Asked Monday about why she runs marathons, The Master’s University alum Katrina Graham didn’t have to answer.
“Because she’s sick,” interjected TMU assistant coach Amie Schroeder. “Why would anybody do that?”
Schroeder – whose younger brother, Jeff Jackson, won an NAIA national title in the marathon at Master’s in 2010 – was kidding, of course. And she was quick to provide a real answer as to why Graham willingly throws herself into track’s longest race – most recently posting a second-place finish in a loaded field at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego marathon earlier this month.
“Katrina loves to run,” Schroeder said. “She just loves it, and it’s the longest race there is.”
It’s the race Graham has focused on as she joins a short list of athletes to continue training with Schroeder and her husband, TMU head coach Zach Schroeder, after graduation. And Graham intends to be the first name on another list: Mustangs to hit an Olympic Trial qualifying time.
Graham ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, aptly named because local bands are stationed at every mile marker, with that goal in mind. Zach Schroeder told her before the June 3 event that it wasn’t a day for a PR. It was an opportunity to train on how they were going to run the back half of the race and how to manage water and nutrition intake with their sights set on the California International Marathon in December.
Graham complied. But she still managed to finish second behind Beth Sanden of New York City. Graham’s time was two hours, 59 minutes and 39 seconds. The “B” Standard qualifying mark for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials is 2:45:00.
“It was definitely one of my most-special race moments,” Graham said. “Not so much because of the time – I’ve run faster. But executing the strategy of the race and the amount of support I had out there was great.”
Generally, it’s been Graham providing the support. After running cross country and track at Master’s for four years and graduating in 2014, she joined the coaching staff.
Her tasks range from administrative (team record keeping and walking new athletes through paperwork necessary before they can work out with the program) to running with the athletes as a training partner/coach.
“We really point to her for the girls and say, ‘This is how we want you to run the runs. This is how we want you to train,’” Zach Schroeder said. “She is the perfect role model for how our girls should train.”
Graham, who didn’t earn an All-American honor at Master’s, has been able to push toward elite status post graduation for a variety of reasons. For one thing, she was always coachable, and that hasn’t changed.
Zach Schroeder asked her to begin a new lifting routine. She was all in. He asked her to increase her training workload “block by-block.” No questions asked.
In the last several months, Graham’s long-run training has risen to around 24 miles, a distance she traverses every seven to 14 days.
Secondly, and seemingly by definition, it can take time, even years, to significantly improve in distance running.
“Distance runners, the longer they do it the better they get,” Amie Schroeder said. “There’s no shortcut. It takes years.”
Graham keeps putting in the time.