The first time Andrea Guerra thought about qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials was 2014. But she had just graduated from college and knew that she needed time to transition from a 10,000-meter runner to a marathoner.
In 2016, Guerra attended the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles and was inspired by the gritty performances. She thought about toeing the line herself one day and began building up to and racing half marathons in earnest.
In 2017, she watched teammates qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, many who had similar results as Guerra on the track and road. She began to wonder, “Why not me?” and promised herself she would compete at the 2020 Olympic Trials, too.
“When I really started putting in the work, I saw a big jump in results. I told myself if you just keep training and putting in the work, you’re going to get faster,” Guerra, now 29, tells Women’s Running in a phone interview.
And she did get faster. In January 2019, Guerra finished the Houston Marathon—her second marathon ever—in 2:42:15, negative splitting her way to an Olympic Trials “B” standard qualifying time.
The California native almost didn’t discover her talent for running. While she gravitated towards soccer growing up, she didn’t want to settle into one sport. She wanted to dabble in all of them.
But when she tried out for her middle school basketball team, the basketball coach—who knew Guerra had run just under seven-minutes for the timed mile—asked what she was doing there. “She made me leave try-outs and go out for the cross-country team. She saw the potential in me,” says Guerra.
Guerra ran in middle school and high school. She went on to Orange Coast Community College, where she won State her freshman year and placed second her sophomore year. She transferred to Queens University in North Carolina, a Division II school, and competed in both cross-country and track and qualified for nationals in the 10,000-meters.
These days, Guerra fits her training around her job as a special education paraprofessional educator and classes to earn her credentials as a special education teacher.
Her coach Andres De La Cruz says Guerra’s an instinctive runner and her background running 5Ks and 10Ks serves her well as a marathon runner. “This training load teaches athletes how to become self-disciplined during hard and long training sessions which immediately translate over to marathon training and marathon racing,” he says.
To prepare for race day in Atlanta, Guerra is sticking with a low-mileage build-up, averaging 65 to 70 miles a week for the past two months. “I don’t know how my body will respond if I run more miles. But it’s working for me. I feel like it’s the reason I haven’t gotten injured,” she says. She’s incorporating more hills and strength workouts to prep for the challenging course at the trials.
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2020 Marathon Olympic trials qualifier🇺🇸 ✅ Redemption✅ Walking like an old lady✅ Happy I made the decision to do this marathon after a failed marathon debut at CIM. Thankful to have a coach I can fully trust and said I can bounce back and qualify in Houston. And of course so grateful to have such a supportive boyfriend (fluid boy😜) that ran/biked so many miles with me. Today I raced the smartest I have ever raced.💯 Thanks to everyone that sent positive vibes🙏🏽 #otq #wegoingtoatlanta #runhou
Guerra thrives on the camaraderie of the running community in the Los Angeles area. “With distance running and running in general, there’s not a lot of other Latinas or women of different ethnicities,” she says. “Sometimes it makes me feel good that I’m up there as one of the only Latinas.”
But it’s different in California where she’s surrounded by and trains with many other Latina women, which she says is amazing. Many of her teammates and training partners will also be in Atlanta to compete in the marathon trials.
“I thank the sport for all the lessons I’ve learned through this sport and the person I’ve become. It’s taught me to work hard and be very disciplined,” says Guerra.