Catching up with Carrie Tollefson

Mar 21, 2008 at 2:35 p.m. ET

With the Beijing games just five months away, many athletes' Olympic dreams are about to become realities. Among them is distance runner Carrie Tollefson, who is gunning to qualify for her second Olympic team at the USA Trials this June. She is one awesome athlete.

Carrie TollefsonAnyone who follows the sport of track and field is sure to recognize Carrie Tollefson's name. The 31-year-old has been at the top of the sport since she was a high school phenom in Dawson, MN, in the 1990's. Tollefson has since continued to dominate the distance events and competed on the track at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Now recovering from a near-career-ending abdominal injury, Carrie Tollefson is in hot pursuit of her second Olympic bid, to be determined at the USA Olympic Team Trials in June. recently caught up with Tollefson as she took a break from training in her home base of St. Paul, MN, where she lives with her husband Charlie.

INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE TOLLEFSON (SK): First off, you are getting over a major injury and ensuing surgery. Tell us a little bit about that.

Carrie Tollefson (CT): Basically, I'd been struggling with major pain in my stomach, hips, and lower back since the Athens Olympics in 2004. Finally, last year, I went to a doctor in Philadelphia who told me that my abdominal muscles had torn off the bone. He went in last April 11 and tightened the muscle attachments to the bone and also loosened up my adductors as well.

SK: Sounds gruesome! That kind of injury isn't common to runners, is it?

CT: No, actually the doctor who treated me said that he mostly sees similar injuries those who play sports that cut, or take sudden, sharp turns, like hockey, basketball, or football. Obviously, you don't do any of that in distance running, but my injury did result from trauma—I was running one day outside in Minnesota and tried to hurdle a snow drift, but ended up accidentally doing the splits instead, and that strain caused the damage in my stomach.

SK: This isn't your first injury—you were also diagnosed with a benign tumor in your left heel and have had a few other setbacks in your career. What has been your main source of inspiration that allows you to keep plugging?

CT: I definitely feel like I have the Comeback Kid title in this sport. Every time I face a setback, I just get fired up to go out and prove to everyone that I can rebound. A lot of people will say, ‘oh, she's done for, she had a great career,' but I want to show them what I'm made of. I want to go there and see what I'm made of and reach my full potential. Perseverance is something I really believe in—I do think you can persevere through any valley.

SK: And you certainly weren't about to give up on running in an Olympic year, were you?

CT: Not at all. At the closing ceremonies in Athens, I remember thinking I can't wait to go to Beijing. My first time at the Olympics was more about soaking in the experience—I was in pain and and my performance lacked. This time will be about getting the job done. I've seen a number of friends on the podium at major events, like the world championships, and I'm ready for my turn. I want to be there, too.

SK: You're a spokesperson for produce organization Minnesota Grown, which stresses the importance of buying—and eating—local produce. As a runner, do you find it's beneficial to stick to a mostly organic, local diet?

CT: Definitely. A lot of runners struggle with anemia and rely on supplements to boost their iron levels. But I'm a true Minnesota girl and love my meat and potatoes! My grandfather was a farmer in here in Minnesota, so I know how nice it is to get produce right here from our state. Of course, I slip up now and then and don't always eat 100% organic, but I certainly try to look closely at the labels and determine the best and healthiest choice.

SK: With running being your fulltime job, you probably don't have too much time for anything else. But how do you like to spend the spare moments you do have?

CT: Well, for starters, I try to go out dancing any chance I get. I've never had a drink of alcohol in my life, but I can still get crazy! I'm usually the first and last person on the dance floor. I'm a girly girl and love getting dressed up to go out—but at the same time, I'm a total athlete and actually feel the prettiest when I'm running. Actually, I believe all women athletes are at their most beautiful when they're out there sweating and grunting and slogging through miles.

Keep up with Carrie Tollefson's Olympic Games pursuit on her online journal

And if Tollefson has got you inspired to get outside and log a few miles of your own, make sure you've got the right clothing and gear—and training habits.