Carrie Tollefson cannot be caught. The history-making cross-country runner from Dawson, Minn., has no interest in settling down, though her priorities may change.
"Right now I'm in this sweet spot of totally being mommy first and everything else comes second," Tollefson said. "But I'm always thinking about what's next."
Along with focusing on family — with her husband, Charlie Peterson, and their three children, Ruby, Greer and Everett — Tollefson is training runners, promoting the sport through her podcast "C Tolle Run" and providing commentary for cross-country events and marathons around the world. And she is still running.
Last October, she was the eighth female finisher in the Twin Cities marathon — and, at 44 years old, easily first in her age group.
"You don't have to just grow old," Tollefson said. "I've enjoyed growing older in this sport, but I also really enjoy giving back to this sport. I want to live by example. I want to show my kids, or the kids that I coach or the ladies that I coach or the men that I coach, that life changes — your body changes, your mentality changes, your priorities change — but you can still find the fun in being active."
The fun for Tollefson began as a child. Her older sisters, Stacey and Kammie, excelled in sports and her father, John, played college football at Augustana. Growing up in Dawson, Carrie got to try everything from basketball to tennis to violin to theater.
Those options were a part of life that her mom, Ginger, didn't get to experience growing up because athletics were limited primarily to boys. That lack enflamed Carrie and her sisters.
"[My mom] played some wallyball and things like that back in the day, but I think that there was sort of that reminder at times when we would see our mom and say, 'My gosh, she would have been really good at athletics,'" Carrie said. "I think that we all wanted to be something that my mom couldn't be, you know?"
When Carrie ran, she became something only she could be. She won 13 state cross-country and track titles at Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley. At Villanova, she won five NCAA championships and was named the indoor track athlete of the year in 1998. A decade later, she represented the United States in the 1,500 meters at the Athens Games.
That success gave her a chance to turn running into a profession, but just as importantly, it created a lifelong quest for the next challenge.
"Just always looking for something new to push me out the door," she said.
Good luck trying to catch her.