When Lindsey Anderson was a senior at Weber State University, she discussed the possibility of running at the Chicago Marathon with her track coach. Ultimately, it was put on the back burner as she focused on the steeplechase.
That decision worked out, as Anderson went on to compete in the steeplechase at two World Championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, 11 years after electing to hold off on the marathon, the current College of Southern Idaho cross country/distance track coach went for it.
Anderson, 33, took 12th place in the women’s race at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday and was the sixth-highest finisher out of American women. With a time of 2:36.51, she qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trials.
It was Anderson’s first ever marathon.
“I wasn’t necessarily worried about what other people were doing in the race,” Anderson told the Times-News on Thursday. “I was just more concentrated on what I wanted to do and what I wanted out of my first marathon. It was just kind of a bonus in the end that I was able to finish 12th overall out of the women and sixth for Americans.”
Last fall, Anderson was in the midst of her first season as the head coach of the CSI running programs, which had been on hiatus for 19 years. In addition to her coaching duties, Anderson ran with the cross country team. Watching her athletes meet goals and continue to improve motivated Anderson, and she decided that, with the 2020 Olympic trials coming up in Atlanta, it was as good a time as any to begin her own training.
Anderson had stopped running competitively after the 2009 World Championships so she could start a family with her husband, Mark. Now, her children are old enough that she can train more intensely.
“(My children) obviously weren’t around yet, when I did it the first time,” Anderson said of her 2008 Olympic experience. “I really wanted them to see me race at a trial. Whether I made the team or not, that was future-type stuff but just being able to go to the Olympic trials again was a motivating goal.”
After about one year of training for Chicago, Anderson managed to accomplish that feat on her first try, coming in nine seconds ahead of the 2:37.00 qualifying mark.
Anderson was amazed at how, even though marathoners run for two-plus hours, every second matters. At one point in the race, about 10 or 11 miles in, Anderson was tucked into a group that began to slow down a bit. She knew if she stayed in that pack, the pace she’d set out to keep would be adversely affected.
Facing a decision that would surely make or break her goals, Anderson darted from the pack to get back to the six-minute mile pace she’d set out to achieve. Once she had about four or five miles to go, Anderson finally got back to that.
She finished the marathon at a clip of 5 minutes, 59 seconds per mile.
“It was starting to hurt and I was really having to grind out those last miles and push myself pretty hard in order to get it,” Anderson said. “It was so relieving and so exciting when I crossed the finish line and I knew I was under that 2:37.”
Unsure if that goal would be reached in her first try, Anderson has yet to make concrete plans in the aftermath of Sunday’s feat. If she didn’t qualify in Chicago, she said Olympic trial qualifying would become more of a chase “because there are only so many marathons you can run in a year.”
Anderson said that she wants to do at least one more marathon and possibly two or a few half-marathons before the trials.
Now, her attention turns to the trials with the potential of getting back on the Olympic stage. While Anderson had run in some rather high-pressure situations in the past, in Chicago, she realized it had been years since. However, the emotions were familiar.
“It was kind of a reminder of those nerves and feelings that you get when you are on the big stage,” Anderson said. “Chicago is definitely a big marathon, one of the major ones in the world.”
Whatever the next steps bring, in terms of difficulty and pressure, Anderson knows she has a support system.
CSI runners, as well as other members of the athletic department, got up early on Sunday to track her throughout the marathon. She said her experience with the Golden Eagles has been awesome so far, as the opportunity to train and coach at the same time, as well as the encouragement from the program, has been a huge boost in the process.
The texts, emails and messages Anderson have received from members of the Twin Falls community have only made it more exciting.
“I feel really lucky to be a part of this community,” Anderson said. “Right now, with training and moving forward, I’ll have all the support I can handle.”
Only three spots are available on the United States Olympic marathon team for Tokyo 2020. Anderson said it’s a huge undertaking for anybody to force their way into those slots.
Having qualified in her first try means Anderson gets to run in the Olympic trials in front of her children, and with the support of her team, CSI and the Twin Falls community.
Where she goes from this point remains to be seen, but all Anderson is worried about is being prepared and doing the best she can.
“I didn’t come into it training for the Olympics or anything,” Anderson said. “I came into it just to see how fast I could run a marathon. That’s still my mindset.”