4 Married Couples Competing at Trials in LA

The exclusive group of 211 men and 246 women who
have qualified for the USA Olympic Marathon Trials is actually
comprised of smaller, even more exclusive cliques, like “A”
qualifiers (27 men and 42 women), sub-2:12 men (9), sub-2:30 women (10), and
Olympians (7 men and 16 women).

 But perhaps the most exclusive
group are married couples. There are only four: Esther and Cole Atkins, Sara
and Ryan Hall, Emma and Drew Polley, and Lindsay and Tim Tollefson. However,
since Cole Atkins scratched with a foot injury and Ryan Hall retired from elite
competition earlier this month, only the Polleys and the Tollefsons both plan
to be on them starting line in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13.
 Recently, in a series of telephone
interviews, both couples shared their paths to the Trials and hopes for race
day with Race Results Weekly.
 Californians Lindsay and Tim
Tollefson, both 30, ran together at Chico State, graduating in 2008. They
currently live in the thin air of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., the same high-altitude
ski town which has long been home to Olympic Marathon bronze medalist Deena
Kastor. Lindsay works as a property manager while Tim is a physical therapist;
both have flexible schedules which allow enough time for training.
 Before they were married in May,
2012 (Lindsay’s maiden name was Nelson), they both competed in the 2012 USA
Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston where Lindsay finished 130th in 2:52:55, and
Tim was 79th in 2:27:00. Tim readily admitted that he had less than a stellar
day. The race was this third marathon in three months, both shoes came untied,
and he really felt like dropping out. He also had a messy infection in his foot
the month before the race which seriously hampered his training.
 “Although my official time in
Houston was a far cry from what I am capable of accomplishing, I am 100% proud
of it,” Tim wrote on his blog at the time. He continued: “I had a
staph infection in my foot, which forced me to take off significant time from
training. My focus changed from the Trials to keeping my foot (healthy) as it
ballooned to nearly twice its size in 24 hours.”
 After those Trials, the newly-wed
Tollefsons made a plan to qualify again for 2016. They targeted the 2013
California International Marathon in Sacramento with its gently downhill course
and typically cool, December weather. For Lindsay, it was a great day. She
finished 11th, ran a personal best 2:41:31, and easily made the then-prevailing
“B” qualifying standard of 2:43:00. But Tim wasn’t so lucky. He ran
2:18:29, 29 seconds over the men’s then-prevailing “B” standard of
 “We went into 2013 hoping
that we were both going to knock out our qualifiers that day,” Tim
explained. “It turned out that I was 29 seconds slow.” He added:
“I guess I was distraught. As I came down the final 100 meters and I could
see the clock tick by. But, I was excited because she (Lindsay) was on pace for
a personal best and a qualifier.”
 With the Trials more than two
years off, Tim wasn’t worried about qualifying again, and Lindsay shared that
 “It wasn’t too big of a deal,
because we know there were more opportunities to hit it again,” Lindsay
recalled. “We know we could try again in a coupe of months.”
 But Tim never hit the 2:18:00
standard. He ran 2:19:43 at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June, 2014, a race
he had really dedicated himself to in his training. He was crushed.
 “I spent the entire spring
training for Grandma’s Marathon,” he lamented. “I ran 2:19 at
Grandmas Marathon and I was really frustrated.”
 Tim decided that he needed a break
from marathons, and began to explore his passion for mountain and trail
running. He entered the USA 50-K Trail Championships in Bend, Ore., in
September, 2014. He not only won the race, bagging his first national title,
but he set a course record.
 “I’m going to put marathoning
on the back burner,” he recalled telling himself. “It was really nice
in the sense of (giving up) such structured and pace-oriented practice, and
just go out and reignite the passion.”
 Tollefson stuck with trail and
ultra-running in 2015 (he’s sponsored by Nike in their trail running program),
and the 2:18 marathon never came. He began to accept that there would be no
Olympic Marathon Trials for him in 2016 and he was fine with that. Instead, he
arranged to run in a 125-kilometer ultramarathon in the Canary Islands three
weeks later, part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
 “It’s a very competitive
field,” Tim said of the race in Spain. “One hundred twenty-five
kilometers, up and over the main island, Gran Canaria. It traverses the volcano
with about 6000 feet of climbing. It’s basically the exact opposite of the LA
 But last December Tim got an
unexpected gift. USA Track & Field had to soften the men’s Trials entry
standard to 2:19:00 to be in compliance with the IAAF’s revised Olympic Game
standards (the women’s standard was also softened to 2:45:00). Suddenly, Tollefson
was a qualifier, which he called “an early Christmas present.”
 “I remember Lindsay and I
