Liza Reichert approached her first Napa Valley Marathon more concerned with her time than where she placed.
“I knew I had a good shot at winning,” the Los Altos Hills resident said, “but my primary goal was to get the mark I needed to qualify for the Olympic Trials.”
Reichert achieved both, winning the women’s division of the March 3 race with a time of 2 hours, 44 minutes, 6 seconds. She needed to run at least a 2:45 to make the U.S. Olympic Trials for the second time.
“It was not a personal best,” Reichert said of her time in the 41st annual Napa Valley Marathon, “but given the course, it was comparable.”
The 31-year-old described the 26.2-mile course as “challenging” due to the rolling hills. Reichert’s best time came on a flatter course at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, where she ran a 2:42:24 to finish 14th in 2015. That was only Reichert’s second marathon, and she performed well enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles.
The trials didn’t go as well for Reichert. Held on an unseasonably warm February day, she was among the 30 percent of participants who didn’t finish the race.
“We ran in tough conditions, and there was a lot of carnage out there,” Reichert said. “I was disappointed, and that’s part of why I wanted to qualify again.”
Her chance at redemption will come next February in Atlanta.
“It’s supposedly a pretty tough course with rolling hills,” Reichert said.
She has no illusions of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team, however.
“Most of (the competitors) are professionals, and it’s an honor just to run with them,” said Reichert, who works as a clinical research coordinator for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. “I’m doing it to see how fast and how good I can be.”
In Napa, Reichert dominated her division. She led the entire way, finishing nearly 8 minutes ahead of runner-up Sarah Hallas of Cotati. Only three men posted a better time among the marathon’s approximately 4,000 entrants.
“I got out faster than I finished,” said Reichert, who ran a pace of 6:33 per mile. “Halfway through, I gauged that I wasn’t going to have as good of a day as I hoped, so I readjusted my pace to ensure that I got the time I needed for the Olympic Trials.”
She also found out that there are disadvantages to running so far in front of the field.
“It’s nice to have people to run with; you can zone out and not overthink it,” Reichert said. “It made this more challenging than previous marathons.”
Reichert ran her first one four years ago in Oregon, placing 12th in her division at the Eugene Marathon with a time of 2:59:28. Distance running wasn’t new to the Moss Beach native, however. She was a standout member of Half Moon Bay High’s cross-country and track teams, helping the former advance to state in back-to-back seasons. She also competed in both sports at UC Santa Barbara; the Gauchos twice qualified for the cross-country national championships during her time there.
Reichert didn’t consider running a marathon until years later.
“I thought as a runner, I’d check it off the list of ‘Done that,’” she said. “But I never thought I would compete at a high level or enjoy it as much as I have. It’s definitely an unexpected joy. It’s such a good challenge.”
Reichert plans to run one more marathon before the Olympic Trials, perhaps in the fall, and a half-marathon prior to that. In the meantime, she continues to train. She prepared for the Napa Valley Marathon by running 70-75 miles per week.
Finding time to run isn’t easy, though. Reichert not only works full time; she’s also the mother of a 1-year-old girl and a member of the Los Altos Hills Park & Recreation Committee.
“I’ve had to shift my schedule to run in the morning and get it done,” she said, “because the rest of the day is less predictable.”