Feb 18, 2020

AnnMarie Kirkpatrick: From Hiking Mountains to Running in the Olympic Trials

By Amelia Green

It would be easy to assume AnnMarie Kirkpatrick is like many other runners. She ran in high school, took several years off from the sport, then picked it up again in her thirties in part because of her love of the outdoors. What sets Kirkpatrick apart is that less than five years after returning to the sport, she qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon.


For someone who did not run collegiately and picked up the sport between the births of her two children, 38-year-old Kirkpatrick found her stride. 


“I think that there’s a special connection that athletes have in whatever sport or endeavor when you just have this thing in you that wants to try really hard and get the best out of yourself. I think that naturally carries over into life and you just want the best for the world around you and the people around you,” Kirkpatrick said. 


Kirkpatrick works as an educational and adventure travel guide for a nonprofit called Mountains and Plains where she leads hikes in the Colorado mountains and in the canyons of Utah. Because her day job is physically demanding, she started entering local races as a way to get in shape. As she kept improving, she began to have more fun. 


“I didn’t really know anything about it. I didn't know what a Boston qualifier was. So it was something that turned into a lot of fun for me and I am competitive,” Kirkpatrick said. “The more I did it the more I wanted to do better.”


Kirkpatrick’s family, especially her younger sister Sharon Ceja, know firsthand how determined she is. 


“There was this one time I was running with her in Fort Collins and you're already running these huge hills at altitude and I said ‘Let me take the double stroller with the boys, let me try it!’ and I just thought to myself, how are you keeping up this pace?” Ceja said.


Kirkpatrick first qualified for the Trials in 2017 when she ran 2:44:45 at the California International Marathon. She then lowered her PR to 2:37:49 at the CIM in 2018 with her husband as her coach. 


The lessons Kirkpatrick has learned from running have even rubbed off on her kids. Her eight-year-old son taught himself how to ride a unicycle and documented his recent endeavor. Kirkpatrick said a recent entry in his journal read something along the lines of, “I have to be brave, I have to practice and put in the work, but most of all I have to be joyful about it.”


That is Kirkpatrick’s biggest triumph: showing not only her kids, but the world, that joy and hard work go hand in hand in living a happy life. Kirkpatrick wants to bring that same motivation to Atlanta in a few weeks. 


“My primary goal has stayed the same,” she says. “Do the absolute best I can and that’s what I've been working towards.” 


Leading up to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon, Atlanta Track Club partnered with the Grady Sports Media program at the University of Georgia to profile some of the competitors in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. The authors of these stories are undergraduate students enrolled in the program and have been lightly edited by the Club. See all of the stories at https://www.atlanta2020trials.com/news/uga-trials-project.