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Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley is Turning to Triathlon

The steeplechase specialist and world record holder took up triathlon training for fun. Now she's shooting for her pro card.

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Olympian Colleen Quigley has caught the triathlon bug. The Oregon-based steeplechaser announced today via social media that she is making the leap to triathlon.

The Olympian has teased interest in multisport on social media with images of her cross-training with swimming and biking while overcoming running injuries.

Colleen Quigley’s Steeplechase Success

As a collegiate runner at Florida State University, Quigley went on to earn nine All-American honors and a NCAA Championship title in 2015.

Post-grad, Quigley made Team USA for the 2016 Rio Olympics and placed eighth in the 3000 meter steeplechase Olympic finals. After the Olympics Quigley and her relay team set the still-standing world record for the 4×1500 meter relay in 2020.

Since then, Quigley has faced a number of run-related injuries such as hamstring strains that have caused her to focus on cross training like swimming and biking.

Getting Bitten By The Bug

In 2015, Quigley focused on swimming to maintain her fitness while rehabbing a hamstring injury and plantar fasciitis. To stay fit for the Olympics, Quigley put in two to three hours of swim training per day, according to social media posts.

Throughout 2022, Quigley began exploring cycling as a way to cross-train while she focused on rehabbing another run-related injury. Multiple social media posts of Quigley cruising around Oregon on her Felt road bike can be seen on her Instagram.

Quigley said via her newsletter: “I’ve been wondering what it would be like to train for and race a triathlon for years. It’s time to find out! Going through the process of training for this race has been nothing short of enlightening for me and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done both physically, mentally, and emotionally to get [to a triathlon start line].”

Quigley’s First Tri

The world record holder plans to dive into her first tri at the Tritonman draft-legal development race in San Diego, California on February 11. She still plans to race track and field through 2024, where Paris will still remain her goal.

Quigley says she is using this race as her first shot at earning her pro license in triathlon. To do so, she must be in the top three amateurs at Tritonman and within 5% of the winning amateur time, according to USA Triathlon’s elite license criteria.

While her steeplechase days are not yet over, Quigley is committed to making her entrance to triathlon more than just a one-time event.

“My main goals are to have fun, explore this new sport, and stay open to and curious about the new challenges it will bring,” Quigley said via her newsletter announcement. “But you know I also want that top three spot!”

A Familiar Story

Quigley is not the first elite runner-turned-triathlete. Numerous former elite runners have looked for success at the pro level in triathlon:

  • Gwen Jorgensen ran for the University of Wisconsin and was recruited to the USA Triathlon Elite Development Program. She went on to win the USA’s first Olympic gold medal in triathlon in 2016. Jorgensen spent time as a pro runner post-Olympics before announcing she would return to triathlon in 2023.
  • Alan Webb, Olympian and American track star, attempted a second act as a triathlete in 2014. His aspirations of becoming an Olympian in multisport fizzled out after he failed to make the cut for the 2016 triathlon team for the Games.
  • Mary Cain was a pro runner for Nike before beginning to train with Paulo Souza’s professional triathlon squad in the last year. Cain is still on the hunt for her pro card, but raced her first draft-legal triathlon in 2022, where she placed 23rd.
  • Matt McElroy was a top collegiate runner for Northern Arizona University before finding triathlon in 2015. He is now a Team USA Olympic hopeful for triathlon for Paris 2024 and was the first male U.S. triathlete to medal at a WTCS event in a decade when he took second in Leeds in 2019.
  • Katie Zaferes also has a steeplechase background, specializing in the event while running for Syracuse University, where she held the school record for the steeple and was a second-team All American in the event in her senior year. In multisport, she was the USA Triathlon Elite Rookie of the Year in 2013, the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Series champion, and an Olympian at the 2016 and 2020 games—taking home two medals in the latter.
  • Chelsea Sodaro was a four-time All-American runner and captain of the cross-country team at UC Berkeley. After graduation, she ran professionally, with two national titles to her name (10K road in 2012 and 3,000-meter indoor in 2013). In 2017, she transitioned to triathlon, and won the Ironman World Championship in 2022.