NEW HARTFORD — It’s a long way from New Hartford, Connecticut to Atlanta, Georgia. Just imagine if you had to run the thousand miles or so to reach the Peach Tree State’s capital.
Well, Annemarie Tuxbury probably could pull off the feat given enough time. But she doesn’t have to. She made it to Atlanta figuratively and eventually literally by way of her qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials that will take place in “Hotlanta” next year on Feb. 29. The 25-year-old former standout at Northwestern Regional 7 High School and then Bryant College qualified for the trials by finishing as the second woman at the Vermont City Marathon earlier this year in a sterling time of 2:44:17. She qualified for the trials’ “B” standard; “A” standard qualifiers must run faster than 2:37 and get their expenses paid to the trials.
“It was certainly exciting and a huge accomplishment,” she said of punching her ticket to the trials. “I know very good runners who work so hard to run a qualifier, so I do not want to dismiss the accomplishment. However, I am not someone who likes to just participate in something, I like to compete. If I can compete well at the trials I will be more thrilled with that achievement.”
In high school, she showed enormous early promise as a runner, finishing runner-up in the Class M state meet her freshman year. She won the Class M title as a senior and was runner-up at the State Open that year, the latter a meet where the best high school female runners in the state regardless of the size of their schools compete. She won the steeplechase in outdoor track in 2012 and set school records in the 800-, 1,000-, 1,600-, 3,200- and 5,000-meter runs.
She went to Bryant University in Rhode Island, studying applied mathematics and statistics, and continued her running excellence. She was the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year after finishing ninth (and top freshman) at the Conference cross-country championships. She was hampered in succeeding seasons, yet managed to become the Bryant record holder in the steeplechase.
Tuxbury played soccer, swam and was a ballet dancer growing up. In eighth grade, she decided to run the Litchfield Hills Road Race because her older sister was running it. Her future was cast.
“I think my high school and college careers taught me to be resilient,” she commented. “After some quick success my first two years in high school I continued to have some success but didn’t really improve much and that continued through college. I learned if you just ride it out, things do get better. This is the same with a marathon. It is a long race and things will go south, but just keep a good attitude and you can come out on the other side and still have a good race.”
In high school and college, she explained, supporting teammates and motivating them resulted in some of her best races. “I remind myself how lucky I am to have good health and the time to do what I do. In a marathon, supporting your fellow runners and thinking about everything you are grateful for just keeps everything in perspective and a positive attitude.”
She thought back to her high school days. “My fondest memories are my teammates. They were the best people around. I think my cool downs from races with Philip Smith, my pre-race walks with Erica Misiorksi, and any run with Cat Beaudoin are my fondest memories.” Her best “race specific” recollection is being on a sprint medley team my sophomore year in high school for indoor track with Megan Lefever, Jenna Nardi and Janelle Barackto. “I just loved being on relays, specifically I really liked anchoring and our sprint medley was one of the best in the state that year and it was so much fun running the 800-meter leg and anchoring the team.”
Tuxbury ran her first marathon in November of 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. “I was getting frustrated with not improving as much at the shorter distances and wanted to try something new. I felt like I was dedicating a lot of time to running. I didn’t mind because I love to run. But I felt like my results were not justifying the time I spent running. I also thought I might have an outside chance at qualifying for the Olympic marathon Trials.” Quite remarkably, Tuxbury has run only two marathons, in Virginia and Vermont. She finds the marathon to be a completely different beast than the half marathon and shorter races, and she has had to adjust her race strategy.
“I like to just run hard from the gun, but you can’t get away with that in a marathon. You have to have a good idea of your fitness and execute good pacing and use restraint in the early miles. Also, fueling in a race is very important, something I do not think about for shorter races. I have been lucky enough to have the support of UCAN (an energy food and drink company) as I prepare for the trials and has really helped fuel my longer runs.”
Ironically, given what she has already accomplished, she feels that between the years 2011 and 2017, her progression as a runner was slow or non-existent. But, the last two years have been “incredible.” She said, “Since I ran my Olympic Trials qualifier at the Vermont City Marathon, I have improved exponentially. I still see myself as a 17:14, 5-kilometer runner, as that was my personal best result up until January of 2019. But that is a slower pace than my half marathon now.”
Tuxbury believes in order to be as competitive in the marathon as she would like at the trials, she has to get stronger and improve in the half marathon. “My training progressed from running about 65 to 72 miles for my last marathon to now averaging around 80 to 85 miles a week. When I qualified for the trials, my half marathon personal best was 1:17:20. It is now 1:12:39. I went from having a long term goal of being a competitive runner in New England to now being competitive for a top 10 finish in most races in the U.S., all in the span of about 18 months.”
Amazing, right? She logs a long run on Sundays of between 16 to 20 miles with some marathon pacing inserted. She puts in a somewhat “easier” run of between 14 or 15 miles on Wednesdays, and does a track workout or hills on Tuesdays and a tempo run or another track workout on Fridays.
“For the trials, I plan to just keep doing what I am doing,” Tuxbury observed. “I plan to add some double runs to my weeks to hit some 100-mile weeks. I also want to do some hilly long runs and a hill workout every other week to prepare for the hilly course in Atlanta.” She will use a half marathon on Jan. 19 in Naples, Florida as a tune-up race and where she will gauge her fitness.
Training in New England is no blast, maybe an arctic one, but not a whole lot of fun. “It is very hard in the winter. When I go to work and leave it is dark out, which means every run is dark, cold and sometimes slippery. I have gotten some sort of injury every winter for the past four or five years. So this year I plan to utilize the treadmill more often at the YMCA.”
Of course, there have been gate keepers, helpers, and inspiring individuals along Tuxbury’s long and winding roads.
“Andy Campbell (Northwestern Regional 7 coach) brought on my current coach, Ray Lapinski, as an assistant coach when I was a sophomore in high school. Ray coaches me now and has been instrumental to my success. My family has been really important. They are so supportive. At almost every race I have a family member there, whether it is my mom, dad, sister or a brother. I am thankful I have family and friends that bear with me when they ask me to go somewhere or do something and I say, `Sure, but I need two hours to get my run done.’ My Milford Road Runner teammates are wonderful. They have been so supportive since I joined the team and are fun people to be at races with. I’m also thankful for the support of the Woodbridge Running Company, as well as UCAN.”
Tuxbury tries to spend as much time as possible in New Hartford, being very close to her family, plus she simply likes running in the town. “I usually spend three nights a week in New Hartford, sometimes more as I have the ability to work remotely and I have an apartment in Newport, Rhode Island. The company I work for is located in Middletown, Rhode Island.” She works full-time as a data analyst and programmer at Warren Rogers, where she monitors underground storage tanks at gas stations across the U.S.
It’s likely Annemarie Tuxbury won’t have any shortage of fuel anytime she laces up her running shoes to compete in the coming years.