Monday, February 24, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Kristen Briglia

Kristen lives in a town adjacent to me, but we met through randomness instead of mutual running friends like you'd expect!  I was pacing a friend for 22 miles of the April 2019 Frisco Railroad Run Marathon (with the race director's permission), which is an out-and-back race that includes several different distances.  When the half marathoners were coming back as we were headed out, the leading woman looked strong and fast, which I thought was odd because fast people generally don't travel to run that race and I thought I knew all of the fast women in our area.  I later saw her hometown listed as Springfield in the race results, and thought, "I need to invite her to run with our group."

Fast forward to June 2019, when I was in the finisher area after Grandma's Marathon. I saw the woman again, and in my post-race weirdness I went up to her and asked if she was from Springfield and invited her to train with our competitive women's group - and at some point also told her how I recognized her!  She'd run a 2:55 at Grandma's so I asked her if an OTQ was on her radar as we got to be friends.  We don't get to train together that often, because we live far enough apart to eliminate work morning runs as an option, and because we work with different coaches, but we communicate often.

I'm blessed to have added her as a local running buddy, and she's a wonderful voice of encouragement to others.  She's had to contend with far too many injuries her past few seasons, but she is a hard worker and I admire her tenacity to go for it.  Even more, I admire her faith.  She is a talented athlete with a lot of marathon potential still to come!
Name: Kristen M. Briglia
Age: 34
City/State: Springfield, MO
Occupation: Sr. Art Director for the White River Marine Group at Bass Pro Shops Corporate Office

Hobbies/interests outside of running:
Cycling, hiking, fishing, boating, etc.—anything that gets me outside; playing with my fur-baby; cooking; health & fitness; strength training; friends & family; art; music 

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try?
So, there’s kind of an interesting back story to this question. Running marathons was never something I thought would be my forte. I was a middle-distance runner growing up, had run several half marathons, and the furthest I’d ever ran at one time was 17 miles. But I wanted to run a marathon just once to check it off my bucket list. I didn’t care how fast I was or if I had to stop at all. I just wanted to do it. Once. You know, to say that I did it. So, December 1, 2018 I ran my first ever marathon in my hometown at the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. It was HOT and humid at 70 degrees and sunny. Gotta love that mid-south weather. I thought I might finish around 3:45 maybe 3:30 at best. I finished at 3:25 getting me a BQ. I was pretty stoked about that. First ever marathon, did way better than I expected AND got a BQ which was a dream come true. I remember the first time I thought about running a marathon and looking at Boston thinking how cool it would be to do that race, but man I’ve got to qualify first—no way, I’ll never be fast enough. Funny how God likes to surprise us. 

So, then I met my now coach who wasn’t even a friend at the time, he was just my doctor, and he explained that I needed to run a couple marathons in 2019 to get ready for Boston 2020. My first was Grandma’s. He and his wife let me tag along with them on their trip up to the race. My training was going really well. I was excited. They thought I could easily hit 3 hours or maybe even less. I thought, no way. If I get 3:15 I’ll be happy. I had so much fun on that course. I felt great, the weather was awesome, and the view was gorgeous. I finished in 2:55:25 making it a 30-minute PR. I couldn’t believe it. Wow! Not too bad for my second marathon.

I met Sara after the race as I made my way to gear check. She told me about a group of fast runners that she trained with back home and asked if I wanted to join them. During our runs together, Sara told me about her quest for the OTQ. I had never thought it was something I could go for if not for Sara’s encouragement and enthusiasm. And so it began. 
Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes. 
My first attempt was supposed to be at Twin Cities in October 2019, however, injuries sidelined me for most of the fall. I could only cross train on the bike for quite a while until I gradually got well enough to start increasing my fitness on the Alter-G treadmill. CIM 2019 was going to be my fall back race, but instead it become the next big goal. I figured it would be at least a PR seeing as everyone talks about it being such a fast course with a 350ft elevation drop.

