Meagan Nedlo: Everything Comes Together
by The Trailer
SALEM, Mass. – Growing up in the town of Pittsburg, Tex. (pop. 4,500), Meagan Nedlo ran track and cross country. She also played volleyball and tennis. And she cheered. Then there was the marching band (clarinet). And “a couple other things,” she says.
This Sunday, Nedlo, 30, races the Philadelphia Marathon as part of the women’s elite field, for which she’s trained to do one thing: run 2:38, a three-minute hack off her best set at the Olympic team trials in January.
Everything came before one thing, because this is how it works for high school sports in a small town: teams and clubs pull everyone from everywhere to assemble a full squad, and “everyone pretty much [does] everything,” she says. So she ran, along with clarinet and tennis balls and pompoms, and when it was time to go to college she left it all behind.
“I always felt that if missed [running] I could walk onto the team,” Nedlo says. “But I never did.”
She went to Texas Christian University on academic scholarship—not athletic—and lived a normal college life. She ran sometimes, and sometimes she ran 19:30s for 5Ks with her father when she went home to visit. There was no running-shaped hole in her life because running had never really been that important.
But an interest in fitness led to a job in a running store—“It seemed more fun than working at Arby’s,” she says—and as time went on, Nedlo found herself becoming more and more involved with the sport. She continued after she graduated, working a few other running industry jobs and living a few other places as a byproduct of her ambition. She thought about a marathon.
It was boyfriend Jordan Kinley, a 2:24 marathoner himself, who suggested she contact a college buddy of his who used to run professionally. Maybe he could coach her. So Nedlo corresponded with her new coach and dreamed of a sub-three-hour marathon.
Her coach had other ideas.
“I noticed immediately that she had a huge aerobic engine and capacity for training for someone who hadn’t run at a high level in college,” says Jeff Gaudette, a former Hansons-Brooks Distance Project athlete who was then coaching at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C. “[But] more importantly, she had a tremendous work ethic. The pieces were all there and I knew it would only take a few months of structured training for her to take her running to the next level.”
Nedlo was in the parking lot of a running shop when Gaudette, over the phone, said, “Hey, so I’ve got an idea I want to run by you. How would feel about quitting your job and moving to Charlotte?”
The offer was a grad scholarship to run for D-II Queens, and for Nedlo, “There were so many parts of that sentence that were so nonsensical,” she says.
She was living in Atlanta at the time, working for her second shoe company as a technical representative. She was 25 years old. And it was 2008; you were lucky if you were just able keep the job you had.
“But as I thought about it, it was just one of those things that seemed just so crazy it might work,” she says.
She ran 2:45:00 in January of 2011; at the marathon trials she ran 2:41:06. And on Sunday she races Philly.
Philadelphia stood out for a number of reasons: It’s an honest, fast course with good weather and a well-developed elite program. It’s within driving distance from her home just outside of Boston.
Then there’s the timing.
“The last two years I’ve been training for races in January,” Nedlo says. “My hardest workouts were on Thanksgiving, on Christmas, and on New Year’s—20-mile progression runs, or something terrible. [Philly] just sounded a lot better.”
It’s part of her long-term goals, the next step toward a sub-2:35:00 and a spot on a Pan-Am Games team.
“But I don’t know,” Nedlo says. “Four years ago I never thought I was going to be here, so it’s hard for me to even speculate on what I could do even two or three years from now.
“I’ll be 33 at the next Olympic trials. Despite being really old for life”—and she laughs—“it’s not that old for women runners. That’s so far away, but I look at where I was. Everything came together.”
Meagan Nedlo is the the national field marketing manager for Karhu Running. She has a 2:41:06 PR set at trials, where she was 49th. She hates pumpkins and nature. You can follow her on Twitter and read every workout split on her blog.