When I sat down to interview Molly Bookmyer in a local café, I felt like I was sitting across from a human sunbeam. She is so positive and upbeat; it was refreshing and contagious. The core of her running is her community—from her husband, to her family, to her coaches, friends, and several local runners. Bookmyer’s greatest goal in running is to give back to the community that has given her so much.
Bookmyer has been running for as long as she can remember. She walked onto Ohio State University’s cross country team in 2009, at the encouragement of her dad and coach. Although only a senior in high school at the time, Bookmyer had already struggled with injury and almost gave up the sport. However, the universe had a lot left to throw at her.
In 2013, Bookmyer was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After suffering from side effects stemming from the tumor, she had surgery to remove it in January 2015. After two months of recovery, Bookmyer developed hydrocephalus and underwent emergency brain surgery in April 2015. Bookmyer resumed running that fall and ran the Columbus Half Marathon in October 2015. However, that November, she had a seizure on a treadmill at the gym and woke up in the back of an ambulance.
By her wedding in 2017, Bookmyer had been given a clean bill of health and finally felt like herself again. Days after returning from her honeymoon, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Bookmyer spent several months being her husband’s caretaker while he received cancer treatments. Bookmyer leaned into running during that time, and she coached herself to run a 2:46 at Grandma’s Marathon in 2018. At that point, Bookmyer decided to hire a coach and go for an Olympic Trials Qualifying Time. Along the way, Molly placed 3rd in the 25K championships behind Emma Bates and Sara Hall in May 2019.
When did you decide to go for an OTQ?
I hired a coach after running my 2:46 at Grandma’s Marathon. I thought that since I had coached myself to a 2:46, if I hired a coach and did some fine-tuning, I could easily drop a minute. So I reached out to Tim Flahaven at Fleet Feet, and he connected me with my coach, Rob. We all work together, and it feels like a little family.
Going into Grandma’s Marathon, what was your goal? Did you have any idea you’d be so close to an OTQ?
I was just trying to PR. My goal was sub-2:50. I knew I would be pretty close because I had just run a 1:18 at the Cap City Half Marathon. Honestly, if I had gone into the race with the mindset to OTQ, I probably would have been able to do it. I fell into a pack of 10-15 women who were trying to OTQ, and it was the best experience ever. There were a couple of guys in the pack helping, too. The pack was so supportive, and we took turns leading the pack and blocking the wind. It’s honestly still one of my favorite races because of the purity of everyone working together and helping everyone try to reach their own goals. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wins because we’re all just trying to get our best times. While you’re running a marathon, you’re trying to help other people reach their goals, even if that means you won’t reach your goal, and that’s incredible. Runners are special people.
In which race did you OTQ?
Houston Marathon in January 2019. I attempted to OTQ at CIM that previous December, but I ended up dropping out due to stomach issues. It was my first DNF and also the best decision at the time. A month later, I got my nutrition straight and went to Houston to try. And succeeded!
How did you prepare differently for the Trials as compared to other training cycles?
I actually did not run for ten weeks from August through October 2019 because I was diagnosed with a sacral stress fracture in mid-August. My first run back in October was only 2 miles. I couldn’t just hop back into it. I had to take the time completely off and couldn’t even cross-train because everything aggravated my injury, including walking. It was so frustrating and painful. Once I recovered from that, it was a very slow build-up. I worked primarily on building back strength and mileage. Once a week, I cross train. I bike about 90 minutes and do an interval workout to keep my heart rate up. I also did a lot of physical therapy exercises to address muscle weakness which caused the fracture.
Do you have a goal for the Trials?
My goal is to leave the race healthy so that I can have a strong spring racing season. My stress fracture changed my goals a bit. However, the last few weeks I’ve had some strong workouts that I’m happy with. I may be able to PR.
Do you have a mantra for the Trials?
Commit. It’s all about committing to the plan, believing in myself, and knowing it’s going to hurt. And when it starts to hurt, commit to myself that I did all the work and I deserve to be here. You work for the pain. So you have to commit to yourself, commit to finish the race, and commit to do your best.
How have your previous setbacks affected your road to the Olympic Trials?
I see running as a journey and not a goal. Of course, I have goals every race, and winning is ideal. But when I race, I go out to be my best self on that day.
Do you have any fun pre-race rituals or quirks?
I actually eat at Chipotle the night before every race. I know I can get the same meal no matter where I may be in the country!
How did it feel to run alongside running celebrities in the 2019 25K Championships?
Emma and Sara were running their own race. They were gone right out of the gate. So I was running with a pack behind them. After the race, the winners had to be drug tested, so we were all hanging out in a little tent waiting to pee in a cup. Sara had to catch a flight, and I remember telling her she could go ahead of me. I never thought that would be my favorite part of a race, but it was fun just being with them in a small space and interacting with them on a personal level!
Who is a runner you look up to the most?
I look up to all the pro runners like everyone else, but I am most inspired by everyday runners. I am most inspired by the people out on the trails everyday who have full time jobs and balance running with everything else they have going on. They’re out there trying to be their best, just like anyone else.
Thank you, Molly, for sharing your story with us. We can’t wait to watch you commit in Atlanta!