Lauren Jimison on Faith, Joy, and the Pro Runner Life

Lauren racing Grandma's Marathon in a black race kit
Lauren Jimison on her way to qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials at the 2014 Grandma’s Marathon. All photos courtesy of Lauren Jimison.

The Olympic Marathon Trials are one month from today! We have lots planned to celebrate the big day, but we’re kicking it off by introducing you to one of the Trials competitors, an American distance running rising star named Lauren Jimison. At 25, she’s already a three-time marathoner and has a fantastic coach and club behind her back, and the most positive outlook on life you can imagine.

I had the pleasure to meet Lauren back in 2013 when I ran with the elites at the Gate River Run USATF 15k Championship. At the time, she was a recent graduate of Asuza Pacific University working for her alma mater and testing the waters of professional road racing. We kept in touch as she dove into running completely the next year, not only making the transition to full-time professional runner but also racing her first marathon, finishing with a 2:35 Olympic Trials “A” qualifier at Grandma’s Marathon!

As the Olympic Marathon Trials approach, I had the chance to ask Lauren a few questions about her running background, plans for the Trials and more. I hope she inspires you as much as she inspires me and that you’ll join me in cheering her on in L.A.!

Lauren racing on the track in college
Lauren racing on the track in college.

Why did you start running? What got you into marathons? You’re super young to have 3 already under your belt!

I started running because I loved and enjoyed the mile in P.E. and I was a soccer player who had a lot of endurance. It was an easy decision to choose running over soccer. But I continued running because of the love and support of my parents, coaches, and my support system. I believe that God has given me a gift to run and to use it to praise him and also to reach people. Running is such a fantastic way to connect with people. It’s been a source of joy for me and I’ve also built some of my closest relationships through running.

I am young for being a marathoner! I never intended to run a marathon this young, but, that being said, I said I wouldn’t run a marathon until I could race a marathon and train for it properly with intention. Once I joined ASICS Mammoth Track Club, Andrew Kastor, my coach, saw and believed in my potential to be a marathoner. He was intentional and smart with my adaptation to altitude and with my mileage and workout build-up. When he told me I would be ready to run a marathon a few months shy of a year of living in Mammoth, I was both excited and nervous. In my debut marathon, my goal was to run under the “A” standard and I accomplished that goal at Grandma’s Marathon in MN in 2014, running it in 2:35. What an exciting day that was! I crossed the line smiling and also being reassured that I was doing what God has called me to do: run.

What is your goal for the Olympic Trials marathon? 

My goal at the Olympic Trials marathon is to run to the best of my God-given ability, to place as high as I can, and give everything I have on that day. It’s going to be really exciting!

Lauren training with teammates Deena Kastor, Adriana Nelson and Alexi Pappas in Mammoth Lakes
Lauren on a training run in Mammoth Lakes with some running buds you may have heard of, Adriana Nelson, Alexi Pappas, and Deena Kastor.

When you decided to go pro, was everyone in your life supportive? What did you do to make to make this transition successful? What was the hardest part?

Thankfully, I have a wonderful support system and family! They were really supportive and so was the team I joined. ASICS Mammoth Track Club made the transition easy, providing excellent resources, support, and excitement about the sport. We’ve got something special going on here. I really feel grateful to be a part of our team.

I quit my job as a Resident Director and it felt like a leap of faith. When I graduated college, I had a running opportunity, but it didn’t feel like the right fit, so I decided to work as an RD at a Christian college near home. It was a tough transition for me. The job was a blessing and also challenging. I decided that I had more to give to running and that I wanted to dedicate myself fully to it with a coach and program. My college coach, Preston Grey, has also been a good friend and was on board with coaching me to my first half marathon. I raced to a top 10 finish at the U.S. 25k. After looking at different programs and talking to different coaches, my coach and team (ASICS Mammoth Track Club) were a wonderful fit for me! I started coming to Mammoth Lakes back in high school for a Christian altitude training camp and met Ryan and Sara Hall, who are now friends, and Josh Cox, who is now my agent. I told myself if I ever had a chance to train in this magical and beautiful place, that I would. I never knew that I actually would be training here!

Lauren racing in pink race kit
Lauren on her way to a 7th place finish at the 2015 USATF Marathon Championships.

What has been your proudest running moment? Your biggest obstacle you’ve overcome? 

My proudest running moment was definitely hitting the “A” standard at my first marathon. It was a wonderful first marathon and such a great experience! Another proud moment was winning our college’s first NAIA Women’s Team National Championship at Cross Country. I didn’t have much of a high school team, so being a part of a team was really special for me and winning a title as a freshman was REALLY exciting. I won’t forget that moment!

My running journey has been full of many things I can be thankful for! I have definitely dealt with some tough sicknesses at inopportune times, like this fall. I had a really bad stomach virus (I’ll spare the details). Sadly, it took me out of a fall marathon that I was really excited about. After gaining back health and strength, I prepared for half marathon and sickness took me out again in my taper week. But, the joy in that is I am now healthy and running strong and excited about the Trials. With the Trials being my ultimate goal, I’m really thankful. Sickness makes you rest and I strongly believe in rest and recovery.

What percentage of your running success is talent and what percentage is hard work?

I can’t tell you my percentage of talent, but I can tell you I work really really hard. While certain things can be tested scientifically, such as VO2 max etc., I really believe in working hard. At the end of the day, no matter how talented you are, hard work can’t be replaced. Talent alone won’t carry you to an Olympic medal; it also takes hard work, grit, and dedication. I know many talented athletes who I greatly respect, but who also work really hard!

Lauren and her friend and teammate Alexi Pappas after a recent training run.
Lauren and her friend and teammate Alexi Pappas after a recent training run.

What is the best piece of running advice you’ve ever received? If you could give one piece of running advice to our readers what would it be (and why)?

I learned a lot from the AIA High Altitude training camps back in high school in Mammoth and also from my college coaches. I’ve learned from athletes like Ryan and Sara Hall as well as my college coaches that putting Christ first is the most important … not just in my life, but also in running. My faith is really important to me and my running; if I put Christ first, the rest will fall into place.

Another piece of advice that was recently given to me was from my dear friend, Alexi Pappas. In the midst of sickness, we went to our favorite coffee shop in town and she said confidently, “Be kind to yourself.” Amen. What awesome advice. So, on my good days and bad days, I think … be kind. I will do my best, take it one day at a time, and find joy in this journey. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of opinions in running, but, I can choose to live joyfully and be kind to others and to myself. It’s really liberating!

Does anything in Lauren’s story resonate with you? How is running connected to your faith, if at all?

I'm a 20-year veteran of competitive running, USATF certified coach, mom of a toddler -- and still trying to set PRs. I write about training from 5k to marathon, motherhood and competitive running, and the elite side of the sport. The 5k is my favorite race (16:56 PR) but I've got a score to settle with the marathon.

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1 comment

  1. I love the advice to be kind. So many of us beat ourselves up for our imperfections which I think causes us to be judgmental of others. It IS very liberating to be kind to ourselves. It’s awesome she has that figured out at 25. It took me a lot longer than that 🙂