Elite Runner Goes from LA Marathon Back to Mom Duty—For Now

Churning away miles and miles of roadway was on the agenda for Emily Gallin this spring and summer. 

Like so many others, however, the coronavirus pandemic that has enveloped the globe suspended the long-distance athlete’s plans indefinitely. 

It’s a shame, though, because Gallin, a Malibu mother of three young children, had run to one of the biggest running accomplishments of her life three days before the coronavirus outbreak began to shut down businesses, schools, sports leagues and people’s lives across the nation. The Malibu resident of three years finished the March 8 Los Angeles Marathon in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 15 seconds. Gallin’s time placed her fourth overall in the 26.219-mile spectacle’s women’s elite division and made her the fastest among American women. 

Gallin said traversing the spectacle that runs from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to steps away from the Santa Monica Pier in a top-finishing time was a positive experience. 

“I’m so proud of how I took on miles 21 through 23, where you have a gradual uphill on Sepulveda and on San Vicente,” she recalled on March 19. “Those are probably the toughest miles on the course. I felt good the whole race. I feel like I ran the first half of the race really smart.”

However, despite being the top female red, white and blue finisher, the competitor in Gallin wishes she could scamper through the marathon’s last couple of miles again. She didn’t put orthotics in her shoes before the race and said the absence of the supportive inserts led to pain in her Achilles tendon that hindered her as she got closer to the finish line.

“I was limping,” Gallin said. “I had planned on turning on the jets the last two miles, but I couldn’t.” 

The 35-year-old finished 10 minutes behind the footrace’s winner, Margaret Muriuki of Kenya, and four minutes behind Jane Kibii, another Kenyan, who finished third. Gallin conquered the citywide course ahead of thousands of others.

Gallin, a 5K and 10K runner for cross country teams in her college years, said the pain in her heel and a quick bathroom break at mile 15 of the marathon robbed her of slashing about two minutes from her race time, but she said she and her coach Jamie LeFrak had targeted the 2:40 time as a good completion mark to finish the marathon within. She was looking to springboard from the L.A. Marathon to do other 5K and half marathon races soon, but the gravity of the coronavirus situation resulted in the cancelation of those competitions, plus Gallin wanted to focus on how the health epidemic could affect her, her husband, Zach, and children, three-year-old twins Jaxton and Chloe and one-year-old Kade.

“Dry running right now is totally a back burner,” she said. “The only thing that matters to me right now is my family and taking care of them. I’m on full mom duty. I’m not running or exercising.” 

Gallin and LeFrak have discussed her hopefully beginning to train again in about a month, in time to hit a running peak whenever endurance races begin again. 

“I’m looking at a fall marathon, provided the world is in a position to do that,” she noted.

Gallin started running competitively in high school after forays in basketball and soccer revealed that shooting or kicking a ball for scores didn’t showcase the best of her athletic abilities. Recovery from a freshman year ACL tear resulted in Gallin getting in really good shape. That led to her running track and cross country and exceling enough to also do so in college and graduate school. 

Gallin had some success competing for an elite running group in New York City for a time after college, but her first marathon, the 2014 Boston Marathon, turned into a major disappointment. She didn’t train properly for the popular showcase, which resulted in her posting a disappointing finishing time that was eight minutes shy of three hours. Gallin ran a fast half marathon sometime before the Boston event, but didn’t carry that speed to the longer race.

“I wasn’t doing long training runs,” she said. “I felt like I could just get away with it, but with a marathon you can’t just show up and do it. You can’t just get by on talent.” 

Gallin’s disappointing performance dropped her into a stupor that resulted in her dialing back her endurance work. In the following years, she moved to California and had her kids, so she didn’t spend much time lacing up running sneakers. However, after the birth of Kade, Gallin realized she did have a desire to complete a successful marathon. She also met LeFrak, a previous LA Marathon participant, who offered to show her his training method and recognized Gallin couldn’t dive completely into the sport because of family responsibilities. 

LeFrak, who lives on the East Coast, began offering Gallin marathon tips remotely in August. Her weekly training schedule featured her running 60 miles in six days at places such as Zuma Beach, the Backbone Trail and Solstice Canyon. There was also a 30-minute swim at Pepperdine before a light run.

She finished first in the Malibu Half Marathon’s women’s division and competed in the Pasadena Half Marathon and 5K and the California International Marathon in Sacramento. Gallin began running portions of the LA Marathon course in January to get ready for the event. She won the Redondo Beach Super Bowl 5K in February. Having a successful marathon performance was her ultimate goal though. 

“I’m a good runner,” Gallin said. “I knew I could do the marathon. The biggest jump for me was the discipline in the training.” 

Her husband called Gallin’s LA Marathon results an extraordinary achievement.

“But add to the fact that Emily has given birth to three kids in the last three years and it is absolutely mind-blowing,” Zach said. “It’s truly inspirational. I think in her mind, Boston was a failure, and that is a main reason why she was successful at LA.”

He said his wife felt she had something to prove with her latest running exploit.

“That really showed up in her training, diet and mindset toward the race,” Zach said. “Her focus was extraordinary and really something special to witness day after day.” 

Gallin said competitive running makes her feel good and gives her confidence in every other area of her life. She is excited to get in the course again. 

“Now that I’m a mom, running gives me energy and makes me a better parent because I have this to let loose and be alone,” Gallin said. Then, when it’s over I can come home and be a better mom. I like something that is hard and challenging. The competitive piece of it is something I don’t get in my life anywhere else. It’s a drive toward something bigger than myself.” 

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