DALLAS - At 7 a.m. while most of Dallas is just crawling out of bed, Dawn Grunnagle is lacing up her racing flats and hitting the track. Running one final workout before the Olympic Marathon trials on February 13.
“Things are coming together,” she said. “I feel like everything is falling into place and now I just have to put it all together on that day.”
The Trials in Los Angeles will be the pinnacle of Grunagle’s second act in running. After four years of competing for Texas Tech and the University of Houston, she was ready to never run again, and for almost 10 years, she didn’t.
“After college, I was pretty burned out. It was a lot like a business in college,” she said.
But, somewhere along the line, her passion for the sport was reignited.
“One day I decided I want to start training again and see what I could do.”
And Grunnagle went all in, getting sponsored by Nike and quitting her elementary school teaching job to coach her youth running group, Speed Kidz.
It all paid off when she ran a half marathon in 1 hour 14 minutes and 56 seconds, qualifying for the Marathon Trials -- by a mere four seconds.
“I went for it and I got it. And then I thought, 'Oh no, I have to run the marathon now,'” she said with a laugh.
The 26.2-mile distance has been a challenge. In two prep races, Grunnagle has struggled to keep her stomach settled at the later stages of the race.
“It’s not staying down,” she said. “I think of it like a boxing match: Round 1 the marathon won. Round two in Chicago, the marathon won. But I’m back for Round 3 and hopefully, I can win this round.”
At 38 years-old, she’ll be one of the oldest competitors in the race and with 200 other women competing for only three spots on the Olympic team, Grunnagle is realistic: She is a long shot’s long shot.
“(My chances are) pretty far out there. I’m really going to be happy if I run a personal record," she said.
But, after almost giving up the sport, toeing the starting line is a victory in and of itself.
“I’m just excited to be lining up with the fastest women in the U.S. There are only 200 in the race, so to be included in that is pretty awesome.”