Joanna Zeiger among marathoners headed to Olympic trials this weekend
Colleen De Reuck has been running competitively since she was 14, when she made her first state team in her native South Africa.
At 47, she has competed in four Olympic Games, won scores of races and been named “runner of the year” several times.
Even with all her experience, all her races and all the miles she has put in, De Reuck’s eyes lit up when she started talking about Saturday’s U.S. Olympic marathon trials in Houston. The best women in the nation will be racing for a coveted Olympic spot, on the same day, and on the same course, as the men.
Then on Sunday, tens of thousands of citizen runners will be racing their own full marathon or half marathon. The event has the feeling, De Reuck said one morning last week at the Flatirons Athletic Club, of being something special.
“It is going to be a celebration of running, and I am excited to be a part of it.”
Joining De Reuck at the club that morning were Katie Blackett, Deanne Ardrey, Amanda Scott and Joanna Zeiger. All have qualified for the trials, a feat that doesn’t ever become routine, said De Reuck. She became a U.S. citizen in 2000 and won the 2004 Olympic trials marathon over star Deena Kastor, but she did not compete in 2008 because of the birth of daughter Tara, now 4.
It was her family and training partners who motivated De Reuck this fall and early winter, after she struggled with hamstring problems.
“Tasmin is 17 now; can you believe it?” asked De Reuck, referring to her oldest daughter, who runs on the Boulder High cross country squad. “She told me she wanted to come and watch me run. She wanted to be in Houston and watch all the top runners, which is pretty neat.”
Ardrey, Scott, Zeiger and Blackett also will have family and friends in Houston for the weekend.
Ardrey qualified at October’s Chicago Marathon. “This is just the start for me,” she said.
For De Reuck, it’s the end of her competitiveness in open races.
While she remains one of the best masters runners in the nation, runners like ex-University of Colorado star Kara Goucher are just too fast for her now.
De Reuck has approached this stage of life with equanimity, indicative of her balanced approach to life that is appealing to elites and non-elites alike.
Many are inspired by the way De Reuck seamlessly mixes family, training, personal training and coaching with raising two children.
She has many fans among the running community, including Running Times editors Jonathan Beverly and Brian Metzler.
“Colleen has had a great career as a runner, especially since she’s turned 40,” Metzler, a former Camera staffer, wrote in an email. “She might have run in four Olympics when she was younger, but she’s more amazing now that she’s running fast into her late 40s. For her to run a 2:30 at the Copenhagen Marathon in 2010 at age 46 was awesome.
“A lot of elite runners stop competing in their mid-30s because they are no longer competitive or because they’ve lost the fire. It’s the exact opposite with Colleen.”
One reason for that are her training partners, including Blackett, 34, CEO of the Colorado Mountain Club in Golden and in her third Olympic trials, and Zeiger, 41. Zeiger is a top triathlete transitioning to marathoning who has competed in five previous Olympic trials, including swimming and triathlon.
“They get me going,” De Reuck said of her training partners. “Joanna lives in the neighborhood and comes by to get me.”
De Reuck is, according to Running Times editor-in-chief Beverly, “a model of consistency and graciousness. She was a great elite runner; she’s become an exceptional masters runner.”
As she rounded up Tara and headed off, De Reuck said she’s excited about the trials.
And her goal? “I would like to run a good, solid race and hope that my hamstrings hold up. I will start off more conservatively than I normally do and see if I can hold onto that. I was thinking on the run this morning that in 2004 (when she won the Olympic trials) I was racing to be in the top three.
“Eight years later, wow, I am just happy to be a part of it.”
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