Persistence: Ricklefs goes from a marathon DNF to qualifying for Boston

Katie Ricklefs, formerly of Monticello, is all smiles after qualifying for the Boston Marathon during the California International Marathon Dec. 8. (Photo submitted)

Running the early stages of the California International Marathon in December is Katie Ricklefs. (Photo submitted)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     It’s possible to go from picking up a DNF (did not finish) in a marathon, to qualifying for the biggest marathon of them all.

     Katie Ricklefs knows this, because she did it. Her first marathon attempt, the Run For Troops event in 2013 that went from Dyersville to Dubuque, ended for her when dehydration on a hot day caused her to pass out after mile 25, or about a mile from the finish line.

     Undeterred, Ricklefs went on to run eight more marathons, and complete them all. In her most recent one, the California International Marathon in Sacramento Dec. 8, she finished with a time of 3 hours, 21 minutes, 55 seconds – fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

     “I’m super excited,” said Ricklefs, who graduated from Monticello High School in 2007 and now lives in Denver, Colo.

     To run in the next Boston Marathon, a runner has to be registered by September of the previous year. Because Ricklefs didn’t qualify until December, she will register in September 2020 and compete in Boston in 2021.

     Ricklefs said she began running when she was 5 years old, and her babysitter, Evelyn Paulsen, would let Ricklefs run from her home to Paulsen’s home in Scotch Grove.

     She ran for the MHS cross country team, and was a member of the Panther squad that finished third at State in 2003, when Ricklefs was a freshman. While her times slowed as she matured, she remained on the team, serving as a captain her senior year.

     “In Monticello I ran cross country and loved it,” she said.

     She played women’s soccer for two years at Coe College, but didn’t run for any teams there.

     “I ran for fun, just outside or in the gym,” Ricklefs said.

     She started trying to run longer distances, she said, just to see if she could.

     “I wanted another goal after college,” she said. “I thought, ‘Let’s just see how long I can run.’ ”

     A college professor had told her the human body wasn’t meant to run marathons.

     “That’s what I heard in college, so that’s what I had in my head,” Ricklefs said.

     She changed her mind after reading the book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” written by Christopher McDougall.

     “It teaches a lot about running, but more than that it taught me that we came from runners,” she said. “We were hunters and gatherers. We’ve been running forever to get from one place to another. I’ve always liked that thought.

     “I don’t believe (that professor) anymore after reading that book.”

     So, Ricklefs began creating training plans and running, first doing a half-marathon, and then entering marathons. The first one she completed was the Quad Cities Marathon in September 2013, just three months after the Run for Troops experience.

     She completed that one, then did several more. Eventually she started thinking about Boston.

     “It was only a year and a half ago that I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to try to do this,” she said.

     She ran in the Steamboat Springs (Colo.) Marathon in June 2017.

     “I finished in 3:47. I only needed 12 minutes cut off my time (to qualify for Boston),” Ricklefs said. “I thought, ‘I can do that.’

     “And then Boston lowered the standards for my age group from 3:35 to 3:30.”

     Knowing she needed an extra boost, Ricklefs hired a coach, Siobhan Pritchard from Steamboat Springs, in the fall of 2018. It paid off at the California International Marathon in Sacramento that December.

     “After training myself for so long, I thought I’d reach out for help,” Ricklefs said. “Having her, and then a little bit more focus on my part, I got a 10-minute PR (personal record).

     “With a coach, I was hitting paces I never thought I could,” she said. “It made me try harder. Once you see your hard work pay off, it makes you not want to stop.”

     She entered the California International again this Dec. 8, with the goal of qualifying for Boston.

     She worried when the weather forecast, four days before the marathon, called for rain and wind. But on the morning of the race, the rain had stopped and the wind had died down.

     “All the stress went away,” Ricklefs said.

     With five miles left in the race, she said, “my head was getting kind of foggy. But I’m like, ‘Just be careful, you can do it. If you stay at a certain pace, you’ll be OK.

     “At mile 23 I finally switched my watch to see total elapsed time, and I was like, ‘O my God, I’m doing this. I didn’t think I could do this.’ So I knew I could make it.”

     Ricklefs, 31, works for Transamerica Corporation in Denver, where she is a meetings and events communication coordinator. She has lived in Denver for three years.

     She has a boyfriend, Chris Yossi, whom she met at Coe. He now attends medical school at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

     “We’ve been together five years,” Ricklefs said. “We made it work, once a month and then during his breaks.”

     She will also stick with her running, focusing on Boston, and the 16-month time gap between qualifying and her April, 2021 race.

     “It’s going to be nice to have that amount of time,” Ricklefs said.



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