Ruth Perkins calls 2015 “a disaster of a year.”
It slapped her around, put her in a wheelchair and almost ended the Puyallup resident’s running career.
It definitely slowed it down, but not even the barrage of misfortune could keep her from finishing the Olympic marathon trials earlier this month in Los Angeles.
In 2014, she qualified for the Olympic Trials for the second time and she set some lofty goals for the race. She wanted to run the Feb. 13 event in less 2 hours, 37 minutes — more than three minutes faster than the personal best she’d run in the Twin Cities Marathon to qualify for the trials.
Fate had other plans.
Shortly after the ’14 marathon, she returned too quickly to racing and tore her left hamstring in a cross-country competition. As 2015 dawned, Perkins was recovering and feeling strong and fast when she headed out for some cross training on her Elliptigo (an outdoor elliptical bicycle). She fell off the contraption and broke her hip.
The injury left her in a wheelchair for six weeks and doctors told her it might end her running career.
Even scarier, about this time she found a lump in her breast. After a barrage of tests, doctors determined it was benign.
By June she was cross training again on her Elliptigo and gaining momentum when she was hit by a car and broke her wrist.
In August she was again training on her Elliptigo on a hill near Kapowsin when she tore her Achilles tendon.
“So most of my training for the trials was from September to now,” Perkins said. “I had no base to build on.”
Shortly before the trials she pulled her quad and irritated a nerve in her back, making most of her previous goals unrealistic.
“So my final goal was to finish with gratitude and I accomplished that one,” Perkins said.
Perkins didn’t finish the 2012 trials, so just crossing the finish line was a thrilling moment worth celebrating. Temperatures were in the 80s by the end of the race, slowing the pace for almost everybody in the field. Perkins had to slow her pace halfway through to avoid getting sick. She finished 120th in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 52 seconds. More than 25 percent of the field didn’t finish.
Perkins was back home recovering when we asked her to field a few questions:
Q: Are you taking some time off?
A: It’s been very common for me to have injuries after I run a marathon, so the goal for me is to take a month pretty much off. After the first week I’m allowed to jog lightly, but I’m not going to do any workouts or anything of quality for a month. Then after that we’ll see how my body is feeling and go down to a 5K training cycle and work on speed. But probably no racing for a while.
Q: Do you have a next race on the schedule?
A: After last year, I purposely left my race schedule completely open for the rest of this year until I get closer to things. I’ll add them as my body tells me I can do them.
Q: How did you get into running?
A: My girlfriends in school (Yelm Middle School) joined the track team. Being a low-self-esteem youngster as most 13-year-old girls are, I joined because I thought they were cool and I wanted to be cool like them. They put me in the 400- and 800-meter and I came in dead last every time. And I did not think I was good at it. … I started running more seriously in high school when I found out about this thing called cross-country.
Q: So when you are coaching what advice do you give your clients to avoid injury?
A: We never increase by more than 10 percent at time. And you never want to increase the intensity and the volume at the same time. So, you want to get the volume up first then pull it back and add intensity. It’s sort of this leapfrog approach. It’s kind of ironic. I’m pretty good at pulling my clients back. It’s definitely harder to pull myself back.
Q: Are the 2020 Olympic Trials on your list of goals?
A: It’s really hard not to think that far ahead especially with a disappointing performance at 2016. Disappointing but thrilling. … But it’s one of those things where my husband and I are going to have to talk about. Our kids are 7 (Gracie) and 9 (Ryan) and entering their prime of wanting to be more active. And there are a lot of sacrifices my family has to make for me to run at this level. And so we talked about 2016 being my last go, but there is definitely a part of me that can’t see it being my last go.
And so I’m not sure what that will look like going forward. It can’t be just me making this decision. If it was just me, I’d be, “Heck yes, I’m all in for 2020.” But I really do need to honor my priorities and keep my family first.
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