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The Seahawk

Ann Marie Pierce: Wilmington local who took her love of running all the way to the Olympic Trials

Pierce competing in a race. (Courtesy: Ann Maire Pierce)

A “positive mindset” and “determination.”

These are two phrases 31-year-old, Wilmington local Ann Marie Pierce used to describe her running – a journey that would lead her all the way to the 2024 Olympic Trials in Orlando, Fla.

Pierce first began her running journey in fifth grade in the program, “Girls on the Run,” a nationwide organization that teaches girls the value of running. Initially, Pierce’s sport of choice was swimming, but she became hooked on running because it allowed her to continue her endurance training in a different capacity.

“I would not say I was the most talented runner; I just had a passion for it,” Pierce said.

This passion continued into adulthood, where she continued her training and began coaching. Coaching played an important role in giving back in her life because of the running programs she took part in as a child.

“I use a lot of the ideas and philosophies that you run with purpose and there is more meaning than just a first-place finish,” said Pierce. “That is what I try to teach the kids and even adults that I coach. Running is powerful, and it is a perfect way to display who you are.”

When Pierce is not running, she is raising her two young sons, as well as cultivating a social media profile and managing the Airbnb’s that she owns with her husband. Pierce uses running as an escape from her busy life, and she ensures that each time she is running, she runs with purpose.

Pierce with one of her sons. (Courtesy: Ann Marie Pierce)

Pierce began to gain traction with her running after she had children. She had continued running throughout her pregnancies. After running a personal best in a summertime 5K in 2022, she was convinced by her coach, Tom Clifford, to try and qualify for the Olympic Trials.

Initially, Pierce was discouraged because the 2024 qualifying time for women had been lowered by eight minutes. In 2020, female runners needed a time of two hours and 45 minutes to qualify; however, in 2024 the qualifying time was two hours and 37 minutes. Before her Olympic Trials qualification, Pierce had never run a marathon that fast.

“The reason I was able to cut down eight minutes in my marathon was because I had people around me who believed in me,” she said, “I was motivated by those I was surrounded by, and just the determination of ‘I can do this’ instead of saying ‘I don’t think I can do it.’”

Pierce’s first attempt at qualifying was in Jan. 2023, at the Chevron Houston Marathon in Houston, Texas. Despite her efforts, Pierce failed to meet the necessary time by .43 seconds. Six weeks later, with the help of a fellow runner, Pierce made her second attempt in the Wilmington marathon. She finished with a time of 2:36.21—a qualifying time for the U.S Olympic Trials.

“I am just a runner and a mom, I am not a professional or anything like that,” she said. “It’s just cool that your mind can be a pretty powerful weapon.”

Although Pierce failed to qualify for the Olympic Games, she hopes to go back again in the future now that she knows what to expect.

“You can train all you want and be in the fittest shape of your life, but your race might not pan out how you want it to,” she said. “But I definitely want to go back; I want to qualify again.”

For now, Pierce has other goals she wants to focus on including welcoming her third child, dropping ten seconds in her 5K and earning world records. Unofficially, Pierce holds a world record in the backwards mile, the double stroller 5K, and the fastest time pushing a stroller around a track. To Pierce, it is important to have fun with running and to focus on more than just qualifying times.

“If you get too crazy with running and you make it your whole life and you don’t have fun with it, then it makes it kind of miserable,” she said.

Even though Pierce did not do as well as she would have hoped for at the trials, she is still proud of how far she has come and chooses to focus on the positive aspects of her accomplishments.

“Had it all gone my way perfectly, you kind of lose sight,” she said, “you’re not always going to have your best day. It is about the journey.”

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