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Kim Horner's Drive to the Olympic Trials

Updated: May 14

A person could argue that Kim Horner is running the Olympic Trials on Saturday because of a decision she made in a moving car somewhere on a highway in Montana nearly a decade ago.

That road-trip moment in 2015, in a vehicle full of friends headed west to run a three-day mountain relay, put Kim into her first marathon and on a path that ultimately drove her to Orlando, the site of this weekend’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the marathon.

“Everyone in my car was already signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon and they all encouraged me to join them,” the 35-year old Minneapolis resident remembered. “I signed up on the spot – on my phone in the backseat of the car.”

Despite a few curves and detours, her marathon journey has been speeding down the highway ever since.

Kim ran 2:56:25 in her debut at that from-the-backseat 2015 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and she almost immediately set her sights on an Olympic Trials Qualifying time – the BQ’s even more prestigious cousin.

“Thanks to my college coach [Macalester grad Yarrow Pasche], I felt like the OTQ was on the table as soon as I completed my first marathon in 2015,” the Luther College grad said. “I ran a little under 3 hours and knew it was too late for the 2016 cycle at that point, but I was excited about the marathon distance, and I was excited to run faster.”

Kim needed to squeeze some mileage out of that excitement, however, as a series of injuries kept her from targeting the standard during the 2020 Olympic window.

“I was consistently training and getting better, and I never gave up the idea that I would qualify at some point,” she noted.

Injuries in the rearview mirror by 2021, Kim clocked a 2:40 in Indianapolis. The mark was faster than the 2:45 standard from the 2020 qualifying window, but she and others were still waiting to see what the standard for the 2024 Trials would be.

“I remember texting my then-coach, Kyle Bennett, after the race that I could go faster,” Kim said. “A few weeks later, when the new 2:37 standard was announced, it was already in my head that I wanted to – and could – run that fast.”

And, at the 2022 Grandma’s Marathon she did just that, crossing the Canal Park finish stripe at 2:36:41 and punching her ticket to the Olympic Trials, despite describing the race as a “grind.”

“But I was so excited to be greeted at the finish line by my teammates that it was just overwhelmingly positive,” she remembered. “Doron Clark, who ran with me throughout the race, was right there, and Gabi Rooker, who had finished and qualified a few minutes ahead of me, was there too. It was so so special to take that next step forward with teammates by my side.”

Kim’s OTQ-level success in the marathon hasn't come at the expense of other goals and achievements in life. She’s currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and earned a Masters degree at the University of Oxford in 2018.

“I’m not sure there is any secret to balancing a full life,” Kim offered. “There have been times when there had to be some give and take, but I will say that I try to always prioritize sleep, health, and relationships. Those are three things that help me be my best self so that I can give my best to running, or my PhD, or coaching, or whatever goal I’m working toward.”

So how will Kim define success on Saturday in a field with the fastest women marathoners in the United States?

“I want to run my best race,” she said. “Regardless of place or time, I want to put together a race that demonstrates the physical and mental fitness I have been building. Part of that is execution – which means things like taking on fluids and nutrition, staying patient but tough, taking calculated risks, and working with a group.”

“Part of it is based on feel,” Kim continued, “which means holding on to the feelings of excitement and sparkle, being gritty in the tough miles, and leaving it all out there on the course.”

“Of course, I’d never turn down a PR!”

This article originally appeared in the The Connection, TCM's weekly e-newsletter. Subscribe here.


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