Benefield: El Molino grad Nicole Lane makes Olympic trials in marathon
And then there were three.
Nicole Lane, a 2012 El Molino graduate named The Press Democrat’s Cross Country All-Empire Runner of the Year as a senior before she went on to run for UC Davis, just ran her way into the 2020 Olympic trials in the marathon.
Lane, running in just her second 26.2-mile race, clocked in at 2:42:26 in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Sunday. The Olympic trials qualifying time is 2:45. With the feat, Lane joins the ranks of other local standouts: Sara (Bei) Hall, a Montgomery grad who on Sept. 29 ran the sixth-fastest marathon ever for an American woman with a 2:22:16 at the Berlin Marathon to qualify for the trials; and 2007 Maria Carrillo grad Alia Gray, who hit her qualifying time at the 2017 Chicago Marathon with a 2:34:25 finish.
“I don’t think words can describe it,” Lane said of crossing the line well ahead of the Olympic standard threshold. “Everything just fell into place. It felt super surreal and magical.”
Lane only has one other marathon experience to compare it to and Sunday certainly didn’t feel like her first-ever attempt, when she raced the California International Marathon in Sacramento last December.
In that race, she was cruising and on pace to beat 2:45 — until she wasn’t. The final three miles were the opposite of magical and surreal.
“I just kind of fell apart,” she said. “My teammates had to catch me at the finish line.”
And still, even in a race in which the wheels fell off, she was still tantalizingly close to the qualifying mark. She finished in 2:46:11.
So Lane regrouped. After all, she has had a lot of practice regrouping and bouncing back in this running gig.
After a stellar prep career in which she finished seventh at the CIF state cross country championship as a senior and missed the finals of the CIF state track and field meet her senior year in the 1,600 meters by just one place, she went on to run for the Aggies of UC Davis.
But her resume there has some holes.
“I was injured almost every single year, so I never felt like I got where I wanted,” she said. “I didn’t ever really have a full track season of being healthy.”
So when her collegiate career wrapped up, she considered hanging up her trainers.
“I didn’t imagine running post-college at all. I thought maybe my body couldn’t handle it,” she said. “I had a lot of stress fractures. I was getting frustrated. I’m so injury-prone.”
So when podiatrist and running coach Steve Palladino — who is based in Santa Rosa — called at the close of her senior year for the Aggies to see if she was interested in pursuing running post-collegiately, Lane wasn’t so sure. But she came around.
“I gave it some thought,” she said. “I said yes and I started getting excited.”
And for the most part, she has stopped getting injured.
Palladino runs a program based on a power meter for running, much the same way that cyclists use it to track power and watts in training. It was completely foreign to Lane, and not a little unnerving.