Weber still chasing Olympic dream
Officially, Anna Weber’s path to a second run in the Olympic Trials for the marathon was 26.2 miles.
In reality, the journey for the 2006 Michigan City alum was much, much longer.
“It’s been a rough three years,” Weber said, reflecting on the time period between the 2016 Trials in Los Angeles and her runner-up finish in the recent Philadelphia Marathon. “A lot of stuff happened. I had setback after setback, but everything came together. In professional running, nothing’s guaranteed. That’s why it meant so much. It validated all the hard work, the sacrifices I’ve made the last three years.”
After Los Angeles, Weber dealt with a knee injury that didn’t take her out of running but slowed her times for about a year. She then went through a stretch where she battled anemia. Last winter, she battled an illness that for months went undiagnosed until the cause was finally determined to be mold bubbles in her basement.
“I was really sick,” Weber said. “I was struggling to get my body to the level of training I needed. Once we got the mold out, it was night and day. I was back to my old self.”
Weber hadn’t cleared her last physical hurdle though, as she had to work through a hamstring issue in the spring.
Undeterred, she kept her sights set on Nov. 18 in Philly and her goal of making the 2020 Trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta.
“A lot of people think it’s just running,” Weber said of marathon preparation. “I have to take a nap every day, do core work, strength training, eating right, making sure I’m eating enough food and the right food, and timing it correctly, while running 100 miles back.”
Even Weber’s trip to Philadelphia didn’t go without incident. Ice storms on the East Coast re-routed her flight to Baltimore, and she had to drive the rest of the way to meet up with Tim Bumber, her coach at Michigan City with whom she still trains.
Race day temperatures peaked at 33 degrees, reminiscent of her college days at Marquette, exacerbated by unrelenting winds.
“The next coldest marathon I’d run in was about 55 degrees,” Weber said.
Despite the conditions, Weber rolled through the flat and fast opening 10K at a pace of about 5:50, below the six-minute mark she’d set out for herself, and hit the halfway point at 1:17.08.
“It was perfect for my goal time of 2:35,” she said. “It unfolded exactly as I hoped.”
That’s when the course started to work against her.
“It was hillier than I expected,” Weber said. “I would have trained differently if I had known it was going to be that hilly.”
The cold also exacted its toll.
“I think I became hypothermic,” Weber said. “Tim saw me around 15 miles and he said I looked really cold. After the race, I couldn’t stop shaking, shivering. My body was not super happy with me. It took me about a week to get back to eating right and feeling good again. We had wanted to make a trip out of it, but we had to cancel dinner reservations for that night. I was really sick.”
Nonetheless, Weber crossed the finish line in 2:40.11, comfortably under the 2:45 standard and good for second overall to Ethiopian Serkalen Abrha, who won in 2:32.52. Weber was over two minutes ahead of the the next finisher.
“I was five minutes off my goal, but I was still really happy,” Weber said. “I fought really hard that second half. It wasn’t quite the finish I’d hoped, but based on everything that happened, I’m much better shape than my time indicated.”
Weber’s back home in Indianapolis, where she supplements her running contract salary from Oiselle by doing online coaching and selling skin care products for Rodan and Fields.
“The hardest part is finding a balance,” Weber said. “It’s easy to say you’re tired from training and will give up your social life, but if your life is just running and nothing else, it’s hard to be successful. But if you go too far the other way, it’s hard to be successful, too.”
Soon she will be collaborating with Bumber, who also does online coaching, on her race plans leading up to the Trials. Marathoners typically do one or two such races a year, so she will mix in some shorter events, possibly joining the U.S. Road Racing Circuit, to help with her speed.
“I’d be lying if I said I don’t wake up every day wanting to be an Olympian,” Weber said. “You don’t train this workload and put the rest of your life on hold to not chase a goal.”