Fitness: A Treadmill Mom Goes for the Gold (cont.)

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.

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."

The Road to Sydney

On the day of the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in Columbia, S.C., last February, the thermometer soared to a stifling 84 degrees. The field was packed with runners who had better times and bigger names, including Joan Benoit Samuelson (the 1984 Olympic champion and world-record holder) and Anne Marie Lauck (a two-time Olympian), as well as Kristy Johnson and Libbie Hickman, both of whom had run under the 2:33:30 qualifying time in other marathons.

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