However, I was not feeling very confident going into that race. I was very undertrained and just not feeling on point. A large portion of my training was done on a bike and the Alter-G, and my longest run going into that race was only 20 miles a couple weeks before the race. Nevertheless, I toed the line ready to give it all I had. Which I did. The first few miles flew by, I was on pace and feeling good. Then, around mile 8 or so, my left knee flared up. I had been having random flare ups of inflammation here in there in my buildup, and here it was again. I was worried about it becoming a major issue, so I slowed the pace. Even still I PRed in the first half at 1:25. I was excited. If I could just hold this pace and step it up in the last 3-6 miles then I had a chance. If nothing else, I could at least hit my second goal which was 2:50. That didn’t happen at all. I lost it. I lost sight of every goal I set for myself and landed with just finish. My body was not having fun with this and I had to fight for every mile. I saw my goals slip away, but told myself it’s ok, you still have Houston. You have another shot. I finished in 2:57:55.

I was so upset, I cried the whole walk back to my hotel. It’s not in my nature to give up like that. What just happened? Well, I didn’t listen to my coach for one. He told me the best plan to reach my goals, and I didn’t listen. I was so down on myself. I had just spent all this time and money and totally failed. But then a very good friend and my coach reminded me that I just finished in under 3 hours in my third ever marathon which was on the goal list. A goal much lower on the list, but a goal achieved non the less. I love the way my coach put it, “You’re a marathon infant still — you’re learning.” Haha I still laugh at that. It’s so true. It’s hard for me to grasp that sometimes because I’ve been running for over 25 years now. Me, an infant, no way. But it’s true for marathons. I’ve only just begun. 

So, after CIM I was ready to do it right at Houston 2020. I wasn’t sure I could get the OTQ, but I wanted to go out for 2:50 and see what happened from there. Things were going really well. I was FINALLY getting into my groove and it felt soooo good. I was getting excited about this next and final attempt. On January 1, I was scheduled for a 14 mile progressive fast finish. These fast finishes hadn’t been my strong suit. In high school track, this wasn’t something my coaches taught us. But, I was pumped. I just knew I was going to nail it this time. Around mile 4 or 5 I started feeling a tug at my previously injured ankle and now the heel. I wasn’t really hurting too bad and was really wanting to nail this workout so I ignored it (word of advice, NEVER, EVER ignore your body). I pushed through it until the 10th mile and my body wouldn’t go any further. I was 3 miles from my house and walked home. I was super grateful for it being a sunny day so that I didn’t freeze and get sick on that walk home. I wanted to cry. Why is this happening again? I was sidelined…again! It was not good. I could barely put pressure on it the next day. I laid up on the couch, working from home with my foot on ice all day.  It was somewhat better after that, but still I reverted to the crutch. A few days later I talked to my coach and we decided the best plan of action was to drop out of Houston and focus on getting my body healthy and strong again. And just like that, my pursuit was over. 
What did you gain from this journey?
So. Much. Knowledge. Not just about marathoning, but about myself. I learned that first and foremost, you HAVE to listen to your body. That’s so hard for us runners. We just want to run all the miles. But when your body is aching, it’s trying to tell you something and cross training on the bike here and there is nothing compared to being completely sidelined. I am becoming a much better listener.

I’m also learning a lot about how important solid nutrition and sleep is to my performance. It’s amazing what I have been able to do on so little. I’m looking forward to balancing those variables and seeing what else I’m capable of when I’m properly balanced. At the beginning of 2019 I started a quest to solve my acne issues. I had tried everything else and was now on food. I did a very strict elimination diet on my own and got way too lean (7% body fat). After the stress of no food while training for Grandma’s and now training for an OTQ, my body started shutting down. I lost my period. I was moody. I wasn’t sleeping enough. By mid-August, my ankle hurt so bad I couldn’t run on it anymore. Come to find out, I had a stress fracture and tendonitis. This side lined me for a few months of rehab before CIM, and has come back to haunt me a couple of times since. I’m still working through the aches and pains as I get stronger and build back up. I have also since been working with a sports nutritionist to balance my body back out. Looking forward to a new normal this year.

