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How a Long-Running Joke Helped a Colorado Woman Reach the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

Brittany Charboneau found success by not taking herself too seriously.

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Brittany Charboneau says that after nearly 20 years together, she and running have reached the empty-nest phase of their relationship: “It’s like the kids have moved out and the two of us have found a whole new vibrancy.” It’s the sort of punch line you’re bound to hear during My Long Distance Relationship With Running: From the Early Miles to the Olympic Trials, Charboneau’s one-woman show at Bovine Metropolis Theater in LoDo—and the third leg in this love triangle.

When Charboneau met running, she was 13 and fresh off a string of bad relationships with other sports (which is to say, she wasn’t good at them). The Denver native joined the cross-country team at Colorado State University and later moved to Chicago to study at the famed improv institution Second City. After returning to Denver, she started performing at Bovine and raced as an amateur. She won some small events, but a course-record performance of two hours and 52 minutes at the 2017 Denver Colfax Marathon prompted Charboneau to quit her sales job and chase her passions full time. Her goals? Make the U.S. Olympic team and appear in a movie.

Since turning pro, Charboneau has finished sixth at the 2018 Los Angeles Marathon and won the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. She also introduced My Long Distance Relationship With Running—a performance that involves her jogging on a treadmill while conversing with the voice of “running,” which emanates from a loudspeaker. The show hasn’t landed her a Hollywood role yet, but Charboneau says it has made her faster. “Being able to poke fun at things helped me reach another level,” she says. “It helps me maintain perspective.”

It’s difficult to argue the point, considering her results: Thanks to her time in Los Angeles, this month Charboneau, now 31, will compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Atlanta. She likely needs to cut 10 minutes off her personal best of 2:36 to make the roster heading to Tokyo in July. Even if she fails, Charboneau vows not to take the result too seriously. “It’s just running,” she says. “We’re not divorcing anytime soon.”

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