New Marathoner Sprints Toward 2016 Olympics

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UCLA Newsroom wrote a feature on Chemistry & Biochemistry undergraduate student, Emily Gordon, who is seeking to compete in the 2016 Olympics.

UCLA Newsroom (Emilia Barrosse): Less than a year ago, Emily Gordon was a junior biochemistry major at UCLA aiming to become a lab researcher. Now, she’s being scouted to compete in the 2016 Olympics as a marathon runner.

That’s an exceedingly fast-paced career change for anyone, but it’s supersonic speed for an athlete who ran her first marathon less than a year ago. How did her life suddenly change tracks?

Gordon, 21, recalled that she has always been athletic. She was gymnast for 9 years growing up and ran cross-country and track for all four years in high school.

“I’ve been just constantly moving my entire life,” said Gordon.

But it wasn’t until Oct. 21, 2013, that she decided to run her first marathon. At UCLA, she joined the triathlon team — an athletic student club on campus — and a group of her friends from the team decided to run in the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco.

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Emily Gordon

Gordon has decided to train hard for the Olympics while also starting her career in a research lab after graduating from UCLA.

Gordon had no lofty goals for her performance in the marathon — she just wanted to finish and enjoy the journey.

“I didn’t want to think about the finish line,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t a race for me. It was enjoying every mile and making sure to look around and be a part of the crowd and smile.”

But Gordon ran the marathon much faster than she intended and surprised herself as well as some coaches. She finished in first place in just 2 hours and 51 minutes. (Consider that the record for the fastest marathon run by a woman was set in 2003 at 2 hours and 15 minutes). At this point, not only had Gordon never raced a marathon before — she had never trained for a marathon.

“I got into the green room before the awards, and Joan Benoit (a Team USA marathon legend who won gold in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles) was the person giving out the awards,” said Gordon. “She said, ‘Hey, you should really think about qualifying for the Olympic trials. You could really do it if you just put a little work in.’”

That’s exactly what Gordon did — with a vengeance.

The Olympic trials, as it turns out, will be held in Los Angeles on Feb. 13, 2016, which gives her around 18 months to train. To get into the trials, a runner must achieve a time of 2:43.00, called the “B-standard.” To receive funding from USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee), a runner must achieve the A-standard time of 2:37.00. Gordon ran her second marathon in Huntington Beach in February and got a time of 2 hours and 39 minutes. It qualified her for the B Level Olympic Trials.

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To read the rest of the story, please visit the UCLA Newsroom.