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Success Stories

Success Stories




My Journey to the Olympic Marathon Trials

2020-02-21 | By: Jen Van Otterloo

Jen Van Otterloo. Mom of 3. Married to Joel. Full time Elementary PE teacher.

I’ve always been a runner and enjoyed running from a young age, all the way through college. After college I wanted to continue to compete and so I started running road races. During that time, I had a few friends run the marathon and qualify for the Olympic trials. I kept that in the back of my mind as  a good goal for “someday”. I wasn’t interested in that long of a race yet. I continued running anything from 5ks to half marathons and joined a running club based out of Des Moines.

My husband and I started our family in 2013. I continued to run after that baby. It was after the birth of our second daughter I decided to try the marathon for the first time. A goal to get into shape and run 7 months after having her. It was a learning experience and I started out way too hard and ended up walking a lot. I didn’t think I wanted to do a marathon again after that.

I had my third baby in Dec of 2016 and decided again to try the marathon 6 months after she was born. That one didn’t go much better as I got the flu and ended up being sick during the race while running. But I wanted to try again.

So I decided on a plan to train for the next couple years to tackle the Olympic qualifier in May of 2018. The weather was cold and very windy for the race. I followed my plan and was in good shape till I hit the wind for the last stretch or the race. I almost gave up on shooting for the Olympic time until I realized at mile 25 I could make it if I pushed hard one more mile. So I dug deep and finished 43 seconds under the qualifier. Goal accomplished!Now I had almost two years to decide on a new game plan.

I decided to shoot for Boston the following year in 2019. Unfortunately I tore my meniscus when I started training for that race and ended up having my knee scoped and part of the meniscus cut out. I didn’t know what that meant for running but I knew I wasn’t going to give up. I still had one year to get ready for the trials. Even though I was extremely bummed about Boston, I knew I would have a chance at that race again.

After surgery and recovery I decided I wanted to run one fall marathon to run that Olympic time again. So I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon. I felt ready for that race and managed to run just a little faster than I did for Fargo, hitting the standard. Now the focus has been on the Olympic trials coming up. After the trials I’m also planning to race in Boston this year as well.

The past year I’ve also been blessed to be part of a Brooks running group called the Hometown Heroes. Using their new shoes, I’m gearing up for Atlanta to represent their brand. I wouldn’t be where I am today without God giving me this talent to use and the family I have to support me. All glory to him for all my successes. My Husband, Joel, for always being my biggest supporter. My kids(Amelia, Abbie, Marcie), for inspiring me to work hard. My family, for helping out and encouraging me to do my best. Many friends who have been there to run with me and encourage me through my good times and bad.

I’m feeling ready to rock for Atlanta!! It will be an amazing experience. And even though I won’t be heading to Tokyo, I get to race with the top marathon women of the USA. Can’t wait!

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