Randolph Runner Eyes 2020 Summer Olympics

Marathoner Roberta Groner, 41, will compete on Feb. 29 at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta.

Roberta Groner ascribes her ability to compete at age 41 to her break from running. “Making my comeback with fresh legs made a huge difference,” she says. Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser

Following a strong collegiate running career at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, Roberta Groner soured on the sport. She quit running in 1999.

“I didn’t have the drive for it anymore,” she says. 

Groner became a nurse, married, and had three sons. But something was missing.

“I wanted something to do on my own,” says Groner, now divorced. “I rediscovered running.”

In 2011, Groner ran her first marathon. Two years later, she broke three hours at the Boston Marathon. It was time to get serious.

A native of Pittsburgh, Groner moved to Randolph in 2014. The Columbia Trail, Saddle River Park, Peapack and the George Washington Bridge were her preferred training grounds. Brooklyn Pizza in Ridgewood became a favorite treat.

On February 29, the 41-year-old will toe the line at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, aiming to qualify for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Her 2:29:06 personal best at the 2018 Rotterdam Marathon qualified Groner for Team USA at the World Championships in September in Qatar. The run began at midnight, with temperatures above 90 and high humidity. She finished sixth with a 2:38:44. 

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“We did a lot of heat acclimatization, but as we deplaned, it was like breathing through a straw,” says Groner. “Ice headbands maintained a perception of cool, and I used little mantras each lap.”

Oddly, she credits her break from running for her success in Qatar.

“The 10 years I wasn’t running saved my legs from the pounding,” says Groner. “Making my comeback with fresh legs made a huge difference.”

Groner—now a full-time nurse and single mom to her three teenage boys—doesn’t take any supplements, eats “pretty healthy,” and relies on physical therapy and massage to help keep her ready for each race. She needs to finish in the top three in Atlanta to make the Olympics.

Training consists of up to 110 miles per week and interval workouts—sometimes at 5 am. 

Once again, she has a mantra: “Be anxious of nothing and grateful of all things.”

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