At the end of this month, 675 runners from across the United States will lace-up and compete in this year's Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, Georgia. Among them will be Mary Wirtz, a registered clinical dietitian at Mayo Clinic. "I'm really looking forward to it," Wirtz tells us. "Competing in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials has been a goal of mine for a long time, and one I haven't shared with a lot of people yet." (Well then, allow us.)
Another thing Wirtz hasn't shared with a lot of people is that not only is she going for the gold, she will be doing it just six months after giving birth to her daughter, Laney. While that may sound Herculean on its own, what's even Herculeaner (to us, anyway) is that last spring, mother and daughter ran their first marathon together. "I ran the Fargo Marathon in May while six months pregnant with Laney," Wirtz tells us. "I did that one more for fun. The Houston Marathon I ran two and a half weeks ago was different."
Different because she needed to run well in Houston to qualify for Atlanta. Really well. "The Houston marathon was the last race in which I could qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials," she says. "I just had one final chance to do it."
That meant "listening" to her body and not "overexerting" herself while training. And posting a qualifying time of 2 hours, 44 minutes and 20 seconds. "It was amazing," Wirtz says of her Houston Marathon finish. "I stuck with the pace group the entire time." Even though there were a few hurdles along the way. "We were cutting it close at the half-way mark by only pacing about eight seconds faster than the qualifying time so I was nervous about that," Wirtz says. "We were also fighting a 15- to 20-miles-per-hour cross- and headwind during the last half of the race."
Wirtz fell in love with running when she was 14, and she's continued to nurture that love through adulthood and, more recently, parenthood. "Being the mom of two young kids, I don't think the running or the actual marathon part is the hardest part," she says. "The hardest part for me is the mom part and just trying to balance my training with being a parent."
She gets help with that balancing act from her husband, who Wirtz says "totally gets" her runner mentality. "We're a team — a really good team," she tells us. "I'm fortunate enough to be able to squeeze in some training runs over my lunch break, but there are many nights when I do run after our kids are in bed because family always comes first."
Regardless of where her training takes her, Wirtz tells us she's just grateful for the opportunity to compete for a spot on Team USA alongside some of the nation's best marathoners. "I've already met my top goal of just getting to Atlanta," she says. "My goal now is to just go there and try to run as close to my Houston qualifying time as I can, which was a personal best for me."
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