Big Switch: 5 Questions With Carrie Tollefson

Carrie Tollefson is in the process of switching from track & field racing to the marathon. Photo: www.photorun.net

We catch up with the 2004 Olympian, who is running her first marathon this fall.

Olympian Carrie Tollefson is accustomed to making a left and covering 1,500 or 5,000 meters very quickly.

She won 13 Minnesota State High School championships, she was a 3K/5K star while at Villanova, and represented the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics in the 1,500 meters. While she rarely raced further than 8K, she claims to once have gone 22 miles on a training run. By mistake.

In late May, Tollefson announced she would run her first marathon, her hometown Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, in early October. At the time of the announcement, she anxiously awaited the arrival of baby No. 2, thus, the most assuredly fast aspect of this inaugural adventure will be the 12-week combined post-partum recovery/marathon training program.

Having a husband (Charlie), a 3-year-old (Ruby), a newborn (Everett), a training camp, the C Tolle Run online show, commentary for New York Road Runners, promotion for Twin Cities Marathon, and a newly signed contract with Reebok as a brand ambassador, Tollefson says, puts her in the same boat as thousands of working moms who run marathons. Unlike most of those moms though, running just to finish is new territory for Tollefson.

Why a marathon? And why now, with only 12 weeks to train?

I want one under my belt before I do commentary for the NYC Marathon; then I’ll be a legit marathoner. No one can say, “Oh, she hasn’t done one. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” As an athlete, I know it’s crazy to tackle this right after a baby, but lots of working women do this, and boy, now I really get it. I know how hard it is to fit in a run. Some days I don’t want to go, and I just don’t — and that’s OK. I want to enjoy the journey, get what I can out of my training and see what happens.

Did you run through your pregnancies? What about starting back post-baby?

I ran three-to- five miles, five days/week and lifted three times/week until my due date. Ruby was early, but Everett was a week late and I was having some nerve pain, so I ellipticaled that last week. I’m ultra-conservative about starting back, with running and core work (I actually loving doing core stuff!): Four weeks with Ruby and a little over three weeks with Everett. I figure, I’m only going to be a new mom for a little while — I’ve got the rest of my life to get my six-pack back.

What’s your training plan and do you have a goal time?

I’m following the Carrie Tollefson training plan: Increase mileage by 15 to 20 percent each week, max out at 65 or 70 miles/week (which is weird because as a mid-d runner, I ran 80 miles/week, so I’m going to have to pull from that base). I’m thinking Wednesday, a medium-long run and a long run with tempo incorporated on Saturday and Sunday. The other days, I’ll fit in whatever I can. Right now, I go at 8:30 or 9 p.m. after the kids go down, but once Everett starts sleeping through the night, I’ll get up at 5:30 a.m. or so and go before Charlie leaves for work.

In September, Ruby and Everett will go to daycare Tuesday and Thursday, but those are going to be big work days for me, not workout days. I plan to do some long runs when I’m on the road for work — if I’m going to be away from Charlie and the kids, I’ve got to make that time count.

I still have a competitive spirit, and I’m not gonna lie — it is fun to run fast. Hopefully I’ll be feeling good and my talent will take over. I would love to see 2:59:59.

Is the marathon a one-and-done for you?

It would be interesting to see what I could do with a proper buildup and 16-week training. I live with Mr. All-Or-Nothing (Charlie does Ironmans), but you know, there’s nothing wrong with 5Ks.

How do you deal with the transition from elite athlete to running for fun?

I cherish the time I had as a full-time athlete — I got to see the world and meet amazing people and, heck, having a massage was part of my job. But I’ve always had a healthy outlook on my career. I gave it my all and now it’s time for something else. I really love being with my husband and kids. And I’m excited about work. If I run fast again, that would be awesome, but it’s not my priority — it’s probably fourth or fifth on my list.

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