I also learned that when your coach sets a plan for your race, you should listen to that too. Because I mean after all, you’re working with him because you trust him and he knows what he’s talking about. Don’t go rouge. At least not until you get closer to the end. Then you can maybe go against the plan if you’re feeling good. But not at the start.

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit?
I’m proud that I tried at all. I wasn’t nearly as close as many others were, but you never know what you are capable of until you try. I’m also pretty proud that I was able to run a marathon in 2:57 after recovering from two injuries and with only about 5 weeks of real training.

Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit?
Regret is one of my least favorite words—it’s so negative. I try to not look at things that way. We can’t change the past any more than we can predict the future. All we can do is work on right now. So that’s what I’m doing. In baseball they call it DTD (day to day) when a player is injured and they aren’t sure when he’ll be back on the field. I call it a way of life. Because I don’t know what’s coming, but every day I can try my best and give it my all to be better than the me from yesterday. Sure, I could sit here and think What if this, or I should of that, but really that does nothing but add stress.

And honestly, I’m glad things happened the way they did. I learned a lot. I needed to learn these things to be better, stronger and faster. So for me, I always say No Regrets! Instead, as my dad always tell me, adapt and overcome. And put your trust in the Lord. It's hard because we just want to run all the miles and reach our goals. When you feel that frustration and that anxiety, remind yourself that however awesome and huge your hopes and dreams are, God's plan is a thousand times better than that. Take a deep breath, let that sink in and allow His peace to set you free.

What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits?
None of this is possible without the strength, determination and drive that the Lord has blessed me with. All the Glory goes to Him. I am so thankful for every stride. 

To my family, friends and co-workers, thank you for all your support not just in this pursuit, but in all my running adventures. You have endured my crazy and cheered me on. It truly means the world to me.

A special thanks to my coach and friends, Dr. Marshall and Kimi Reed, I’m so thankful and blessed to have you both in my life. Thank you for all your advice, guidance and encouragement. Thank you for pushing me through many hard workouts, and for letting me tag along on your travels to races. Looking forward to many more great times together.  (
Thank you, Sara for sharing these stories. So inspiring. And thank you for all your guidance, encouragement, and sharing of faith. I am so thankful to have met you and in such a unique way (creeper, haha jk).

A few of my favorite scriptures and quotes:
  • "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." –Isaiah 40:31
  • "Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and mind." –Psalm 26:2
  • Don’t let perfect get in the way of good. — You may not have reached your goal, but don’t let that get you down. There is no failure, only growth. 
  • The devil whispers, “you can’t withstand the storm”. The warrior replied, “I am the storm”. — With God as our strength we can do anything. Trust in Him. 
  • If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. - Martin Luther King Jr.
Tell us something unique about yourself. 
I’m scared of the dark, and most of my training is done in the early morning hours before the sun comes up. Thankful for God’s watchful eye and for headlamps. 

Also, because most of my runs are done solo regardless of time of day, I run with my 9mm strapped to my chest. I worked with a friend of mine who makes gun holsters to create something that I could comfortably run with. It’s awesome, I love it and I feel much safer with it. You should never sacrifice your safety. Please at least carry mace. I have pulled my weapon on more dogs than people even in the best of neighborhoods. Bad things can happen anywhere to anyone. Are you prepared? 

Visit to order— I included a picture of my first one. I have a newer version now that you can have for running, biking, or hip carry.
What’s next for you?
I’m trying to get healthy and strong enough for Boston in April. It’s been on my bucket list for some time now. I will go into it undertrained, but plan to just have fun and enjoy it rather than push myself too hard trying to race it before I’m ready (lesson learned from CIM). If things are feeling good enough in the last 10K, I’ll give what I’ve got left, but I just want to enjoy the experience.  I also plan to keep working towards an OTQ for 2024. 

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