Mentally, Annie Bersagel is prepared to toe the line this Saturday and be one of the three women to make the U.S Olympic marathon team headed to Rio de Janeiro. It’s all or nothing for the 32-year-old international lawyer who juggles a full-time job as an advisor for KLP Asset Management in Oslo, Norway, with putting in 130-mile weeks in her spare time.
“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t feel like I had a chance to fight for it,” she says confidently about making the team.
And she’s right. Bersagel’s running career has been on the rise ever since her first marathon of 2:44 in 2009, a respectable time that has progressed to a competitive 2:28:29 PR, which she set in winning the Dusseldorf Marathon in 2015. In between, Bersagel won the U.S. Marathon Championships in 2013 and took another victory with a 10-minute PR improvement at the Twin Cities Marathon that same year. She’s also one out of eight women in the Trials field with a sub-2:30 qualifying time. She’s got a shot.
However, like every contender, Bersagel is wary of the physical elements she cannot control on race day. An unusually hot Los Angeles winter day with temperatures predicted to be in the 80s, and a course with multiple hairpin tight turns is not ideal for fast times.
“You know, I think time will be really hard to predict, especially with the heat,” she says. “And even the course is a little slower in general with all the turns. It’s going to look pretty ugly.”
Bersagel had knee surgery last June, and her recovery consisted of a lot of strength and stability exercises that she says she wouldn’t have done as much as before.
“This will be my first marathon since the surgery,” Bersagel says of her recovery. “But I feel I’m as fit as I’ve ever been. All I can do now is put myself in a position to make the top three and just hope that everything will cooperate.”
With a flexible work schedule (Bersagel says she’s been working at 60 percent and sometimes doing conference calls from home in her pajamas) she has been training mostly in her home state of Colorado the past couple months in preparation for the Trials.
You would think that the high mountain air provided some good altitude training, but unlike most of her fellow peers running at the Trials, Bersagel chose to train on a treadmill, especially after coming back from surgery. “I don’t want to take any chances and have my knee injury resurface,” she explains. During icy Oslo winters, she would also often do her long workouts on a treadmill or on the underground indoor track at Bislett Stadium.
Bersagel’s last attempt at making the Olympic marathon team did not fare well. At the 2012 Trials in Houston, she tripped in the first mile, pulled her hamstring and had to drop out of the race early. But this year, she’s looking for redemption.
Along with her agent, both her parents and brother will be supporting her along the course. And whether she does or does not make the team, she’ll be flying back to Norway the day after the race, arriving Monday and returning to a normal workday on Tuesday.
“I’m sure there will be a stack of papers waiting for me in the office when I get back,” she says. “I’ve been away a long time.”