An Interview With Olympic Trials ‘A’ Qualifier Emily LeVan

A natural athlete, Wiscasset, Maine’s Emily LeVan was an All-American field hockey player throughout high school and college. In her one year of running at Bowdoin College she set the 400m school record that still stands. When she discovered a love of marathoning the results were similar.

The only New England athlete to have achieved the sub-2:39:00 Olympic Trials ‘A’ standard, LeVan approaches Boston’s April 20th US Olympic Team Trials – Women’s Marathon with a 2:37:01 qualifier. She is training for the Trials Marathon while she and her husband, Brad Johnson, care for a daughter with acute childhood leukemia. Maddie was not yet four years-old when she was diagnosed in Nov. of 2007.

To view Emily’s training log, Maddie’s progress and the $52,400 (26.2 x 2) that they are raising for the Maine Children’s Cancer program, give a visit to:

Emily, along with a quartet of fellow New England Trials Qualifiers were interviewed as part of a special 8-page Olympic Team Trials-Women’s Marathon preview sponsored by the B.A.A. that’s part of the current (March/April) issue of New England Runner. The following (below) conversation with Emily didn’t make it into the magazine so we thought we’d share it with you here.
— Bob Fitzgerald

NER: It seems that the highlight and lowlight of your life with Maddie revolves around the Olympic Trials

EL: One kind of pseudo-interesting sidenote leading up to that question is that when Brad and I decided to have a child, we weren’t like, ‘OK, we have to plan the baby around the Olympic Trials.’ We just thought, ‘Hey, let’s have a baby.’ So when Maddie was born in January three weeks before the 2004 Trials I always had it in the back of my mind, ‘Well, if I don’t run the 2004 Trials, no big deal because there’s always the 2008 Trials.

Of course, you never know what’s going to happen in life so I sort of learned a lesson there. The fact that the 2008 Trials potentially wouldn’t happen, you know, it’s disappointing, but at the same time my child is my main concern. Maddie’s the most important thing. If not running the Trials was the case, I was totally willing to accept that.

NER: The decided upon alternative was to raise awareness and money for the Maine Children’s Cancer program (at How’s that going

EL: It’s going well. Fundraiser aside, I think people really get touched by a child that’s sick. That really pulls at your heartstrings. It’s just something that no one wants to see. I feel that people have been extremely generous with us, with her, and very supportive of her.

We’ve been very blessed by the outpouring of support, both from friends and family but also from folks we don’t know and I think that’s where the fundraiser comes into play. We’ve put ourselves out there so people can see what our day-to-day life is like. We’ve gotten notes and e-mails from people all over the country and really heartfelt words of support.

NER: Has this helped buoy Maddie’s spirits at all.

EL: It certainly helps me as I trudge along each day. I hope that it makes Maddie feel better. It’s hard for us to find anything that will really raise her spirits. We try to show her all those pieces of support in the hopes that it will not only raise her spirits but seeing that we are contributing something to a bigger cause is very important.
I think it’s a good lesson for her to learn. It’ll be interesting to see what she gets out of this when it’s all said and done.

NER When you decided on the twotrials project and to attempt training for the Trials did you and Jeff [Staab, B.A.A. women’s coach] devise a strategy for the situation

EL: Jeff laughed because in the past I’ve been like ‘Oh, I’ve got to get 120 miles in this week,’ and I told him early-on after Maddie got sick, ‘I still want to do this, but I’m definitely not going to be able to run the same number of miles.’ He was so great, he was like, ‘I don’t think that’s a problem. We’ll get in the quality workouts, you don’t have to worry about hitting those huge mileage peaks.’

NER: What’s the revised schedule entail

EL: It’s an experiment really. Instead of doing the high mileage, crazy training, I’m doing the much more, ‘OK, let’s focus on getting the core workouts in each week.’ Anything more is kind of gravy. I’ve been fortunate to get in my long runs and speed workouts and temp runs, so that’s important.

NER You’ve still got the Bowdoin school record for 400 meters but Jeff calls you ‘The slowest fast marathoner out there.’ What’s that all about.

EL (laughing) For some reason after my Bowdoin experience I just kind of took a liking to the longer distances I guess. No matter how many times I run a 10K I’ll see some improvement, but nothing like the level I see with the marathon. I also don’t enjoy the shorter distances as much as the marathon.

NER: What kind of training mileage are you able to manage

EL: It’s hovering around 80-90. It’s definitely a lot lower than it usually is during a typical marathon training cycle. It’s certainly been an added challenge to train for the marathon during all this. We have days where Maddie doesn’t feel well and it’s really hard to get out and do the runs I might want to do.
There are days we might wind up at the hospital or the clinic unexpectedly. I have to be more flexible with the timing of certain workouts and there are days now where I don’t have time to get a run in.

NER: I don’t know if you’d call it a coping mechanism but running certainly must afford some stress release

EL: Some days it helps a lot. It’s nice to just clear my head out and not have to think about what medicine Maddie takes tonight or how we’re going to deal with this, that or the other thing. Running’s always been good for me to just balance life out. In this case, it helps me stay a little healthier, not just physically, but mentally as well.

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