Courtney Thompson, the former Kentlake High and University of Washington volleyball star shown here at a 2015 camp at Kentwood High, will take on a new challenge April 17 running the Boston Marathon. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Always up for the challenge: Olympian Thompson to run the Boston Marathon

Two-time Olympian Courtney Thompson is ready for a new challenge.

Thompson – a former Kentlake High School and University of Washington volleyball standout who won bronze in the 2016 Olympic Games and silver in 2012, as well as a gold medal in the 2014 World Championship – will run the prestigious Boston Marathon – her first – on Monday, April 17.

She is one of 14 female athletes to take part in the iconic race as a part of Hyland’s Leg Cramps’ Find Yourself, Find the Finish Line – a campaign celebrating more than 50 years of women’s participation in the marathon.

As a member of the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team, Thompson partnered with Hyland’s Women’s Sports Foundation. The foundation contacted Thompson’s teammate fellow setter Alisha Glass about running the marathon. Glass didn’t want to do it, but told organizers Thompson might.

Thompson, 32, has always had an interest in long-distance running, but during her volleyball career it wasn’t something she could pursue. Instead, her guilty pleasure was reading books and watching YouTube videos about marathons and ultramarathons – races longer than a traditional 26.2-mile distance.

“When I would play overseas, I would geek out hard on anything endurance,” she said.

Now, retired from volleyball, Thompson decided to give the marathon a shot.

“I’m excited to get into an endurance sport to see what it is like to push myself that way,” she said.

For the past three months, Thompson has been training six days a week for the marathon. Hyland’s provided Thompson with a coach to help her prepare for the race.

“I just have so much respect for women who train for a marathon who have a job and a husband and kids,” she said. “It is a lot of time.”

Thompson’s longest run during training was 16 miles, but she said she isn’t worried about finishing the race.

“I am ready. I am fired up,” she said.

Her goal is to finish the 26.2-mile race in 3 hours and 30 minutes – a pace of about 8 minutes per mile.

“I keep saying I just want to enjoy the race,” she said. “Everyone I tell that to laughs.”

Typically, athletes have to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which draws more than 30,000 racers a year, by completing a sanctioned race in a certain amount of time. For women Thompson’s age that time is 3 hours, 35 minutes. Thompson’s participation with the Hyland’s team waived the time requirement for her.

The honor to compete in the Boston Marathon drives Thompson to do well.

“I want to make sure I give it everything,” she said. “It is the best of the best. People come from all over the world.”

After the Boston Marathon, Thompson said she might move on to longer races.

“I am curious to see what it is like to try to run a hundred miles at a time,” she said.

Most of Thompson’s friends and former teammates think she’s crazy to compete in the marathon, she said.

“Usually volleyball players don’t like to run very far,” Thompson said.

Training for the marathon isn’t Thompson’s only new adventure. She recently started working for Compete to Create – a company founded by Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and psychologist Michael Gervais, which provides high-performance mindset training and coaching to corporations.

In her free time, Thompson likes to give back to the community, hosting volleyball clinics for aspiring athletes.

“It allows me to do stuff with kids on the weekends. It’s a fun balance,” she said.