Women Runtrepreneurs: Carrie Tollefson of C Tolle Run

As a Minnesota native, I have always had a special interest in fellow Minnesotan Carrie Tollefson’s career. After a stellar collegiate running career at Villanova, she represented the 2004 U.S. Olympic team in Athens, competing in the 1500m.

Since then, Carrie has been busy as an ESPN2 analyst as well as a commentator for high profile races such as the NYC Marathon and last year’s Olympic Marathon Trials. More importantly, Carrie hosts a popular web series C Tolle Run along with a weekly podcast. Recent interviewees include Shalane Flanagan, Emma Coburn, and Gabe Grunewald. I admit I’m a huge fan and there’s nothing more motivating to me than listening to Carrie’s interviews out on the run.

Carrie also dedicates a lot of her time to encouraging the next generation of runners. Every summer, Carrie hosts a four-day competitive training camp for boys and girls in grades 7-12. In February of this year, Carrie was awarded a special merit award at National Girls and Women in Sports Day Minnesota. This award is given to individuals who are highly committed to breaking barriers for girls and women in sport.

I was excited to get the chance to chat with her about her running, the status of women’s race coverage, her goals, and of course all things Minnesota!

Pumpkin (SR): Tell me about your new podcast! As a faithful follower of your web series, I’m interested to know why you decided to start podcasting? What do you hope to accomplish through your podcast that is different from your web series?

Carrie: Thank you so much for following C Tolle Run! We love having faithful followers like yourself. We have had a blast the past six years bringing health and fitness to life through our different platforms. We loved bringing the videos but we thought that maybe it was time to try something different. We can always go back to videos and we have ideas of doing more but right now we are putting our energy into the podcast. All three of us at C Tolle Run want to make sure we are hitting all of our followers and podcasts are blowing up so we thought we should try it as well.

If you are a follower of our show past or present you know I dare to be different and so I said IF we do this podcast, can we try something different. So we are doing most of our interviews sort of “on the run” or when we are working out. It is still new and it has been winter here so we haven’t had a ton but we will do most of our interviews while I am working out alongside our subject. It is the best conversation you will ever have with someone and I wanted to bring that to our listeners. So if you do listen while working out you will feel like you are on a run with us!

SR: You have had the opportunity to cover a lot of high profile races, such as the NYC Marathon and the Olympic Marathon Trials. Do you think women’s races have been covered as well as the men’s races?

I do think women’s races have been covered as well as men’s races. Sometimes logistically it can be hard to have cameras in the right spot at the right time, but I do know from all of the producers I have worked with, they try really hard to make that happen.

I think coverage is improving and I feel very fortunate to have people that are continually trying to make our sport more known and viewer friendly. From being on the inside now I see how hard it really is to make it all happen so I am quite impressed with how they can pull it all off.

SR: Do you feel like there has been a shift in the attention paid to elite women runners in recent years?

Yes, I think we are highlighting the women’s races equally as much as the men now.  There has also been a big shift in the number of women racing and watching our sport. When you have the same if not more women racing in our half marathons and full marathons and when we have had such great performances on the World and Olympic level, it would be a shame to not showcase women runners of all abilities.

SR: What trends do you see for the future of race coverage?

I think we are heading in the right direction with how we are building our “shows” and with who we have in the booth. I am always fighting for more female voices, but when you look at the NYC marathon and their coverage we have just as many men as we do women commentating and I am so thankful for that. Not that it has to be 50/50 but I do think having one female voice is important. I can’t explain what life is like as a man but I can for a woman and especially now with so many mothers competing I think it is important to have that mix in the booth.

SR: Why do you think the average runner should care about elites?

I think we have a unique sport where we all get to run in the same events and start on the same starting lines but I also think that all of us runners that aren’t at the elite level can really appreciate the amount of work that goes into being elite. There might be some genetics as well but it is pretty amazing to see the determination, focus, drive, and talent that comes into play and just like any sport it is fun to marvel at.

That being said, I think it is pretty neat that the masses can sort of relate to the elites in our sport. Not many people can relate to being hit by a 300 pound linemen, doing a reverse dunk, or swinging at a pitch going 100 miles-per-hour, but we can say we lined up with Wilson Kipsang who has broken 2:04 for the marathon four times or run in the same race as the first female Olympic Gold Medalist in the marathon, Joan Benoit Samuelson. That in itself is pretty cool I think!

