Athlete of the week: Katie Eberley, Elk River, Marathons: Going the distance

by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor

It won’t take long to summarize Katie Eberley’s high school sports career at Elk River. She didn’t have one.

“I was never in sports,” said Eberley, now a 34-year-old marathoner. “I was in DECA, and I did a lot of baby-sitting and liked to go to the cabin up north. My older brother Patrick was a pretty good athlete.”

Eberley, who took up running at age 26, led all Star News area entrants at Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June 22.  Shooting for a 3:40 to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon, she cruised to a personal best 3:26:33, ranking 875th of 5,613 overall and 150th among 2,342 females.

Katie Eberlie, shown here during this year's Boston Marathon, led all area runners, male and female, at Grandma's on June 22.
Katie Eberlie, shown here during this year’s Boston Marathon, led all area runners, male and female, at Grandma’s on June 22.

Bouncing back from a disappointing 3:42 at Boston two months earlier, Eberley became the first female to lead all Star News area residents in a marathon since the editors started keeping track. The field included 23 men and 21 women with Elk River, Rogers, Zimmerman and Otsego addresses.

“My family is totally shocked that I’m doing something athletic,” said Eberley with a chuckle, referring to her parents and three siblings. She added that her husband Mark is very supportive. The couple has two children.

The 1996 Elk River High School graduate’s first athletic venture occurred in 2004 when her sister-in-law Amy cajoled her into running a 5-miler with her on a Thanksgiving visit to Chicago, where her brother was in medical school.

Eberley struggled at the Turkey Trot but was intrigued. She registered for the 2005 Grandma’s with best friend Lindsay Marquette and started running 1-mile jaunts to a stop sign and back, then worked her way up to 5 miles. That was the longest she’d run before toeing the line at Two Harbors. She finished the 26.2-mile trek in four hours, five minutes.

“That was really good for a first time. And I loved doing it,” said Eberley. “When I crossed the finish line, I knew I was going to keep running marathons.”

The 5-foot-6 Eberley dropped about 25 pounds while gearing up for that race and has stayed right around 112 ever since.

“That’s a big reason I started running: I love to eat,” said Eberley, who lists cooking as one of her favorite things.

A St. Thomas graduate, she was in human resources with Target for a decade and is now pursuing a second career as a high school guidance counselor. She’s working on her masters at Abler Graduate School in Edina.

Eberley has done nine marathons — Grandma’s, Twin Cities Marathon, Minneapolis Marathon, Big Sur (in California) and Boston — and several half-marathons, twice earning Boston-qualifying times, a prime goal for all marathoners.

Eberley ran a 3:27:54 at TCM in 2011 to qualify for this year’s Boston  — and got her $100 fee back via a friendly wager with her brother, who was running his first marathon. Patrick’s time was 3:33:46.

The Boston race April 13, normally a singular thrill for any marathoner, especially a first-timer, turned out a painful experience, darkened by the terrorist bombs at the finish line. Eberley, who finished 27 minutes before the explosions, was “crying, off and on, all day.”

Along with that trauma, Eberley was vexed at her 3:42 time that failed to requalify her for the 2014 Boston. The late, harsh winter this year altered her training, and Boston was uncomfortably warm for runners that day.

Eberley stewed about it a few days, then decided to resume training and set her sights on Grandma’s.

Needing 3:40 to qualify for the 35-44 group (she turns 35 next month), Eberley was almost 14 minutes under and would have easily beaten the 3:35 standard for the 19-34 class.

“It was a picture perfect day to race, cool and overcast. I had a real good race,” said Eberley.

She will go for the hat trick this year with three marathons in a calendar year for the first time. She’s signed up for the New York Marathon in November.
“I love signing up for a race and the process of training for a marathon,” said Eberley, “and I also love that I am setting a great example for my children.”


Katie Eberley
Katie Eberley

Personal file — Age: 34 … Family: husband Mark; children Griffin, 7, and Sari, 2 … Sport: marathons … Occupation: currently pursuing masters for guidance counseling … Hometown: Elk River

Favorite stuff — TV: HGTV home improvement shows … Reading: Runners World; NY Times best-sellers …. Food: chocolate ice cream … Drink: flavored water … Athlete: Kara Goucher … Team: Vikings … Hobbies: boating, water-skiing