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How a 38-year-old found the will to become an Olympic runner.

May 15, 2000 -- You might say the odds are stacked against Christine Clark, MD, being an Olympic marathoner. She's 38 years old. She has two energetic, busy children -- 9-year-old Matt and 6-year-old Danny. As a pathologist, she's at the hospital at the crack of dawn. Her husband, also a doctor, works 60 to 70 hours a week. The kicker? Clark lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where the outdoor running season is only five months long.

Those of us who have jobs, young children, or both, know that finding time to maintain even a basic level of fitness can be hard -- so hard, in fact, that vacuuming and hoisting toddlers onto diaper-changing tables begins to feel like a real workout. But Clark, who works at the Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, has surmounted such obstacles and somehow made time for the biggest challenge of all: This summer, she will run the marathon for the U.S. at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Surprised? You're not the only one. In February, when Clark won a spot at the Olympics, she left many a shocked, highly ranked contender in her wake. Who was this woman from the great North, whizzing by despite an unconventional training regimen and a host of everyday responsibilities? Clark is one of those rare athletes who manages to be outstanding without devoting her entire mind, body, and spirit to competitive sports. She's a superior runner, but she's also got a life, which can provide great inspiration and valuable lessons to those of us who'd just like to fit a little fitness into our daily grind.

A Lifetime of Fitness

Clark's long been able to juggle a full life and fitness. She got a running scholarship to college and continued to run through medical school, residency, and two pregnancies. While most women find the idea of jogging with 30 pounds of extra weight and a bulging belly a bit daunting, Clark is nonchalant about it. "I did it for the whole nine months," she says casually. "It was really easy."

Still, her first 26.2-miler was only five years ago. She hadn't raced since college, and starting up after so many years wasn't easy, Clark admits. But she was able to squeeze it in.

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