While you may not recognize Charlie Peterson, the chances are you’ve heard of his wife – Carrie Tollefson. My goal here was not to sound as if I were interviewing Carrie through Charlie. Instead, I thought it’d be interesting to get a look into the life of an elite athlete’s significant other. And while Charlie may not be an Olympian, he is a very good runner/triathlete, in his own right.
Obviously, your wife’s running receives a lot of attention. But you’re a very respectable runner in your own right. When did you get started running and how’d you get involved? Did you run in high school or college?
I ran in 7th and 8th grade and lettered as a member of the track team but thought running the mile and 2 mile in the same meet was insane, so I deserted the track team for the golf team. Looking back now I regret not staying with track. I got back into running after playing football in college for 3 years.
Both of us ran the 2002 Boston marathon and both of us missed 3 hours by 1-3 minutes. If I ever got a chance to interview Carrie, my one question to set me apart from the other interviewers was going to be; “Did Charlie ever break 3 hours?”
So close! That 3:01 remains the closest I have come. I intend on breaking it at some point though!
What are your PRs?
All I can claim are the “house” records for the marathon and all triathlon distances. Carrie holds the records for every other distance! I am sure at some point she will crush the “house” marathon record but hopefully she won’t switch to Tri’s when she’s done running so I can at least have something to brag about!
Your name doesn’t appear in the race results too often. Are you still racing and what are your goals for 2007?
I really love to get out to the local events when I can, but I haven’t been out there much the last couple years. I will be racing at Ironman Wisconsin this fall, so I am hoping to use a number of local events, running and tri’s, as measuring sticks this summer.
What is your training like (mileage, workouts, cross-training, etc.)?
I have to say that Carrie and I are at opposite ends of the training spectrum…I get out there and train when I can, but at times am not very religious about it. I really love racing though and that keeps me motivated to get out there and train when I can.
How often do you travel with Carrie?
I make it to all the National meets and usually one or two other races in the states. Other than that I don’t get to travel with her too often. I am going to try and get to a couple races on the European circuit this summer.
Obviously, you were at the Athens Olympics. What was your most memorable experience from that trip?
For sure seeing her run in an Olympic Stadium for the first time was incredible. Next to that, one moment that I always think back to was before I even made it to Greece. I threw a party at our house to watch the opening ceremonies and celebrate. Although we weren’t sure if we would see Carrie or not, we were totally hyped. Then we caught a glimpse of her and the place erupted! That was pretty special to see her soaking it all in, knowing how hard and long she had worked to make her first Olympic team.
As the husband of an elite athlete, do you get nervous before Carrie’s big races? If so, how do you deal with that?
Yeah, I can get a little anxious before her races. I think it’s a combination of knowing how hard she’s worked, the importance of every race in this sport and just knowing that she has the talent to win every time she steps to the line.
We always hear about certain athletes that hate to lose – no matter what they’re playing at the time. Names like Michael Jordan, John Elway and Larry Bird come to mind. After watching the way Carrie battled back to win the Olympic Trials, I get that sense with her. Is that true?
I’ll never forget the Star Tribune article headline following the 5k at the trials: “Tollefson finishes in sixth – Distance runner’s Olympic dream ends.” Now, that writer has been great to Carrie over the years, as most of the local media has, but when they printed that headline they severely underestimated her determination. It’s the “tell me I can’t do it” mentality that the athletes you mentioned above exhibit. There were a couple other incidents of people underestimating her chances in the 1500 as well, but she didn’t let it shake her. She shook off the disappointment of the 5k, got her head straight and went for it. What a race! So yeah, you could say she hates to lose.
Not counting your wife, who are your favorite track and field athletes?
I’m going to be a homer and say the Team USA Minnesota athletes since I’ve had the chance to run and get to really know most of them. Some of my other favorites to cheer for are all the athletes that I got to meet at Adidas early in Carrie’s pro career: Amy Rudolph, Jen Rhines, Rich Kenah, David Krummenacker, Tim Broe, Alan and Shayne Culpepper, Katie McGregor, Anthony Famiglietti and the big fella, John Godina.
If you could run with any Minnesotan (other than Carrie), past or present, who would it be?
I’m a huge fan of Dick Beardsley. He’s had a lot of triumph and trials, but that guy is one of the nicest, happiest guys I have ever met and I would love to go for a run with him, even though I’ve heard he is out there ridiculously early sometimes.
Sports Illustrated just had a list of the 20 best looking female athletes and Carrie was “only” number 4. That has to be frustrating.
What do you do? There’s always next year.
Finally, what “every” letsrun.com poster wants to know, how do you go about dating/marrying an elite runner? Being an architect, did you pull the George Costanza “I’m-an-architect” line on her?
Not too many lines, I think she used more than I did, you’ll have to ask her about that in your next interview. It was really just chance that we ran into each other again after about 6-7 years (we grew up near each other). I’m a lucky to have found such a great gal.