Allie Schaich was finished running.
Not finished as in through with a run one day — Schaich was done with the sport.
Schaich, who graduated from Lambert in 2011, ran competitively at Rice University in Texas. Soon after graduating from there, Schaich decided she'd had enough.
“I had a while when my times weren’t really improving and I felt like it was something that I was more forced to do," Schaich said. "Then I kind of fell back into it and had a lot of friends that I was hanging out with that were training for marathons, and I was like, ‘You know what, I might as well do this and see what happens.’”
So, Schaich registered for her first post-collegiate marathon in August 2018, the first time she had raced competitively since running 1500 meters (0.93 miles) three years prior.
Eight months later, Schaich ran the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, where her 2:39.24 time was fast enough to qualify her for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials next weekend in Atlanta.
Now, on Feb. 29, Schaich will race alongside the top runners in the country, some hoping to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 marathon in August.
Want to Go?
What: U.S. Olympic Team Trials
When: Men's race — 12:03 p.m.; Women's race — 12:13 p.m.
Where: Downtown Atlanta
“I was really excited when I found out that it was in Atlanta,
as opposed to Houston, where I’ve been living," Schaich said. "It kind of made it a little bit
more meaningful. It was a little more extra motivational, but it means a lot
that all my family will be able to be there as well.”
Since rededicating herself to running, Schaich has found that running is suddenly fun again.
Schaich said she often finds motivation in her group of friends and boyfriend, and she credits them with preparing her to compete in such a high-profile event.
“Honestly, the girls that I train with are some of my best friends, and I would not be near where I am without them," Schaich said. "They’re great from the perspective of having someone there, but also having someone to push you. And it’s almost guaranteed that if one of us is having a bad day, the other one is having a good day, so it’s kind of a push and pull, which is really helpful.”
Schaich didn't begin running competitively until after she realized how much she loathed swimming competitively.
The practices were long, and unlike running, she found it's difficult to hold conversations while filtering in and out of water.
But there was one part of swim practice that Schaich enjoyed.
“We would do dryland swimming, where you’d run before practice and do different exercises – and that was always the part that I liked the best," Schaich said. "Everyone would complain about running and I was like, ‘Oh, I’d rather just do this the entire time instead of getting in the pool.’”
These days, Schaich manages to fit her running around her career as a business consultant, a job that frequently has her on the move.
She'll compete against professional athletes at the Atlanta trials, including Desiree Linden, who finished seventh in the 2016 Rio Olympics for the United States.
Professional runners have the luxury of scheduling their days around training, while Schaich often finds herself carving out pockets of the day when she can train.
“One of the things I think about being a non-professional athlete, like a lot of people who are competing at trials that have a job, a lot of time you don’t really have a choice," Schaich said. "It’s like, ‘Well, OK, I have to get up and do this now or I’m going to be late for work and miss a meeting.’ Or, because my travel schedule, I just have to get up and do it, regardless.”
Part of Schaich's training is running 100 miles each week. She takes her training seriously, but she's also realistic about her chances.
“Oh, I have absolutely no chance at advancing. The goal is to make it," Schaich said. "People are like, ‘Oh, so you’re going to go to the Olympics?’ Absolutely not. The goal is to qualify.”