The joke around Nichole Porath’s home is she wasn’t the first runner in the family to get a sponsor.
Mesa, the family dog, beat her to it.
Porath, 29, gave up her job as a finance manager to run full-time with her eye focused on training for the Olympic marathon trials.
But before she landed a contract with Brooks Running Co., her dog put her paw print on a deal with Stunt Puppy, maker of a hands-free leash that latches around a runner’s waist.
Porath, who lives in Northfield, Minn., sports an usual training style in that Mesa often accompanies her on her long distance runs.
“It turns out when you run her 60 miles a week, she’s the happiest dog in the world,” Porath said. “It turned out to be a pretty cool match for us.”
Porath will be one of the premier runners at the 12th annual Whidbey Island Marathon Sunday.
But the run is more of a training exercise for her than a race as she’s gearing up for the Chicago Marathon in October.
That is where she’ll try to meet the standard of 2 hours, 43 minutes to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trails.
“I can really only race twice (a year),” Porath said. “I just don’t bounce back super quick. I’m looking at building to Chicago. That is part of the master plan.”
Porath will be one of roughly 2,000 runners and walkers participating in this weekend’s events on North Whidbey.
A 5K run/walk begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at North Whidbey Middle School in Oak Harbor.
The marathon and half-marathons take place Sunday. The marathon starts at 7:15 a.m. at Deception Pass State Park at Pass Lake, while the half-marathon begins at 8:15 a.m. at Windjammer Park in downtown Oak Harbor.
Both the half-marathon and marathon end at Windjammer Park with awards ceremonies slated for 11 a.m.
This will be Porath’s first marathon on the West Coast.
“I’ve heard that I need to be prepared for some hills,” she said. “I’ve also heard it’s one of the more beautiful marathons you’ll ever do. I’m so excited for that. It’ll be exciting not to truly be racing. When I’m racing, I tend to not pay attention to anything other than the pace and how much I hurt.”
“It’ll be nice to be able to look around a little bit more.”
Porath is equally excited about being the featured speaker at Saturday’s Event Expo at North Whidbey Middle School. She will speak at 1 p.m. and again at 3, sharing the story of her unorthodox running journey — something she also details online at nicholerunning.blogspot.com
Porath was an accomplished cross country runner at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., finishing in the top 70 three times at the NCAA Div. 3 championships.
It’s wasn’t until after college that she found that greater distances suited her and her 5-foot-1, muscular frame even better.
In her first marathon shortly after college, she finished in 3 hours, 7 minutes.
“I remember thinking when I was at the starting line, there were a lot more women my build,” said Porath. “I’m stockier and smaller. I finished 3:07 and was second in my age group with a professional runner from China.”
A light bulb went off.
Porath got serious about training and began to thrive, ultimately qualifying for the 2012 Olympic marathon trials by finishing 69th at the Houston Marathon (2:44.12) in January of 2012. A year later, she broke the world indoor marathon record by running 150 laps in 2:57.34 at St. Olaf College.
“I wasn’t even an All-American (in cross country) at the Division 3 level, which is the top 35 at the NCAA championship race,” said Porath said.
Porath will need to reach 2:43 in Chicago to qualify for the 2012 Olympic marathon trials.
“Realistically, I know I will never make the Olympics unless a miracle happens,” Porath said. “I don’t want to look back at this time and not know where I could have finished. I think a top 30 finish is very possible. I think top 25 would be the coolest thing.”
Porath trains twice a day, seven days a week. She averages about 100 miles a week, with about half those miles logged with a companion or two. Her husband Nathan also runs. As does their family dog, Mesa, a Vizla.
“She got a sponsor before I did,” Porath said. “It’s kind of a running joke.”
Reach Whidbey News-Times staff reporter Ron Newberry at 360-675-6611 (ext. 5070), or firstname.lastname@example.org