Local Runners To Compete For Spot On Olympic Marathon Team

Feb 11, 2016

Hundreds of long distance runners will converge in Los Angeles for the Olympic Marathon Trials Saturday, each hoping to qualify to represent the United States in the games this summer in Brazil. Three of those who have met the requirements are Pittsburgh-area residents. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with two them, Jed Christiansen and Laura Harnish, to learn what it takes to qualify for the Olympics.

The top three men and women in each division are chosen for the Olympic team.  To qualify for the men’s trial, runners must have had a time of under 2 hours and 19 minutes in the full marathon and 1 hour five minutes in the half. For women, the full marathon must have been run in under two hours and forty-five minutes and one hour, fifteen minutes for the half.

This is not Christiansen’s first Olympic trial. He competed in the 2012 Olympic Marathon trial, coming in 61st out of 85 runners. Since then, he has been training hard to get ready for his second shot. While he knows outside factors like weather and course style can affect his run, he believes he’s put enough time in to be successful in the race.

“In the end, it becomes about your preparation,” He said. “And preparation starts years ago, honestly.”

While many runners become interested in the sport during high school or college, Christiansen started young. He ran his first marathon at 8 years old. Although it would be a decade until he did his second, the marathon started a life-long love of running with him. He puts in 70 to 80 miles a week in training, which is actually a bit lower than usual due to an injury in his Achilles.

Indiana-native Laura Harnish moved to the Steel City several years ago as part of the PULSE program and decided to stay.  She says she loves running through Pittsburgh’s many parks and enjoys the hilly geography.

Harnish is a member of a competitive running group, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds, who meet ever Tuesday night at the Schenley Park Oval.

“It was nice to find a group of people who wanted to really push themselves and suffer through track works outs together,” she said.

Harnish says running a marathon requires a great degree of patience and mental strength. She explains that while the run is difficult and sometimes painful, most people who run a marathon finds themselves hooked. Her motivation comes from her love of running.

“I honestly feel like if I didn’t run, I would probably go a little bit nuts,” she said.

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