Stay-at-home moms feel like they are running a marathon every day, but Rena Elmer is literally taking it to a new level.
The 37-year-old Flower Mound resident completed the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on Nov. 9 in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 21 seconds – nearly five minutes below the minimum time of 2:45 to join approximately 500 other women at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta. The top three women and top three men will earn spots in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Though she ran track and cross country in high school and college, it was Elmer’s first time attempting to qualify for the marathon in the Olympics. That’s not too shabby for someone raising nine children, ages 11 and younger.
“I couldn’t believe how well 2:40 felt, but I also said: ‘I don’t want to do that again,’” she laughed.
Before starting her journey, she researched what it takes to train for a marathon including what to eat and drink and how much sleep to get. She initially started training last March but soon tripped on a sidewalk and broke her big toe which put her behind by two months.
She had previously trained in 2015, but– two weeks before– learned she had low-iron and dropped out. However, this will not be her first time in Olympic trials. She competed in the steeplechase in 2016 and finished 10th.
“The biggest challenge is, how do I do this without it consuming me and affecting my time with my family?” she said. The revelation she could [qualify] came while riding a stationary bike during cross training after her injury. “As long as you can balance everything, it will work out.”
Balance has been a key word for Elmer and husband, Will, since they married just six-weeks after meeting on an online dating site three years ago. That created a blended family, like the “Brady Bunch,” as each had four children from previous marriages and have since had one child together.
“It was one of those where you know it and it was just a whirlwind,” said Will, who was born in San Antonio, but raised in Washington. “It went against everything I believed in.
“When I was single and was dating, I said: ‘I’m not going to date anybody outside of the state, no one with more than two kids and we’re going to date for a long time before I can really make sure it is right.,” he said. “Immediately, when I saw her, I said: ‘I’m in trouble.’ ”
Elmer grew up in small town Beaver, Utah, and was living there when they met. It was tough for her to find dates in a town that was three-hours from Salt Lake City and three-hours from Las Vegas.
“When you’re a single divorced parent, you connect with single divorced parents,” Will said. “Just logistically, no matter how much you like each other, 70-percent of the time it wouldn’t work out, because of custody issues and things like that. But, in her case, she was free and clear and I gave her a good pitch. I convinced her I was an athlete and I liked to run. I didn’t realize there is a different level of running that existed in the world.”
While Will ran recreationally, Elmer had competed since junior high school. While a senior at Brigham Young University, she finished third in the steeplechase in the 2005 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Outdoor Championships.
Elmer focuses her training-time while the kids are at school; balancing cross training and utilizing the local YMCA for support. Will knew it was a once in-a-lifetime thing, so he provides additional support with cleaning, cooking and taking care of the children: Ryan, 11; twins Talon and Taryn, 10; Owen, 10; Oliver, 9; Emma, 7; Kenna, 6; Kissy, 5; and Kimber, 1.
Rena makes sure the kids are part of her workout on Saturdays. When she runs, they ride their bikes alongside, plus she puts the younger ones on her shoulders to do lunges or squats, or tosses them in the air, giving her quality time with them while working out.
Elmer also has maintained training calendars for the past 20-years detailing her workouts to hold herself accountable and compare her times to past seasons.
“If you just write your training down every day it is a big motivation to reach your goals,” she said.
Unlike the flat Indianapolis course, the one in Atlanta is riddled with hills, so she’s been trying to find any elevated surfaces in the area to train.
“It will be slower times for everybody because of the hills, but I’m excited because there will be so many elite runners and I am in better shape now than I was when I qualified,” she said.
Since qualifying she has continued working hard picking up about 10-seconds per mile and added five extra miles per week. She runs about 45-miles a week, compared to many who run 80- to 100-miles.
“I could put in the extra miles, but my priority is my family,” she said. “I want to be the best mom I can be, the best runner and the best wife. I’m trying to do it all.”