Three San Antonio women set to run in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Marathon Trials

Marathoners Anita Perez, Erica Kirkwood and Heather Oliva are training for February’s Olympic Trials

San Antonio – With the 2020 Olympic Games just over six months away, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials will be held over the next few months to select the delegates that will represent the United States in Tokyo. Three San Antonio women, Anita Perez, Erica Kirkwood and Heather Oliva all met the qualifying standard for the marathon and will be competing in those Trials February 29 in Atlanta.

Perez, 36, will be making her second appearance at the Trials, also qualifying in 2016 where she placed 33rd out of 149 competitors. She qualified for this upcoming Trials at the 2017 Chicago Marathon.

“I really wasn’t thinking about qualifying in Chicago it was like, ‘Okay Anita, you’re going to go there and you’re not as fast as you once were but you’re going to go there and you’re just going to finish the race.’”

Perez and coach, Gary Brimmer, admitted training leading up to Chicago had been less than ideal; Perez was dealing with a foot injury which prevented her from participating in some of her training runs. Brimmer, who has coached Perez for eight years, said he was confident she would run a sub-2:45 race.

“I mean I knew she was going to qualify. She didn’t. I said, ‘Can you run 6:20 per mile? Well, can you run 6:15 per mile?’ And I gave her that race plan and we adjusted.”

Brimmer says elite runners will tally upwards of 70 miles and train as many as seven days per week. Perez, a special education teacher, Kirkwood, an occupational therapist, and Oliva, a personal trainer, have been balancing their rigorous training schedules with careers and children. Kirkwood, a 33-year-old mother of two, said running has become a therapeutic outlet.

“The hardest thing was going out the door, but as soon as I get out there it was just like ‘Oh my gosh, I can breathe, I can focus on myself’ and that was something I was never able to do before I started running it was like my me time,” Kirkwood said. “Running made me a better mom and it made me a better wife.”

Kirkwood qualified for the Trials at the 2019 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, her third marathon.

“Right before the race I wrote down all of my splits on my arm so I knew exactly where I needed to be when I needed to be there and I did, I felt so amazing and I think it was really my confidence like in my head, I’m like, 'I’ve done the work – you’re here, you’ve got this,’” she said.

Like Kirkwood, Oliva, 29, is also a first time qualifier – doing so at the 2019 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Prior to the race, Oliva had battled hamstring issues and knew she would just make the standard, qualifying by 32 seconds. Like the other women, Oliva’s running career extends into college. She was a member of the University of San Francisco and Baylor track and field teams where she competed in the 5K and 10K. However, in the year and a half since she began training for marathons, Oliva says it has become her favorite distance.

“It’s that finish line feeling,” she said. “There’s no other feeling in any other race that I’ve ever gotten except for running in a marathon when you cross that finish line.”

Four hundred eighty-three women have qualified for the Marathon Trials next month with the window closing January 19.

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