SR: You recently won a merit award during “National Girls & Women in Sports Day Minnesota” for breaking barriers for girls and women in sport. How do you see yourself continuing your work in this area?

I have always tried to be a good role model and someone that is accessible for any runner, especially the youth. Anyone who has ever met me or communicated with me knows I am just an email away if there is anything I can do for anyone. I hope to continue to be like that because I have had so many people that have offered their advice or services to me.

This sport has such a sense of community and not just among the elites. It is with all runners and I so appreciate all of the support I have been given throughout my career and I certainly hope I show my support in return. That being said, anyone can reach me through C Tolle Run or my camp website at carrietollefson.com. I am always willing to help!

In terms of breaking barriers, I don’t know if I really think of it that way but as I get older I see the value in having both men and women that are strong, confident leaders in my life. I see that we need people in our lives that are goal driven and positive people in order to help us achieve our goals and dreams. I hope that if someone looks at my character or my career, they see just that, a goal driven and positive person that want lives a strong and confident life.

SR: As a fellow Minnesotan, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you some very important Minnesota-centric questions.

SR: Fill in the blank: Duck Duck

Carrie: Gray Duck

SR: Tater Tot Hot Dish: Yay or Nay?

Carrie: YAY!!!! Love that!

SR: Have you ever eaten a salad that was comprised primarily of Jell-O and Cool Whip?

Carrie: For sure! Usually I stick to just the Jell-O and Cool Whip though. Skip the addition like marshmallows or fruit. Two delicious and super healthy ingredients! Ha.

SR: You wrote about turning 40 in a recent blog post and, not surprisingly, you have some pretty impressive running and non-running goals for yourself! You want to run a sub 1:20 half and a sub 3:00 marathon. Are you training for any races right now? You have also taken up downhill skiing. Have you mastered the slopes yet?

Not training for a specific race yet but soooo need to. I don’t know why I haven’t picked one yet and I am sort of on a slippery slope right now so I need to get off of it. I can see where people get stuck in just doing the same old routine and I have to put something on the calendar so I can get fit again. That being said, ask me again in a few months and I should have something brewing!

As far as skiing, yep, I have officially become a skier. One would think the natural progression for someone that has avoided skiing with fear of injury would be to take up cross country but nope, we went all in and decided to do downhill.

It has been a blast and I am so thankful for the I Will Ski program that Afton Alps provided. I learned very slowly but it was the best thing for me. I highly recommend it and anyone that participates get a free pair of skis at the end of the four-week program so how cool is that!

I can tell I am getting a little better because my theme songs aren’t on repeat in my head the entire time I am skiing anymore. I had three: “Livin’ On a Prayer”, “Wipe Out”, and “Jesus Take the Wheel.” I think that says it all as to how I felt while skiing the first few times. Getting after it now though!

***

I have loved following Carrie’s career over the years, and her continued commitment and passion for this sport. Carrie’s work ethic has extended beyond competitive running and I have no doubt she’ll keep working to (as Carrie would say) “Get After It.”

Do you follow C Tolle Run or listen to her podcast? What are your thoughts on Tater Tot Hot Dish?

I'm a college mental health counselor, runner, cyclist, wife, and mom to two strong-willed children. I started running in 2011 after the birth of my last child after years of love-hate relationships with fitness. My favorite distance is the half marathon, but I love the challenge of tackling the marathon. My biggest challenge is the mental aspect of racing, but my greatest strength is I'm stubborn and never give up! I'm a free spirit, an open book, and try to be authentic both in real life as well as in my internet life. Running has given me a place to face my fears, chase goals, and stay humble. Side note: I love cats and coffee and tacos.

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3 comments

  1. I have heard a couple of great interviews with her recently and have it on my list of shows to try – thanks for the push! As for that casserole? No way!

  2. We are big fans of CTolleRun! Her interviews are fun – and I love the concept of “going out on a run” with Carrie and others. Who doesn’t want that experience? While I live in Minneapolis and have heard of the Hot Dish, I am from Ohio – we just call it a casserole! 😉 Thanks for the great write up!

  3. Great interview! Thanks for the chat Pumpkin and Carrie. You’ll have to share with me the MN stuff when I visit. I’m clueless – well, except for the jello thang.