Porath exceeds own expectations
Nichole Porath wanted to finish in the top 100 runners in the marathon at the Olympic trials Saturday in Houston and she exceeded her expectations.
Porath, a full-time financial analyst for Red Wing Shoe Co., ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours, 44 minutes, 12 seconds to place 69th. The time was her personal best even though she said it wasn't her best race.
"I didn't have the best day legs-wise," she said. "I could kind of tell I couldn't get them to move fast enough. Mentally, I was trying to make sure I was pushing as hard as I could."
Working a full-time job is tough enough, but Porath said the goal of qualifying for the Olympic trials was always in her mind. She just didn't anticipate doing so well.
"My goal was just to qualify," Porath said. "The whole experience was just awesome from the opening ceremonies to the actual race itself to just being able to compete with women of that caliber. It was surreal almost."
Porath's previous personal best was 2:44:46, clocked at the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth. That race qualified her for the Olympic trials.
She said none of her performance would be possible without help from the community and Red Wing Shoe Co.
During the height of her training, Porath averaged more than 90 miles, with two to three days of running twice a day, two to three days of strength work, stretching, diet and chiropractic care. In order to put in that many miles of running, she ran over long lunch breaks and used the running group at the Red Wing YMCA to pace her workouts. Runners were willing to help.
"I feel like the entire community has really come out to help make me the runner I am today," Porath said. "I wish I could communicate my extreme thankfulness to them for helping me push through those tough workouts. Honestly, who would voluntarily do repeats over a lunch hour? I feel like this is very unique and really showcases how supportive a community Red Wing is."
In addition to giving Porath longer lunch time, Red Wing Shoe Co. showed its support by sending Porath, her family and friends to Houston in the company jet. Without the jet, many members of her support team would not have made the trip to Houston.
Very few elite runners are able to maintain a full-time job but because of Red Wing Shoe Co.'s flexibility she succeeded in her racing goals. She was also pushed to success in the office, she said.
"My boss, Chris Gullickson, is a phenomenal leader and has been very supportive of the journey," Porath said. "But most importantly, I appreciated the fact that he expected as much out of me in the office as I expected of myself outside on the roads.
"Red Wing Shoe has been just fabulous with their support of my journey. I wouldn't have been there and compete at the level I am without them."
Porath's husband, Nathan Porath, also built Nichole up throughout training and putting up with her crazy pre-race diets, she said.
"I'm very, very lucky," Nichole said. "I talk running a lot and I'm sure he gets sick of it but he never says it. ... He's a competitive Nordic skier. He knows what it takes to excel athletically."
The two met as freshmen on the cross-country team at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., where they graduated in 2005.
The Boston Marathon invited Porath to compete as an elite runner this year because of her performance at the trials, but Porath said she will most likely pass because of an Achilles injury.
"I would have loved to have raced for top 10 American there," she said. "I will likely try at least one, if not two, more marathons in 2012 to try to break 2:40. I know I'm strong and fit enough ... I am very excited to see where my potential is as a marathoner."
Former Red Wing cross-country and track head coach Jerry Schaubach is trying to bring that potential out. A Red Wing Shoe Co. co-worker convinced Porath to call Schaubach.
"Since working with Jerry, I have taken off more than 11 minutes off my marathon time," Porath said. "I know I have the potential to take off much more."