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Trial run: local marathoners aim for Olympics

Marci Klimek, Amanda Phillips and Camelia Mayfield are all from the Rogue Valley.

The women have another thing in common: extreme toughness.

The marathon runners demonstrate the virtue plenty. To put it simply, Phillips says, hammering out 26.2 miles requires it.

“Marathons are terrible beasts,” the 2004 Phoenix High graduate adds with a laugh. She’s navigated through four, and has a pretty big fifth coming up in 2020 at the Olympic Trials in Atlanta.

She and Mayfield — a 2010 Ashland High graduate — both qualified for the Trials after meeting its qualifying standard time at the California International Marathon in December in Sacramento. Two months earlier, Klimek (a 2006 Phoenix graduate) finished 10th out of more than 20,000 women with a time of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 43 seconds at the Chicago Marathon.

The championship-style Trials event is open to any woman who has completed a marathon faster than 2:45 or a half marathon faster than 1:13.

The race will be held Feb. 29, 2020. The top three male and female finishers who meet the Olympic A standard will represent the United States at the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The 31-year-old Klimek raced at Linfield College following her prep career. A perennial Pear Blossom Run champion, she’s logged five or six other marathons, including the famous Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.

Klimek suffered a stress fracture in her pelvis around November of 2015, keeping her out of running shoes while living in Bend for about seven months.

“It was debilitating,” she recalls.

Klimek put aside the pain and traveled to Washington, D.C., to race in a big marathon. She attempted to warm up before the event but the discomfort was too much. The silver lining is that the on-site doctors helped her correctly diagnose the injury.

“(My doctors) originally thought it was a herniated disc,” Klimek recalls. “I was doing chiropractor treatment.”

Klimek’s buildup for the Chicago Marathon included six weeks of running and another six weeks of cross training. To add to the pelvis injury, she also dealt with hamstring and Achilles’ heel injuries and problems with her iron levels.

The healing process was gradual.

“The Chicago race was a long time coming,” says Klimek, who now lives near Boston.

On race day, everything came together for her in an event in which a record 44,571 runners finished.

“It wasn’t a PR but was significantly faster than I thought,” she recalls. “Race conditions were great. It wasn’t windy and there was just a little rain. Because so many people there were trying to hit qualifiers, there were lots of people to run with. (It was) probably during the last 10K that I was able to catch a number of elite women. And seeing and catching people, especially people you recognize, feels good.”

Next up for Klimek is the Boston Marathon in April.

“Living here the last couple years, I’ve wanted to run the big one,” she says.

After that, she’ll schedule a summer of shorter road races and start working for the Trials next fall.

Klimek looks forward to seeing her longtime friend Phillips in Georgia.

“She’s a little older than me and I always looked up to her in high school,” Klimek says. “She’s a tough cookie and she’s in good shape. She can throw down.”

Phillips, 33, has done four marathons. Her time at the Sacramento run was 2:39:50, while Mayfield finished in 2:42:38.

Klimek’s time would make her an “A” qualifier because it is faster than 2:37, while Phillips and Mayfield would be classified as “B” qualifiers. Typically, “A” qualifiers have their expenses paid; however, the Atlanta Track Club has promised to pay for the travel and accommodation expenses of all qualifiers.

Phillips, who is a middle school teacher in Hood River, ran for Lewis & Clark College. The school is a member of the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference along with Linfield.

Klimek and Phillips crossed paths occasionally in college events.

“Marci has helped me a lot,” Phillips says. “We’ve raced a lot together. She’s definitely gotten to this next level.”

Phillips’ first marathon was in Camarillo, California.

“Jumping up to a 26-mile race was pretty terrible coming from running a max of usually 6K in high school and college,” Phillips says. “I literally thought I was dying. I had to walk around the 20th mile.”

Phillips got tougher, and better, with every mile. In June of 2016 at Grandma’s, she clocked in a time just under the Trials qualifying mark. Even that one was ugly, she laughs.

“I still felt like walking,” Phillips recalls. “But I didn’t.”

Phillips took on the California International Marathon’s rolling hills and gradual decline in stride. She had averaged 80-90 miles a week for much of the prep, making the execution easier for her.

“I felt good the entire time,” Phillips says. “My fastest miles were toward the end. That was definitely my goal. My attitude for this one was, ‘OK, I finally think I have time to train properly,’ and I actually trained and did the mileage to run a marathon. It was more of a personal goal to actually be able to do the prep work.”

At first blush, one would think the 26-year-old Mayfield would have no problem with a marathon. The Portland State University graduate is an ultramarathon competitor who ran in the 100-mile Western States last summer.

Mayfield has competed in at least five 50Ks, two 100Ks, two trail marathons and the Western States. She earned what’s called a “golden ticket” into the 100-mile run after recording a top-three finish at the Lake Sonoma 50-Mile race.

“It was fun,” the Bend resident says of the century-mark competition. “I know it sounds crazy.”

The switch from trail running off the clock to timed flat roads was challenging, Mayfield adds.

“When it came to the race I was surprised by the difficulty,” she says, “because I’ve done a 100-mile race.”

But the Sacramento race was a bucket-list item for Mayfield, and she says she wanted to shoot for a qualifying time.

“The CIM, aside from the Los Angeles Marathon, is one of the biggest West Coast marathons,” says Mayfield, who also won the 2015 Eugene Marathon.

Mayfield — who is also a running coach for Trails and Tarmak — is focused on ultras until around next fall, when she’ll shift her attention to the Trials. She qualified to return to the Western States 100 after placing seventh in June of last year.

Mayfield urges others to enjoy the sport, too, no matter how many miles are involved.

“If anybody is out there thinking about running a race, don’t hold yourself back,” she says. “Just do it. You never know what could happen.”

Reach freelance writer Dan Jones at dljcards@gmail.com

Marci Klimek heads back after making the turn-around winning the Pear Blossom 10-mile Run.
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