Read of the week: Olympian from a dairy farm near me

My “Read of the Week” feature has been on pause in late July because I had a baby: Paul Asa Blackwood Watson, born July 22. I’ve been reading plenty of articles since, but typing is a challenge. While he naps this morning I’ll sneak in this look back at a June 2021 New York Times profile of 1,500 meter runner and Olympian Elle Purrier St. Pierre.

I first watched Elle Purrier run, thanks to YouTube, in February 2020, when she smashed the American indoor mile record at the Millrose Games. Her understated come-from-behind win in the last 200 meters in this video tells of a totally prepared body and a strong, calm mind. Her short interview afterwards speaks of a depth of character: Oh, I broke the American record? Wow.

Not dismissive, but grounded: Even then I could tell that Elle Purrier runs on a base of stability. Her center of gravity is far outside the track. Elle’s performance at the 2021 Olympic Trials in June was even more definitive and under a new, combined last name (she got married to her high school sweetheart in September 2020).

This lovely New York Times profile of Elle Purrier St. Pierre, published just before the Olympic Trials, fills in the background of her personal life that I’d seen hints of in Elle’s running.

Barn set in a field of yellow flowers
Looks like home: a farm like the ones I see while running and biking in upstate New York dairy country. Photo by David Barrentine on Unsplash

She grew up in Montgomery, Vermont, population of about 700 people. She was a high school standout, and went on to excel at the University of New Hampshire. Now she lives with her husband on their dairy farm the next town over — but also spends time training in Boston. When she’s at home, her family has to remind her not to help out on the farm. “I know I have to back off sometimes,” she said, “because I’m still running like 80 miles a week.”

Of course, every athlete has a home and a family. This home and family resonates with me because I admire Elle so much and because it’s close to home for me here in upstate New York. Maple syrup harvests, dairy farms, tiny towns within running distance of the Canada border.

Elle’s husband studied dairy management at Cornell in buildings 800 meters away from my house (half Elle’s race) and in barns I run past on my favorite 5, 8 and 13 mile running routes.

I can’t wait to watch Elle run in the Olympic 1,500 meter event this week, with prelims starting tomorrow. Plus, this NY Times reporting on her home base makes me eager to start running again, even though my runs will be just past my local dairy barns.