The 28-year-old Olympic champion qualified for Boston in her first marathon last year.
U.S. rower Esther Lofgren has accomplished much in her sport, including winning a gold medal in the “eight” at the 2012 Olympics in London. This year she’s enjoying volunteering with Athletes Without Limits, working more running into her training routine and prepping for next month’s world championships in South Korea.
Lofgren says she’s a novice runner, but in the Potomac River Run Marathon last fall — her debut at 26.2 miles — she clocked a 3:33:42, which placed her sixth among women. It was also good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which she hopes to run next spring.
How did you get started running?
My dad knew I loved playing soccer and basketball, but I wasn’t fit enough and was a terrible runner. He made a deal that he would drive me to races, and I would get the T-shirt as long as I tried to run. I went from loving sports and hating running to having running be a part of what I love.
And now you’ve qualified for Boston in your first marathon?
When I moved to D.C., I wasn’t sure if I was done rowing yet. I took time off from the super intense rowing training and decided to run a marathon, my first, one week before the race. I ran and qualified for Boston.
Do you run for rowing?
We definitely incorporate running into our training program — lots of hills and stairs. It’s a nice way to get more fitness and not be all hunched over in a boat or rowing machine.
What is appealing to you about running?
Some of the same things as rowing — you hit that pace and your stride, and you feel like you could go forever. But being outdoors is one of the things that appeals to me about running because we typically train indoors a lot on rowing machines. Plus, with running, you can see where you’re going. If you think about being locked indoors with medieval torture rowing machines, it’s pretty easy to think which one you would rather do.
How does running differ from rowing?
Even when you’re in a boat of eight, the most I get to talk is to the girl in front of me or behind me. You don’t talk a lot. One of the things I love about running with the team is the social nature. Everyone is chit-chatting, and you can still pick up the pace.
Is running a sub-3-hour marathon your next goal?
With running, my expectations are a bit more measured. I was in the sub-8-minute realm in my marathon, so if I train for it this time, maybe sub-7 is possible. With rowing, women tend to peak in their early 30s, and I think running is the same. Maybe I haven’t hit my peak yet. I’m still a novice runner, but I think it’s something I’ll do for a long time.
Could you describe yourself as a competitor?
I am a disgustingly competitive person. We always joke that almost everyone on my rowing team is like that. Maybe it’s a bit of a compulsion, but it’s also very rewarding.
What’s your favorite treat after a workout?
I am partial to baked goods. I make a mean carrot cake.
This piece first appeared in the July issue of Competitor magazine.