By: Coach Tom Clifford
Three exceptional women from Without Limits, Brittany Perkins, Peyton Thomas, and Erin Hogston all qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials which will be held on February 29th, 2020 in Atlanta Georgia.
BRITTANY PERKINS (30): Mother of Ruby Perkins, Wife to Matt Perkins and Works at Live Oak Bank as a Loan Operations Specialist
ERIN HOGSTON (39): Mother to Levi and Wyatte Hogston, Wife to Chad Hogston. Erin also works as a Real Estate Agent.
PEYTON THOMAS (24): Currently enrolled as a PhD candidate at UNCW in Marine Biology.
It all started after the 2018 Boston Marathon when horrible weather conditions at the event meant exceptionally challenging racing conditions allowing American men and women to place abnormally high compared to the international athletes who typically dominate the field. I received a call from both Brittany and Erin, who had recently run 2:53 (Erin) and 2:54 (Brittany) at the NHRMC Wilmington Marathon just a few weeks before. Both were inspired seeing Desiree Linden win the race and several American men/women and masters runners place in the top 10. All 3 of us met and went over what it would take to run under 2:45 to qualify for the US Olympic trials (also known as an Olympic Trials Qualifier or OTQ). I said to them, “you are both talented, and this will be a process, but with hard work, dedication and WORKING TOGETHER, it is possible.”
Brittany and Erin committed to their goal. Equally as important, their husbands were also on board. Family support is a huge part of achieving such a challenging endeavor as an OTQ! Brittany and Erin are committed spouses and mothers, so a significant aspect of the discussion was ensuring the sacrifices that were about to face did not negatively affect their families.
The goal race was Houston, January 2019. We had 9 months.
Erin (38 years old at the time) was going to need to drop 8:30 off her best marathon time and Brittany (29 at the time) was going to need to drop 10 minutes off her best marathon time. Significant goals for any marathoner, let alone runners who already posted sub-3 hour marathons.
As the first week in October approached, we kicked off the training program with the Run for the Ta Tas 5K. Both ladies ran impressive 5K times but it also signaled the reality that we had a lot of work to do. The hot, humid early fall made for difficult racing and training and we needed some cool weather. In the middle of the training cycle, Brittany ran a 5:30 pace at the Richmond 8K which was a huge confidence booster. However, Brittany injured her hamstring which turned out to be a nagging injury for several weeks in the training. Erin sprained her ankle earlier that August and she had to back off training for 5 weeks in the middle of the training schedule. Both athletes were going into unknown territory. Neither of them had raced even a half marathon under 6:20s, so now having to do it over 26.2 was daunting. Knowing that they had some obstacles in the first training plan with unexpected injuries was also nerve wracking.
We decided we would do an all women’s half marathon in early December. Most of the race was on gravel. Brittany had major digestive issues and Erin’s ankle was just not in the best shape even though she had hit some decent workouts. We got Erin on the Alter G for a few weeks but almost threw in the towel on Houston all together. I didn’t want her to race if she was going to injure herself more or run slower than her last marathon.
Finally we get to race day in Houston 2019. Brittany pulled off an unbelievable race and hit her OTQ in 2:44:15. She took 10 minutes off her best time. The biggest lesson for her was how much benefit she received from resting in the middle of training. The recovery played a key role even though she had some nagging pain in her hammy. Erin ran a 2:48:40 which was a 6 minute PR. Even though she was disappointed, she really took it in perspective and saw her opportunity for improvement. I honestly knew it was a long shot for both girls to take so much time off their previous marathon, but they raced up to their potential and we were all proud of that!
