WASHINGTON (06-Apr) -- At home in Golden, Colo., Brianne Nelson's two daughters just want to run with Mommy.
Riley, 4, and Reese, 2, get their "fast shoes" and beg Nelson, a contender at tomorrow's USA 10 mile championship here, to run with them.
"I swear, people in the neighborhood think I'm training my kids at two and four," said Nelson, in an interview with Race Results Weekly here today. "They put on what they call their 'fast shoes,' their little tie-shoes, and they take laps. I tell them they can run with me when I come home, and I'll jog with them around the block. They don't want to get in the stroller; they want to run to the park."
Nelson, 32, is an interrupted runner. In the early aughts, she ran for Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., in NCAA Division II (she didn't run in high school), and her most noteworthy results were an 8th place finish at the NCAA D-II Cross Country Championships in 2003 and a four-hour run at the Chicago Marathon the same year. After graduation, but for a few mountain races she essentially abandoned the sport for about three years before she felt its pull once again, first in 2007.
"I kind of decided, 'You know what? I'm not done on the roads.'" she explained. "I know I can qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. I know I can do this."
But fate intervened, and her trip to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon ended in disappointment. In weather so unusually hot that organizers were forced to half the race, Nelson ended up jogging the second half and finishing in over three hours.
"There were some really great athletes who were literally passing out in front of me," she recalled.
Nelson decided to re-boot her training for the Chevron Houston Marathon the following January, but had to abandon that race for a different reason.
"I ended up getting pregnant," she said.
After having her first daughter Riley in 2008, Nelson and her husband Ryan, a firefighter, decided to have another baby and, again, her running goals had to be put on hold.
"I told my husband, hold on a minute; let's have another one real quick because we knew we wanted two. Then, I'll be back and I'll be ready for the Olympic Trials." She continued: "I just wanted to qualify; that was a big goal of mine."
After having Reese, Nelson got coaching help in 2011 from her brother-in-law, Jeremy Nelson, who is the husband of 2007 Chicago Marathon runner-up Adriana Nelson. Because her husband works 24 hour shifts at the firehouse, Nelson had to rely on treadmill training so she could watch her children while still getting in her miles. Her fitness began to come back, and she ran in the citizens' division of the Bolder Boulder 10-K in May of that year, clocking a respectable 37:07 at high altitude. She continued to add mileage and intensity, and ran a national class 1:14:36 at the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon to qualify for the USA Olympic Marathon Trials.
She reasoned, "There is no way I can run a marathon to qualify for the Trials, so I'm going to do a half, and I'm going to qualify in the half."
She and part-time training partners Wendy Thomas (1:13:46) and and Mattie Suver (1:14:54) also got under the 1:15:00 standard at Philadelphia, and the three women celebrated.
"We all three made it," Nelson said. "That was pretty exciting."
At the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston in January, 2012, Nelson didn't have the race she was hoping for, but she nonetheless realized her dream of running the Trials and finishing. She crossed the finish line 61st in a field of 152 finishers in 2:42:58. Although exhausted from traveling to the race with two small children and not sleeping the night before, Nelson saw her running career was just beginning at age 31.
"That got the ball rolling," she said. "I started believing, 'I can do this.'"
She rapidly became a different kind of athlete and switched to a more formal coaching and training program under coach Scott Simmons's American Distance Project (she wears the colors of Boulder Running Company/adidas). With support from her husband, she brought her game up to a national level last year, and competed well in several USA road running national championships. She finished 9th in the 20-K, 10th in the 10-K and 15-K, and 12th in the half-marathon. With her daughters just a little older and her breast-feeding days behind her, Nelson found she had more energy and time for training.
"I knew it was going to get easier with these guys," she said. "I figured out the routine and that really jump-started me."
This year, Nelson is fully national class. She finished 11th at the USA Cross Country Championships last February, then turned heads with a fourth-place finish at the very competitive USA 15-K Championships last month in Jacksonville, Fla., beaten only by Olympian Janet Bawcom, Cal International Marathon champion Alisha Williams (a friend and teammate), and sub-2:30 marathoner Stephanie Rothstein Bruce. She even took to the track again for the first time in nine years, running a career best 32:54.50 at the Stanford Invitational one week ago.
"I know I've got a faster 10-K," Nelson asserted, adding that at the Stanford meet she ran the entire race alone wearing track shoes with the spikes removed. She plans to take another crack at the distance at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on the same track at the end of April.
For tomorrow's 10-mile race, Nelson said her goal is to just be competitive and finish with the highest place possible.
"I don't have any time goal for myself, I'm just going to compete," she said. "That's my goal. I want to go out there and just race."
PHOTO: Brianne Nelson before the 2013 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile in Washington, D.C. (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)