Erin Hamlin waves to the crowd at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 13, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin retired from her luge career after the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 this past February unsure with what she wanted to do next. So when a rep from the Women’s Sports Foundation reached out about joining its New York City Marathon team, the Olympian thought, why not?
Then came the doubts.
Luge and distance running aren’t exactly similar sports. Hamlin’s longest run before this had been a 15K, and she knew how important — and time consuming — marathon training is. Plus, she was already planning a wedding, plus a move to Fargo, North Dakota, for her husband’s job.
Suddenly, it all started to feel like too much.
One day after accepting the offer to run, Hamlin called the rep back.
“I kind of had a moment of clarity,” Hamlin explained.
Before long, though, she changed her mind again. After running into people from the Women’s Sports Foundation during Team USA Week in Washington, D.C., Hamlin decided to run, and on Sunday she’ll indeed make her marathon debut through New York City’s five boroughs.
Hamlin, 31, told reporters last week that she’s excited for the challenge, which forced her to train in ways that are much different than those used during her two-decade sliding career.
“I kind of jumped to the complete opposite end of the spectrum,” she said. “Now, for me, going out for a two-mile run before was like, ‘That’s it. That’s good.’ Now, six-mile runs are where two-miles runs were before. It was pretty crazy to see that change and to see how your body adapts to it.”
Hamlin is part of six runners on the WSF team, which includes three other Olympians. Rowers Sarah Zelenka McIlduff and Sara Hendershot are running along with cross-country skier Annie Hart, who has given the team plenty of tips on how to deal with the demands of an endurance sport. Rock climber Sasha DiGiulian and film director Adam Reist round out the group. So far, the group has raised more than $15,000 for the Women’s Sports Foundation.
With the next steps of her life not quite figured out, Hamlin decided this was the right time to go after such an ambitious goal.
“In a year, maybe I’ll have started to get into another career, or having a family,” Hamlin said. “Who knows. It felt like, why not? It’s supporting a great cause. It supports the Women’s Sports Foundation and brings awareness to it. It’s for a good reason, and I’m excited to be a part of that, even though it’s as far out of my comfort zone, and quite a big challenge for me.”
Hamlin was a fixture on the U.S. luge team for a generation, winning a world title on her home track in 2009 and competing at her fourth Olympic Winter Games this past February. Her Olympic bronze medal in 2014 in Sochi was the first medal for an American singles luger.
Now retired, she said she’ll continue to contribute to the sport this winter as a commentator during the world cup season. But at the moment, she isn’t missing the grind of competing.
“It’s really nice to be not in that whole living out of a suitcase routine,” she said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that got old. It’s nice to be able to have a home base and live somewhere a little bit longer than a week. I fully enjoyed it while I was a part of it. I’m going to be keeping tabs on everyone and seeing how things are going. I haven’t had that moment where I’ve thought, oh wow, I wish I was getting up for an early morning session in Lake Placid.”
Other than commentating and running, Hamlin’s still working out what’s next in her life. She has a degree in sustainability management and is considering putting it to use in an internship. Retirement from luge means she has some time to figure it all out.
“I still don’t feel far enough removed yet that I’ve taken on a whole new identity and routine yet,” she said. “I’m still in the honeymoon phase where I am enjoying not having the super structured schedules of world cup racing and training.”
Her focus now is on the New York City Marathon. Originally from Remsen, a small town in upstate New York, she’s is looking forward to the challenging route that takes her through all of New York City.
“In the heart of the boroughs, it’s not hilly, but the bridges are the big hills. Central Park, too. Just for fun, the finish is uphill, too, because that sounds like a good idea,” she said.
Maggie Hendricks is based in Chicago and has covered Olympic sports for more than 10 years for USA Today and Yahoo Sports. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.