Tierney Wolfgram Set For US Olympic Marathon Trials

* Tierney Wolfgram is set for the US Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday in Atlanta

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On Saturday, Tierney Wolfgram will line up for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, Georgia, as the youngest overall competitor, at just 16 years old. She'll be one of just a few teenagers to ever toe the line. 

Which, for most, would seem like an incredible burden to hold.

But after running her first marathon in October of 2018, and dealing with the media exposure that followed, something has very clearly guided her in the time since, she says.

Personal happiness. 

"I wouldn't say it's a route that tons of people should take," Wolfgram told Olympian and media personality Carrie Tollefson recently on a podcast -- the duo ran 4-miles and talked at length about the past year for the 16-year-old. "I took it and now finishing these Trials, it's a personal goal of mine. I'm not trying to get much out of it besides my own happiness. I think people don't really realize that."

In just qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2018, the high school junior made history, joining a small list of a teenagers who have qualified, including females such as Cathy O'Brien (1984) and Alana Hadley (2013), Runner's World first reported.

A little over a year ago, at the age of 15, Wolfgram ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 3 seconds at the Twin Cities Marathon in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a 'B' standard. 

Since then, she has changed schools -- transferring to Woodbury High School from Math & Science Academy -- and worked through a few injuries, including broken metatarsals in her left foot, and then a broken tibia this past fall. 

But her goal has always remained the same: Line up for the Olympic Trials.

In December, Wolfgram and her family took that idea to a new level. Along with coordination from her parents, she flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and set up shop ahead of the Trials.

Her mother and father split time in New Mexico -- one parent would spend two weeks with Wolfgram, who's the oldest of three siblings, before the other would switch off, and then the cycle would continue again. 

Academically, she enrolled in online classes for the semester, which was an overall effort to commit to training, which would take Wolfgram from 60 and 70 mile weeks all the way up to 100. 

To find a high school program to train with, Wolfgram's mother emailed "18 high schools within a 10-mile radius" and explained what her daughter was aiming to do. Only three programs responded back, including Albuquerque Academy. That's with whom Wolfgram currently trains. 

The teenager says she hopes not just to finish the race and earn a PR, but to challenge the national high school record of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 24 seconds, which was last accomplished by O'Brien in 1984.

And yet, she isn't putting that much pressure on herself, either. 

"As long as I run my hardest, I won't be upset," she told Tollefson in the podcast. 

Since December, Wolfgram has set up a pretty consistent program in Albuquerque. She runs daily practices with Albuquerque Academy and then joins the Duke Track Club. Her dad often bikes alongside side her during runs. She often doubles. 

In January, she ran her fastest half marathon to date, finishing 15th overall at the Phoenix-based Arizona Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon in 1:16:55, which averaged to about 5:51 per mile -- though Wolfgram says the course was slightly short. 

She's been getting coaching and workouts from the tandem of Jay Stephenson and Ryan Hall -- yes, that Ryan Hall. Stephenson works closely with Wolfgram, while Hall "pops in" from time to time, "which is nice," she says. 

After breaking her tibia during the cross country season, Wolfgram says she wasn't fully healthy again until a week before her move to Albuquerque. In December, January and February, though, she's begun to feel good. Her longest runs have spanned 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Other 'marathon specific' training included tempo runs, tempo repeats, and "standard 10-mile long runs at marathon goal pace." 

A few changes have taken place since her move to Albuquerque. Wolfgram told Tollefson she's changed up her diet, saying that she had to "let the vegetarian lifestyle go for this buildup." She's also been getting a lot more sleep.

Finding happiness in the process of training for the marathon, she said, has helped calm her. 

"I used to not sleep because I couldn't deal with it and I'd be nervous for a training run," she said. "I can sleep now." 

Wolfgram's goals after the Trials are not to continue in the marathon. 

"This will probably be my last marathon in high school -- and in college, too," she told Tollefson. " It will be my last one in awhile. I'm sad about that." 

She'll return to Albuquerque after Atlanta for two more weeks, she said, and then she'll attend prom and likely finish out online classes. Then her life will likely take her back to Minnesota, with outdoor track and field on the horizon. 

After all, Wolfgram is still a teenager, and a high school athlete.