Perry Shoemaker lives an ordinary life in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Vienna, Virginia. She finds time to let out her two golden retrievers before heading to her job teaching preschool. Two of her daughters are away at college, but her youngest has entered middle school. If her husband, a pilot, is out of town, Shoemaker will have to be sure to pick up Amelia from cross-country practice.
The only real difference between Shoemaker and her neighbors: The 48-year-old is a qualifier for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
“A lot of people have been telling me, you’re inspiring me to run,” Shoemaker tells Runner’s World. “I think if you’re working towards making yourself better and becoming better at anything you do, that’s something that’s worthy of being inspiring to others.”
She’s battled injuries since winning the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon—a combination of things like a torn soleus muscle, plantar fasciitis, IT band issues, or as Shoemaker puts it, “the standard stuff.”
“By the time she got her injury last fall, I had concluded that surely this is her last big chance,” says husband Jon Shoemaker.
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He still saw potential in the 2:51 marathoner, so he reached out to Stephanie and Ben Bruce of Hoka One One’s NAZ Elite training group. With Ben’s help, Shoemaker was able to drop eight minutes off her PR to finish third at the 2019 Eugene Marathon.
When Shoemaker travels to Atlanta in February, she’ll be one of over 380 other women who will be 26.2 miles away from a trip to Japan. Shoemaker intends on being in the best shape she can be, though she doesn’t envision herself edging Jordan Hasay or Emma Bates for a spot on Team USA.
“I know I’m not going to qualify,” Shoemaker says, “but it’s going to be a neat thing and I get to be part of that at almost 49 years old.”
In the video above, hear from Shoemaker and her family as they talk about Perry’s simple running origins, her training schedule, and her daughters’ reactions to their mom making the Trials.
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