Everybody loves a good comeback story, so how about two of them? Let’s start with Desiree Ficker Berry. As you may know, Berry (then Desiree Ficker) was a nationally ranked Austin-based triathlete who is perhaps best known for placing second in the Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2006. A three-time Statesman Capitol 10,000 champion, she eventually turned her
attention to running, recording a superb 2:39:30 for 10th place at the New York City Marathon in 2009, the second American woman to cross the finish line. A victory in the Austin Marathon followed in 2011, but in 2012 Berry took a break from distance running after learning she was pregnant. Although she eventually resumed training, running around 60 miles a week, she had not raced seriously in the past few years.
Well all of that changed as of December 2. Berry, who moved to Seattle last year with her husband Matthew (the national director of college scouting for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks) and her two children Beau and Bear just set a new marathon best at the California International Marathon at age 41! In doing so, she became the Unites States Track and Field National Master’s Champion.
Her time of 2:39:17 qualifies her for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. Talk about a comeback! Understandably, Berry—who now coaches Bluebirds kids, a fun running group for kids ages K-5 on Mercer Island near Seattle—was ecstatic about her race.
“Last Sunday I ran the California International Marathon and collected a new PR of 2:39:18,” she wrote on her Instagram page. “I crossed the line and the announcer said ‘Desiree Berry, age 41, Olympic Trials Qualifier and Masters National Champion.’ I’ll take that! The best part of the day was having my family there cheering me along. They were screaming their heads off and it was enough to get me through the last 10K to see them.”
Berry’s PR at 41 affirms what many distance runners innately know: That endurance (and track and field) athletes differ from many other athletes in that they can continue to improve as the years go by. For example, the great discus thrower Al Oerter, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in the event, achieved his career best of 227 feet, 11 inches at age 43.
And two weeks ago, Austin’s own Paul Terranova won his first major 100-mile race at the Chattanooga 100 in Rising, Fawn GA. Paul ran his first ultra at the age of 34, and though he won a number of lesser ultras and placed in the top 10 at Western States in 2013 and 2015, Chattanooga was Terranova’s first major 100-mile victory. Oh yeah—and how about this for a comeback?—he had to quit running for three months last summer with a stress fracture in his femur (the largest bone in the body) and only started back running a few months before Chattanooga! On the morning of December 1, at mile 90 of the Chattanooga 100, Terranova turned 45, and celebrated his birthday by cruising to victory in 18 hours and 30 minutes, more than an hour ahead of second place finisher. Need we say more?
Upcoming races: Tuesday, January 1 at 9:00 a.m., the Kickin’ It 5K at Wallace Middle School
1500 Center Street in Kyle. Saturday, January 5 at 8:00 a.m., the River Road 5K, 10K and Half Marathon at Anytime Fitness, 1175 FM 2673 #8 Canyon Lake.