After Winning Her First 5K, Parkinson has Sights Set on the Olympics


After Winning Her First 5K, Parkinson has Sights Set on the Olympics

By Dominique Smith

If you asked Tori Parkinson years ago if she thought she’d be in a position to make the Olympics in the Marathon, she would’ve laughed at the thought. In just under three weeks, she will be one of more than 170 women on the start line for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon in Orlando.

Parkinson picked up running in high school, but it wasn’t her first love. Now, the talented runner from Utah is ready to showcase what she’s been training and preparing for.

“My workouts have been feeling so good lately,” said Parkinson, a standout steeplechaser at Utah State. “and I feel stronger than I ever have.”

Parkinson grew up playing softball. Running wasn’t necessarily Parkinson’s favorite activity, but when she was in the 8th grade, she participated with a friend in a 5k that her school was hosting. During the race, Parkinson thought that her friend was ahead of her, so she ran faster to try to find her. Little did she know that the opposite had taken place, and it was Parkinson who was in the lead…and just ahead of her friend.

“I crossed the finish line and ended up winning,” she said. “I was pretty shocked.”

The head cross country at Mountain Crest High School invited Parkinson to do summer runs with the team and she was hooked. She joined the high school track and field team in her sophomore season and continued through high school. She competed collegiately for Utah State, competing in the steeplechase and the 5000m, and was a member of the cross country team as well.

After college, she took what she described as “a long break” from running and focused on her career. Parkinson picked up the marathon in 2019 after graduating. She ran 2:46:31 in the St. George Marathon in her home state of Utah. She followed that up with an eighth place finish in the open race at the 2021 Boston Marathon. Then, in 2022, her times really started to drop.

At the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, she shaved 12 minutes off her personal best, finishing 13th in 2:33:20, qualifying her for the Trials. In June of 2023, she finished the Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota in 2:32:33.

After her race at Grandma’s Marathon, Parkinson took some time off from running to nurse the injury that she was dealing with in her knee. She said the break gave her a chance to relax and do things that she enjoys, like go on cruise and go kayaking. It was also, she said, a chance to reset her relationship with running following two hard years of consistent marathon training.

“I was worried what my life would look like without running and it was really cool to see how much I was still enjoying life,” she said.

“So that honestly brought me some comfort for whatever happens with my knee and my injuries.” 

And unlike many of the top contenders in the Trials, running is not Parkinson’s career. She works as an Industrial Hygienist, where she aids employers and employees on improving workplace conditions by analyzing issues and recommending solutions to solve them. It’s a job that fortunately allows her to step out of the office and get in the miles she needs to prepare for her next race.

“They let me prioritize my lunch every day and get that hour (to run) and they'll let me come in early sometimes so I can have a little bit longer lunch,” said Parkinson who puts in upwards of 100 miles a week. “I think it would be almost impossible if my job didn't work with me so much.

Parkinson earned her Masters degree in Public Health last year. Regardless of the outcome at the Olympic Marathon Trials next month, she’s proud of everything that she’s been able to accomplish.

“I think I’m most proud that I never thought that I would be the person that I am right now,” she said. “I never thought I’d ever go to the Olympic Trials, I never thought I’d have a successful career, get my masters degree. All these things, I never pictured it for myself. So I’m proud that I did it.”




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