Anyone who watches the Olympic Trials Marathon and knows Olivia Mickle will be hard pressed to not cheer for her. With her big, infectious smile and penchant for goofy socks, Olivia’s positivity shines through everything she does. Salty and I had the pleasure of chatting with Olivia when we were in Jacksonville and we couldn’t wait to tell you all about her!
Originally from Sacramento, California, Olivia ran cross country in high school to get into shape for soccer, but soon discovered a hidden talent that took her to Brown as a collegiate runner. “But I honestly don’t think I became a runner until junior year of college,” she says. “I was injured freshman year, didn’t really know what I was doing sophomore year, and then that summer going into junior year I ran higher mileage and everyone was like, ‘who the heck are you!?’”
She says that was the year she fell in love with running and it showed. In 2013 she ran a 33:29 10k, which set a new Brown record and earned a rank of 16th in the NCAA D1. She also had great success in the 5k, with a PR of 16:21.29.
After college, Olivia set her sights on Portland, Oregon. She moved there with no job; just an open mind and a positive attitude. She soon found work, although not the ideal gig for someone seeking to excel as a runner, and continued training while bussing tables at a restaurant. All the while she remained optimistic that she would land the job she really wanted:
I looked at myself and said, ‘I’m a Brown grad and bussing tables, but I’m living the dream! I’m doing what I want to be doing!’ I felt in control of my life. So I was in the restaurant business for a little bit but I spent the whole time building connections with people at Nike and really being aggressive about that. Last April I was offered a job and it’s been ideal. Nike’s so supportive and the resources and – they’re all about the athletes! They’ve been supportive to me not just as an employee, but as a person pursuing Olympic dreams, which is … you don’t get that [with most employers].
Olivia’s job is more than ‘just doing it’ though. Having a non-running career was important to her so she could feel like she had an alternative means to find success in her life. “It’s really been wonderful for me being able to have balance. I’m the type of person who needs more than running.”
Previous trials attempts
Olivia’s main goal in 2015 was qualifying for the US Olympic Marathon Trials! She put her hopes on making it to L.A. by running a “B” Standard half marathon of 1:15:00. As talented as Olivia is and even with her stellar collegiate running record, it didn’t come easy for her.
My first one was last January in Houston – it was my first half marathon – and I was really new to the professional running world and road racing. And it was a disappointment because physically I felt like I was fit to get the time, but I didn’t really know how to run a race, so I ended up doing 90% of it solo.
It wasn’t what I wanted [1:16:19], but I took a little break, stepped back and evaluated. Then I took another stab at it at San Jose Rock ‘n Roll, and I just felt like I had regained my sense of being an athlete, of being a runner, again. And I felt confident. Again, it was a really special opportunity, I was with three or four other women and it was just a very supportive pack, which I haven’t … that was the first time I had experienced that in the professional running world. So that was really special. And, you know, I didn’t look at my watch, I just kind of raced, focused on competing. I knew I was close, and then … you know … it had been an emotional week leading up to that with family stuff, so I really wanted to do it not just for myself, but [because of] things that had been going on. It was heartbreaking to cross the line in 1:15:25.
After a third near-miss in Las Vegas due to nasty headwinds, Olivia and her coach were not ready to give up. When they heard about the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon and the plan for 1:15:00 pacers, it was a no-brainer to book a trip to Jacksonville!
Olivia’s finish in Jacksonville was anything but heartbreaking. It was breath-taking! She wore the lucky socks her brother gave her along with her race kit and trademark top knot. In spite of the cold rain, she held on to her pacer Brianne Nelson and crossed the line triumphantly with a 1:14:15 – 45 seconds to spare! After the race, her huge smile told the story!
On her blog, Olivia wrote about the experience, “We were individuals, but we were a team effort. We were in a race, but we weren’t competing so much as we were supporting. I told myself ‘this is something special.'”
Olivia herself is something special.We hope you’ll join us in rooting for her at the Trials on February 13!