Kellyn Talyor had good reason to be cautiously optimistic heading into the Prague Marathon back in May. Though an Achilles injury had forced her to back off the intensity and mileage of her typical marathon buildup, she was still coming off a big 2018. That year, Taylor won Grandma’s Marathon in a personal best of 2:24:28 and the Las Vegas Rock ’N’ Roll Half Marathon in a PR of 1:10:13.
So when she finished fourth at the 2019 Prague Marathon in 2:26:27, Taylor also had good reason to be disappointed. Sure, that time would have landed her in 14th place all-time among American female marathoners, but she already ranks higher on that list. Her time at Grandmas’ Marathon placed her seventh among the all-time fastest U.S. women in the marathon in all conditions (the point-to-point course is not record-eligible) and was an event record.
Taylor is a no-nonsense runner who describes her training philosophy as: “Just show up and get it done.” She could have justifiably been angry about, in her mind, failing to do that, but instead, Taylor chose the optimistic response. She’s got bigger goals in mind.
“If I can run a 2:26 on a bad day, who knows what a good day will bring?” she says.
She hopes the answer will be a podium finish at the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta on February 29, 2020, and the opportunity to represent the U.S. at next summer’s Olympic games in Tokyo.
The 32-year-old, who trains with HOKA ONE ONE Northern Arizona Elite, knows her spot on the team won’t come easy, with American women’s distance running the strongest it’s ever been. But rather than stick to the track, where she finished fourth in the 10,000 meters and narrowly missed making her first Olympic team at the 2016 Olympic Track and Field Trials, Taylor is locked in on the marathon precisely because the competition is so fierce.
“I think the marathon has become everyone’s target event. Seeing the way that the U.S women are running—success breeds success and a belief in yourself that, yeah, this is possible. We can be that good.”
So how does Taylor plan to go toe to toe with the best in the world? By sticking with what works for her—with a few key tweaks.
Taylor has said before that she thrives on chaos—or at the very least, she likes having a lot going on. She’s excited to get back into her hectic routine of wrangling her 9-year-old daughter, Kylyn, and a pair of 4- and 5-year-old brothers Taylor and her husband, Kyle, began fostering this spring.
“Some people do well just focusing on running, and some do well focusing on many things. I just happen to be one of those [latter] people,” she says.
With an assist from Kylyn (“She’s a good helper”), Taylor will have her morning coffee, get the boys dressed, make everyone breakfast, and get everyone packed up and dropped off at camp, daycare, or school. Finally, she’ll head out the door to work out with her NAZ teammates or log the miles herself. Show up and get it done.
Amidst the chaos, Taylor is hoping to improve her diet during the buildup to the trials. Not so much what she’s eating, but simply that she is.
“I’m always on the go doing something, and so I grab a handful of something here and a handful of something there, and then it’ll be 9:00 and I haven’t eaten dinner,” she says. “So paying more attention to that and making sure I get everything I need for my training [is important].”
That’s a lot when your training consists of 115-130 miles per week, with most days featuring two runs totaling anywhere from 15-26 miles. A schedule that intense also requires the fiercely competitive Taylor to remember that you can’t win at practice.
“If you’ve read anything about me and how I train it’s always [my coach, Ben Rosario, saying], ‘Too aggressive.’ So [I want to] pay attention to marathon effort and actually hit the pace,” says Taylor. “If it’s easy, that’s great—you want to be comfortable but still working—but learning how that feels instead of always going hard will be a really good thing to do and practice at a fall marathon this year.”
Ultimately, Taylor’s goal as an Olympic hopeful isn’t all that different from anyone else’s: Get to the start line healthy, feeling confident in the training segment behind her, and believing she’s capable of doing something special.
Three things Taylor knows will help carry her to that moment: having NAZ Elite teammates beside her in workouts “knocking out the miles and suffering together,” her favorite pair of HOKA Cliftons, and a 16-mile marathon pace workout about three to four weeks out from the race.
“That workout has been a constant every single cycle. If I hit that workout I’m like, Fantastic, I’m so ready to go.“
And ready to stand on what would be the most prestigious podium of her already decorated career.
“People say you don’t have to make an Olympic team to have been successful in your career, but the way that I look at it, I kind of do,” Taylor admits. “I don’t know if that’s just because I set really high standards and super lofty goals for myself, but for me that would mean I was successful, and the work—all the craziness this life entails—paid off. I don’t know if I would really have words for what it would mean.”