Running is a sport that can be enjoyed on many levels.
You can be a young star zipping around a 400-meter track like those who shined on the blue oval at Drake Stadium in last weekend’s Drake Relays. You can train long and hard for that next 5K, 10K or marathon — like many of those who participated in the Run CRANDIC Marathon and half-marathon on Sunday.
You can jog around your neighborhood or head down a wooded trail just for the pleasure of being outdoors, the joy of moving.
Danika Simonson of Iowa City is all of the above.
A native of Clifton Park, N.Y., who ran collegiately at Columbia, the 27-year-old Simonson was the top Eastern Iowan at the Boston Marathon earlier this month, covering the 26.2-mile distance in 2 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds despite having “a bit of an injury.”
She was hoping to run around 2:50, inching closer to a qualifying time for the 2020 Olympic Trails.
Her best is 2:53 and she has to run a 2:45 to meet the “B” standard for the trials.
She’s serious about her training and running — “always chasing that next PR (personal record), that next great thing.”
But she’s not that serious.
“I still consider that a hobby,” she said, then added with a laugh “it’s just an extreme hobby.”
If you’ve ever put one foot in front of the other and picked up that pace just a bit mile after mile after mile, you can relate. Running long distances can be addictive, turning an “Average Joe” into a “Marathon Man.”
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Running can consume your thoughts and control your decisions. What day will I do speed work? What day will I run long? How can I fit in a run on vacation? Will I take a day off?
Been there and done that — and so has Simonson, who took a year off from running after college because she was “burned out.”
She has some major goals in front of her, but keeps it all in perspective.
“I just love running with people,” she said. “It’s such a huge stress relief.”
And racing can be fun, too.
“Everyone is doing the same thing, everyone is doing it together,” she said.
But, at the same time, “everyone is completely different.
“It’s a real cool community.”
Simonson’s “next great thing” — besides trying to earn a spot in the Olympic Trials — is earning a “six-star” medal for completing all six major marathons. It’s called the Abbott World Marathon Majors and, as of last year, 3,786 runners had earned the “six-star medal.”
Simonson has run four of the six — the aforementioned Boston, as well as New York City, Chicago and Tokyo. She will run the Berlin Marathon in September and complete the series at the London Marathon.
“If I can run under a 2:45 I think I’ll stop doing marathons and try something else,” she said.
Simonson , who moved to Iowa City in June while her boyfriend is in residency, runs with the Thorsday Track Club, which meets every Thursday at Lake Macbride at 5 a.m. That may not sound like fun to some, but she does it because she wants to, not because she has to.
Kind of like her “hobby” as a whole.
“I’ll do it until it’s not fun anymore,” she said.
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