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Fitness & Exercise

A Treadmill Mom Goes for the Gold

How a 38-year-old found the will to become an Olympic runner.
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Squeezing More Training Into Less Time

While most competitive marathoners log 100 or 120 miles a week, Clark puts in just 50 to 70 miles, plus one session of weight training. When the temperature gets Arctic and the roads are slick and icy, Clark simply laces up indoors, bounding along to nowhere for about an hour and a half each day on her treadmill. To stave off boredom, she cues up movies in the television and VCR. And winter isn't all bad, she says; she fits in valuable cross training by cross-country skiing. Sometimes, that means taking her boys along.

Working around the kids' schedule can be a challenge. During the day, they're in school and then day care until 6:30, so when Clark gets off work she can fit in a run before picking them up. In winter, the kids participate in "Junior Nordic," a program that teaches young children to cross-country ski, and again, Clark skis right along with them. During the summer, the boys play soccer, and Clark admits that then the time-juggling gets more problematic. (She can hardly jump onto the field and join in.) Often when she heads outdoors to run, she takes her kids along in a double jogging stroller.

Make Exercise Non-Negotiable at Any Age

As her adaptable training regimen suggests, Clark doesn't let exercise slide because of busy schedules or stress. "It has to be of paramount importance," she says. "Even when I was a resident [read: overworked and exhausted], I made the time to go out and run three times a week, even if it was only for short runs."

She gets laced up for those runs all on her own -- that is, you won't find a nagging personal trainer or a stopwatch-wielding coach masterminding her exercise regime. John Clark (no relation), a local high school cross-country coach and friend, chalks up this kind of self-propelled determination to her age. While Clark's 38 years would seem to be an impediment -- most of her competitors are in their 20s -- it may be one of her greatest advantages. She's focused, John Clark says. "She knows what she wants to do, and she's got the confidence to go out and do it."

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