This runner finished a marathon at Olympic pace. She’s 50.


It’s odd to think Molly Friel might not be in her prime.

She is, without a doubt, an elite-level runner. She can (and has) finished marathons in less than three hours. That’s a pace of just over six minutes a mile.

At the California International Marathon in December, the Fresno runner finished in 2:43:57 — a time that qualifies her to compete in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials.

She is the second-oldest woman ever to qualify for the trials, according to a profile in Runner’s World. Sister Marion Irvine earned a spot at the 1984 Olympic Trials at age 54, though the times needed to qualify at the time were minutes slower.

It’s not the first time Friel has qualified for the Olympic trials. She ran in the 2004 team trails, placing 87th out of 107 runners, including bronze medal winner Deena Kastor. She qualified again in 2016, coming back from a series of injuries that prevented her from running in 2008 and 2012.

“I started back running in my mid-20s and ran the Olympic Trials when I was 36,” Friel told Northeast Neighbors in 2016.

“It took me a good 10 years to find the groove, I guess.”

She keeps that groove by running a lot — like 60 miles in a bad week — even if she doesn’t get up at the crack of dawn to do it, according to the breakdown of her training in Runner’s World. It’s light on stretching, which she can’t stand.

If Friel is extraordinary, she isn’t unique. In 2011, a study found that older runners were as physiologically economical as their younger counterparts, according to the New York Times. Older runners can still be (and are) fast, especially over long distances. For instance, Ed Whitlock became a bit of a rock star in the running world when he finished the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3:56:34 at age 85.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Private vs. public: 6 ways private and public school differ 
Private vs. public: 6 ways private and public school differ 

For parents of preschoolers right on up to those with high schoolers eyeing the all-important college admissions game, the decision to attend private versus public school can be a weighty one. And you can't even rely on long-held assumptions about the merits of each. A recent Time piece asserted that sending a kid to private school could actually save...
College students moonlight as ‘grandkids’ for hire
College students moonlight as ‘grandkids’ for hire

When Andrew Parker’s grandfather began suffering from dementia three years ago, his grandmother had to start taking care of the house and caring for him. It was hard work, and one day, Parker got the idea to hire a college student to help out. “I said, ‘Hey, can you go hang out with my grandfather and make him a sandwich or something?...
The Piedmont Park 2018 schedule: festivals, concerts and preservation
The Piedmont Park 2018 schedule: festivals, concerts and preservation

Bought in 1834 for $450, closed to traffic in 1983, and today the 189-acre crown jewel of Atlanta green space, Piedmont Park is an Atlanta icon. Centrally located in the heart of Midtown, it’s big enough to host our largest concert and festival productions, and versatile in its offering for families, young professionals and day-drinking...
Faith calendar

Basketball league: Boys will be able to improve their skills and have fun during a summer basketball league. Sessions will include warm-ups and rotating scrimmages. Open to boys in kindergarten through second grade. Registration is $90. 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays, June 26 and July 10-24. Dunwoody United Methodist Church, 1548 Mt. Vernon Road, Dunwoody. 770-394-0675...
Sometimes, the most powerful answer is silence … or kindness
Sometimes, the most powerful answer is silence … or kindness

I scrolled down her phone to read the string of ugly messages received. From insults to Bible verses, the communication chain made me angrier by the second. Self-righteousness, hypocrisy, anger, misinterpretation — each bubble in the chat window showed someone very different from the person I thought I knew. On the other side of the table, my...
More Stories