were running along Green Church Road in Mammoth,” Tim said. “A friend
texted me ‘congrats.’ Congrats for what? I haven’t done anything.”
 But due to his lack of dedicated
marathon training, and Lindsay’s battle with a mysterious nerve problem which
sometimes sends pain down both of her legs, the Tollefsons have tempered their
expectations for the Trials. The race has become more about the honor of taking
part in the once-every-four-year ritual by which the United States selects its
Olympic Marathon team. The USA remains the only country with a binding,
one-day, cutthroat trial.
 “At this point I’d be happy
to finish without having pain,” said Lindsay. “I don’t want to be
running 6:30 (per mile) pace and finish. If I’m running low-mid 6’s, that would
be great. That’s sort of the reality of where I’m at, and it sucks.”
 Tim adds: “It’s a very
special event. We get the question a lot from people, once we explain to them
that we have no shot of making the top three. Non-runners don’t understand it.
For a lot of us, making the Trials is our Olympics.”
 Drew, 30, and Emma, 25, live in
Seattle and are still newlyweds (they were married in November, 2015). Drew
works as an environmental consultant (he’s an environmental engineer), while
Emma works 25 hours a week as a barista.
 “I’m not very good just
having running on my plate for the day,” said Emma.
 Drew is a seasoned marathoner, and
qualified under the previous 2:18:00 standard at the same race as Lindsay
Tollefson, the 2013 California International Marathon. In fact, he finished
eighth in 2:17:23, three places ahead of Tim Tollefson. A year later at the
same race, he ran 2:18:50, a mark which became a second qualifier after USATF
loosened the standard to 2:19:00 last December. He doesn’t have a coach.
 “I’ve been self-coached for
last couple of years,” said Drew. “I’ve considered getting a coach,
but with my work schedule it’s hard. For the time being I’m self-coached.”
 Drew, who competed for Washington
State during his NCAA career, ran the 2012 Trials and had a successful day. He
finished 21st in 2:14:58, still his personal best. He’s turned optimistic about
next month’s Trials, but only recently.
 “I’ve been pleasantly
surprised in the last couple of months,” Drew said. “I’ve been able
to run really high mileage; I don’t think I’m quite in the shape I was in the
last Trials, but think I’m in 2:16 shape right now.” He added: “I’m
really happy with where I am.”
 But for Emma, the marathon is
still new territory. The 2012 Mid-American Conference 5000m champion (both
indoors and out) for the University of Toledo, she’s only covered the distance
once, at the California International Marathon in 2014 where she finished 22nd
in 2:42:11. Call her a reluctant marathoner.
 “I wasn’t really sure at that
point if I wanted to run a marathon, ever,” Emma recalled before starting
her first marathon build-up with Drew coaching her. “I was really
intimidated by the distance at that point.” She continued: “After
seeing Drew get his qualifier, seeing him go through the training, I thought
maybe I can do that.”
 But having her husband coach her
brought new strains to their relationship, something they can laugh about now.
 “It was good for the most
part,” said Emma, who is now coached by Mike Morgan. “We had a few
disagreements just because I like to do track workouts a lot, and there isn’t a
whole lot of place for track workouts in a marathon build-up.” She added:
“There was a lot of whining on my side.”
 “I can’t lie,” said Drew
playfully. “It definitely put some pressure on there. That’s why I knew I
had to get out of coaching (Emma). It’s hard when your fiance tells you she
doesn’t want to do something.”
 But under Coach Morgan, a 2:14:22
marathoner who was coached by Kevin and Keith Hanson of the Hanson Brooks
Original Distance Project, Emma has embraced marathon training and is
optimistic about the Trials.
 “I’ve had a little more than
a year under my belt and felt like I could have a little more of a bigger
goal,” she said. “So, I’ve worked out 6:02 as a goal pace, about
2:38. That would be a great day for me. That would be a great
 Drew may not be Emma’s coach
anymore, but he’s the voice of experience. His best advice to avoid mistakes?
Stick to your plan.
 “The biggest one without
question is getting caught up and going out too fast, due to too much
adrenaline or just following the heard,” Drew intoned. “Time after
time my best races came when I went out on my goal pace and finished strong in
the end. You can lose a lot of time at the end. Emma is probably tired of me
saying that.”
 Both Drew and Emma are part of the
Brooks Inspire Daily program, and will wear Brooks gear in the race.
 “It’s been really great to be
part of the Brooks family,” said Emma. “Being in Seattle it’s been
very cool. They’re a really good brand to work with.”
 PHOTO: Emma and Drew Polley on a
beach in San Francisco in 2015 (photo courtesy of Drew and Emma Polley)
 PHOTO: Tim and Lindsay Tollefson
after the 2015 Sonoma 50 Mile where Lindsay was the sixth woman in 8:06:55
(photo courtesy of Tim and Lindsay Tollefson)

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