Lisa Rainsberger was the last American, male or female, to win the Boston Marathon—way back in 1985. Today, the Colorado Springs–based coach is training four marathoners for next month’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Houston. Here, Rainsberger talks elite competition, drug testing, and running for fun.
Who should we be watching at the Olympic Trials?
I coach four active-duty men and women in Colorado Springs who are part of the Army World Class Athlete Program. Joseph Chirlee, who has a 2:12 marathon, is the one most poised to make the Olympic team.
What’s it like competing at the Trials, which in some ways is more pressure-filled than the Olympics themselves?
The beauty of the Olympic Trials is that it’s a one-day breakthrough performance. And having been fourth in the Olympic Trials three different times, I know all too well the heartbreak of going to the starting line thinking one thing, and having the outcome be something else.
Illegal substances and drug testing have become buzzwords across many sports, especially endurance events. How has the issue affected elite marathon running?
It got to the point where the playing field was not level. Many races were not adequately drug tested. American athletes have many sports to choose from. Why would I want to be a runner and never make the podium against people who are cheating? Now we’re seeing the tide turn.
You host an annual Kokopelli Kids Trail Running Series to introduce children to trail running. What can adults learn from younger runners?
Kids run with their hearts, not their heads. When the gun goes off for kids, it’s reckless abandon. If we can preserve more of that for adults, they would enjoy it a whole lot more.
What’s your advice for recreational runners?
Consistency. Three or four times a week, do something. Go 10 minutes out and come back. You’ve stimulated your system, boosted your metabolism, and turned on some endorphins—you’re happy. The old Nike saying is “Just Do It.” Mine is, “Just do something.”