Saturday, nearly 500 women will take to the streets of Atlanta to race for one of just three spots on the U.S. Olympic marathon team.
Among them are nine North Texans, including Flower Mound mom of nine Rena Elmer, a newcomer to distance running.
For years, Elmer ran track. She even qualified for the Steeplechase Olympic trials back in 2016, finishing 10th. But three years ago, when marriage quickly grew her family of five into 11, she said she no longer had the time to make it to a track for practice.
“I had just been thinking about this and praying what should I do,” said Elmer.
That’s when she said inspired to begin marathon training this past fall. Though rigorous, she said it’s more flexible, allowing her to run when and where she can.
With nine kids under the age of 12 at home, that’s a necessity.
“Where a lot of these marathoners are putting in 80 to 100 miles a week, I’m putting in like 45 to 55 miles a week,” Elmer said.
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During the week, she logs those miles while the oldest seven are at school. But on the weekends, her runs become a family affair.
“I’ll just take one with me and we’ll just do a mile around our area and come back, pick up the next kid and do a mile with them, pick up the next kid… I can get 24 miles in just taking a loop de loop of all the kids,” said Elmer.
On November 9th, Elmer ran her first marathon in Indianapolis.
She went in hoping to run the 26.1 miles in two hours and 45 minutes.
Then, she hit her stride.
“Halfway through, I just thought, I wonder if I could go a little faster and see how far I could carry myself. And that’s when I took off,” said Elmer.
In the end, she crossed the finish line five minutes ahead of her goal and five minutes ahead of the time needed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials.
In Atlanta, she’ll be one of nearly 500 competing for the top three spots.
But according to Elmer, that’s never what she was aiming for.
“My goal was to run this race. I have to recognize that I have nine kids, and that’s a lot going on with my life. So I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve been given,” said Elmer.
Saturday’s trials will be live on NBC5 starting at noon.