Monday, October 10, 2011
Leah Thorvilson, who was a sprinter, hurdler, triple jumper at Armstrong High School, transformed herself into a distance runner in college at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock (ALR), and took up marathon and ultramarathon running after that. On Sunday, she was hoping to get down to 2:39 to get an A qualifying standard for the US Olympic Trials, but instead she ran out of gas during the second half,shuffling to the finish in 2:46:54.
Running the first half of the race in 1:18:40, Thorvilson was set up to possibly come close her own personal best of 2:37:54, but she got slower as the race progressed. No amount of willpower could make her legs move faster, she said, as she was hardly breathing hard, but her legs had hit the proverbial wall. From the waist up she was fine, but her lower body was fried, she said after the race as she walked backward down steps on the way to a post-race interview.
Her result was disappointing, but not crushing, as she had already qualified for the Olympic Trials, missing the A standard by 43 seconds while finishing 17th at this year's Grandma's Marathon in 2:39:43, her fastest time since 2009. She wanted to hit the A standard to qualify for getting her expenses paid to run the Trials. "This won't be my last trials," she said prior to Chicago. She wants to use the Trials as a potential opportunity to attract sponsors and as a springboard to 2016.
She quit her sales job with Sprint to focus more on her running, began working with a coach, hoping that it would all pay off in January 2012 in Houston. But it's back to the drawing board after Chicago. Not unfamiliar territory as she pretty much started from scratch in Arkansas when she moved up to distance running.
"Having Leah attend Arkansas-Little Rock was a gamble by both parties," said former University of MN and ALR coach Kirk Elias, who now coaches at University of Nevada, Reno. "She was being recruited as middle distance runner when she had been a long hurdler/triple jumper in high school.
"I had heard from both Rick Kleyman and Scott Wieker at Armstrong HS(my alma mater) about this former hurdler who had not gone straight to college (she went to massage school directly out of high school). She was running about five miles a day during the year immediately after high school. I had always had good luck turning speed sided athletes into distance runners……..and as I was getting a program started from scratch (my first year at UALR the men and women were both last in the Sun Belt in CC) it seemed like a good bet.
"Leah found out she loved to run. I found out she was a savvy, fearless racer. She only ran 5:24 for the mile indoors her freshman year, but by her senior year ran 4:44. Leah ended up winning conference titles in Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor track and was clearly the dominant athlete in the conference her senior year.
"She was a dynamic trainer willing to put in miles in the off-season while attacking tempo and track sessions during a competitive year. I have been coaching since 1974 and have rarely comes across someone so willing to put themselves on the line day in and day out.
"Leah has always marched to her own drummer. Independent, feisty, but friendly and giving, she was great to have on a team. Her progress since college (having run 2:37 in the marathon) has been impressive, but on at least one level, completely understandable. If anyone has the psychological characteristics of a marathoner, it is Leah. She has a love of training, is unafraid of hard work, and loves to race."
Thorvilson has won several marathons since beginning her road running career in 2008, including the Walt Disney World Marathon this year where she ran the race dressed as Tinker Bell. To read more about her adventures, you can find information her blog HERE.