Runners Turena Johnson Lane and Johanna Olson are no strangers to big, pressure-packed races.
During their careers at Luther College, both Johnson Lane and Olson won individual national championships in cross country.
But Saturday, the two will run in what may be the biggest race of their careers as they compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Women's Marathon in St. Louis, Mo. for the chance to represent Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Johnson Lane, a 28-year old Brainerd graduate, and Olson, a 24-year old Wadena graduate, both ran Olympic qualifying times at last year's Twin Cities Marathon. Johnson Lane finished the 26.2 mile race in 2:40.14 and Olson finished in 2:43.27.
Only the top three runners out of 140 will make the US. Olympic team.
The Twin Cities Marathon was both Johnson Lane's and Olson's first marathon and both suffered injuries after it.
Johnson Lane had cartilage missing in her right knee and Olson had an injured plantar fasciitis. Those injuries cut into their training.
"I've been running between 85-95 miles a week," said Olson. "It's not that high for a marathoner. My highest mileage week in college was 70. I don't want to get hurt or burned out so I've just gradually increased my mileage in preparation for this race."
Johnson Lane was running more than 80 miles a week while preparing for the Twin Cities race. After her injury, she slipped to around 60 miles.
With the lack of training, Johnson Lane has taken a different mind-set heading into the Olympic trials.
"It's been a different buildup for this marathon," Johnson Lane said. "I'm going into the time trials with a different attitude. I had really high expectations for the Twin Cities Marathon and now that the training hasn't been there I'm going to go have a good race and have fun. The pressure and expectations that I normally place on myself aren't there."
Both Olson and Johnson Lane plan to run a conservative race to start and then see how the race unfolds in the later mile stages.
"The first thing I need to do is not go out too fast," said Olson. "I have a habit of doing that. I'll run the first part of the race conservatively. All the women are pretty fast. There's going to be groups of women and I don't want to get sucked into a group that's going too fast."
Johnson Lane feels that marathons are won and lost in the last six miles of the race. And that's where her focus will be.
"In a marathon, the race starts at 20 miles," said Johnson Lane. "The marathon, more than any other race, is a race of attrition. It's survival of the fittest. Anyone can get to 17, 18 or 20 miles at a good clip but who can run those last six miles the best decides who will make the team."
Olson is a member of Team USA-Minnesota, an Olympic development program to enhance running in the United States. It gives her a chance to continue running competitively in her post college years.
Johnson Lane, who lives with her husband, Todd, in Statesboro, Ga., coaches track and field and cross country at Georgia Southern University.
"I love my job and being with the athletes," Johnson Lane said. "This is a very demanding job. Days are 10-12 hours long so it doesn't seem like there's much time for me in the process. I put my athletes ahead of my own needs and that can, at times, come back to hurt my career to some extent. But I wouldn't change anything."
Both Olson and Johnson Lane know they're long shots to make this year's U.S. Olympic team. But don't be surprised if their names are back on the list of hopefuls for the 2008 games.
"I could see myself doing the things to stay competitive at least through the 2008 Olympics," Johnson Lane said. "I'm really new to marathon running and I have a lot to learn and improve on. I feel my best running days are ahead of me."
"I want to make sure to enjoy the experience," Olson said. "You forget it's the Olympic trials. I just want to get a feel for this race and see what it's like. As a young marathoner, hopefully I'll have a few more tries at this in my future."
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