching 3:00. My coach, Jenny Spangler (1996 Olympian), encouraged me to go for my first OTQ for the 2012 Olympic Trials. My motivation for the 2020 Trials has been to prove that even with kids, I can chase goals and achieve them. Being an older qualifier and a mother has been a challenge but I feel grateful to still be competing and chasing big goals.

Dan: I went to Woodstock High School where I played football and ran the 800m during track. I walked on to the University of Illinois Cross Country and Track team where I slowly worked my way up in distance. After competing on the road racing circuit in Chicago for a few years, I moved to Eugene, OR, to join Team Run Eugene in early 2014. I returned to Chicago in 2018 and joined Second City Track Club. I qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016 and knew qualifying for the 2020 Trials was again an attainable goal. At the 2019 Chicago Marathon, I shattered my personal best by 4 minutes and ran an OTQ of 2:14:53.

Briefly describe your typical training during the week, and then during the weekends (AM or PM runs, with company or not, how many workouts per week, do you fuel during workouts, etc).

Kristina: I run weekday mornings before work with my teammate Jamie and meet up with my DW Running team on Saturdays to run with our group where we also practice hydration and nutrition through our long runs. This marathon block, I’ve run 70-75 miles per week and incorporate daily strength/mobility as well as one day per week of cycling.

Kate: During the week, I usually run before work and getting the boys off to school. My husband is amazingly supportive and tends to the kids’ morning routines before I get home to shuffle them off to school before my workday. One weekends, I often get up early as well to get my runs in before the kids’ activities and I meet my team in the northern suburbs for long runs on Sunday mornings.

Dan: I typically run twice a day 5-6 days per week. During marathon training blocks, my mileage ranges from 90-120 miles per week and I also try to fit in as much supplemental strength and plyometric work as my body and time may allow. Our team’s high volume and higher intensity sessions are held on Wednesday mornings (Montrose Harbor) and within our Sunday morning long runs (alternating between city and suburbs).

What race did you qualify at, and did you train for that specific course? (if so, explain)

Kristina: I qualified at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth which is relatively flat, so training logistics weren’t that difficult.

Kate: California International Marathon in 2017 and 2018. That course is my race! I have qualified for the Trials 3 times there and have run it 7 times–all of which are my 7 fastest times.

Dan: I hit my qualifying mark at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. I raced the Chicago Marathon several times in the past and knew the course to be flat and fast. A lot of the heavy training going into that race involved hour-long steady tempo running and long-sustained effort long runs. More than anything, consistency in completing those long sessions to further develop my aerobic engine was key for success in that marathon training block.

Knowing that Atlanta is a hilly course, how have you been preparing?

Kristina: My coach, Dan Walters, has done a phenomenal job preparing my teammates and me for Atlanta. We joke that the training logistics for this race have been more difficult than the actual race! Dan has done all the research and ensured all aspects of race day are practiced before the race specifically through our long runs: done in a hilly suburban location, incorporate marathon specific work, done at a later start time (like the Trials) so that we can practice all that we will experience on race day.

Kate: I am underprepared for the hills! My training was derailed in September with a calf strain and tear. I lost months of training and had to learn the art of cross training and didn’t get back to road running and workouts until around Christmas. My build up was quick and short and not what I would have wanted it to be, but I am just grateful to be healthy enough to toe the line and will just do my best on that day.

Dan: The biggest adjustment we’ve made as a team is incorporating long runs held at the Morton Arboretum. There’s a significant amount of undulating terrain on the roads within the Arboretum, and running 2-plus hours over those hills has been the most course-specific kind of preparation we’ve done. I’ve also ramped-up my lower body strength work with the simple goal of increasing force production and running economy over those in-race hills.

Any coach/team/teammates/sponsors to shout out?

Kristina: My coach, Dan Walters, for truly thinking of everything when it comes to training. He has rearranged my training to match what comes up in life and helps me identify my weaknesses and collaborates with me on all the different ways to strengthen these areas. I am so grateful for Jamie Hershfang, Sarah David and Courtney Peterson for helping me through some brutal Chicago winter runs. Thanks to Brooks for supporting our DW Running team and sponsoring me as a “Hometown Hero,” providing me with a lot of training essentials in my preparation for Atlanta.

Kate: My team, Jenny Spangler Racing, has been amazing helping with training and support through my injury as well as my sponsor rabbit apparel and ON running.

Dan: I’m grateful for so many influential people in my hometown in Woodstock, IL, to running friends and mentors in Eugene, OR, to a great community of runners here in Chicago. Specific to this buildup phase, I have to thank my Coach Michael Lucchesi for his endless energy and all-in enthusiasm for this team in the city. Our team has a partnership with NIKE and a nutrition sponsor in Skratch Labs, both great companies that have provided us with the best shoes, gear and nutrition on the market. Finally, shout-out to Heartbreak Hill Running Company for taking hold in Chicago and cultivating a truly fun and hip running community here in the city.

Congrats to Kristina, Kate and Dan, and good luck to ALL qualifiers as they race in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday, February 29 in Atlanta.

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