ALONG CAME PEYTON THOMAS AND LET’S NOT FORGET ABOUT ANN MARIE PIERCE
After Brittany got her time, now it was Erin’s decision on whether she was going to spend the next year training for another opportunity to OTQ. Along came Peyton Thomas, a Baylor University Graduate that began the PhD Program for Marine Biology at UNCW. In March 2019, Peyton ran the NHRMC Wilmington HALF Marathon in a blazing 1:15:20, only 2:20 off the A-Standard for the Olympic Marathon standard (in the half). After she ran that, she decided to go for the OTQ in the Full Marathon at California International Marathon (CIM) in December 2019. Ann Marie Pierce won the NHRMC Wilmington FULL in 2:48, motivating her as well to try to qualify. However for Ann Marie, she was blessed with getting pregnant, postponing her OTQ. With a new beautiful baby boy, Ann Marie will have to look to 2024:)
MOVING FORWARD TO CIM
A group of us began training for CIM in December. Erin and Peyton were our two elite women going for the OTQ. CIM markets and sets their race up for men and women to get the O
TQ standard – if you are close, you have a great chance. Between summer and fall, Erin battled a TFL injury. This is a girl who rarely gets injured, but that first marathon cycle was hard on her body. She learned her weaknesses and worked on them all summer, but it was mentally tough trying to get back in shape. I encouraged her and promised her that if she kept her drive, confidence, and grit and just kept believing in the process, she would achieve her goal. It is super difficult training here in Southeastern NC. Dewpoints keep temps and heat indices in the 90-100 degree marker, so we had to think outside the box for our summer build.
CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON
CIM weekend came, and it was like a bunch of caged animals – motivated, confident and ready to run fast. We were psyched! It was abnormally humid in California that day so hydration was going to be an issue. PEYTON QUALIFIED! In her first attempt, Peyton dropped a 2:42 and puked at the finish line. Peyton has so much more to give and I am so excited to see what she can do in Atlanta. Peyton is a full time student right now, so here “career” is still ahead of her. We are excited for Peyton. Erin came out just short at CIM. She ran a 2:46:30, another PR but not enough to qualify. Erin ran a hell of a race, however she started a little fast and she had a few issues with her nutrition at the water bottle tables.
THE NEXT 6 WEEKS
The flight home was time to reflect and time to think. I watched a hockey special about the Detroit Red Wings. It was all about the Russian 5 and how it took years to build up that team. When they should have won, they lost, but never gave up…then won 2 Stanley Cups in a row. THE LESSON? STAY IN THE GAME, WHEN YOU THINK IT’S OVER YOU ARE PROBABLY ON THE VERGE OF A BREAKTHROUGH!
I knew Erin could do it and she had nothing to lose if she decided to attempt the race again in Houston 2020. It was 6 weeks away. The most pressing question was how do you recover, build and taper AGAIN. Well, its tricky. We did a lot of research and talking. We began chipping away at workouts and communicating daily to see how everything was feeling. After 2 weeks, Erin decided she was going to try. She bought her flights and paid her entry. She had the CIM Marathon in her body as a big boost in fitness, and she had to be reminded that she was as fit as ever RIGHT NOW! We did some key workouts and 2 major semi long runs. She crushed everything, it was just enough but not too much. She had to be mentally and spiritually ready…….well……
Erin is on her way to Houston. She went alone, and we all had to bite our tongue because her husband Chad Hogston decided to show up Saturday before the race to surprise her with his support. That might have just been the icing on the cake……She executed a perfect race! Started out just as we planned and finished with a bang! 2:44:28. What an amazing story from a girl who grew up sprinter, and was a 400 meter hurdler at UNCW.
We are proud of all of our athletes at Without Limits. There is no question that TEAM and SUFFERING TOGETHER is the reason for success. Every day, we see regular people, husbands, wives, business owners, beginners, nurses, doctors, teachers, people who grew up foreign to running GET OUT THERE AND TRY! These ladies all started by TRYING and putting themselves and their goals publicly out there. If you are afraid of your goal, know that it might just be worth setting. You can’t put a timeline on it, just keep seeking it! Why not….you create your own reality of what you want to do. Ask God for guidance and strength and to give you the wisdom to take the right paths on your journey. If you do this…… You are WITHOUT LIMITS!
- This article was written by Coach Tom Clifford and edited by Kyle Phillips