Eileen Gu, Freestyle Skiing Gold Medalist, Runs 1:41:07 in San Francisco Half Marathon

Gu placed second in her age group on July 24 after “spontaneously” signing up for the race.

At only 18 years old, Eileen Gu is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, model, and soon-to-be Stanford freshman. She is fluent in English and Mandarin Chinese and can play classical piano, too. With so many varied accolades and talents, one may wonder: Is there anything Gu can’t do?

As if seemingly responding to this unspoken question, Gu recently added another achievement to her already lengthy list.

On Sunday July 24, Gu completed the San Francisco Half Marathon—and placed second in her age group. This happened several days after she won two ESPY Awards: Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best Athlete, Women’s Action Sports.

Without formally training for the 13.1-mile race, Gu crossed the finish line in ç, an impressive 7:43 mile pace.

In an Instagram post she wrote, “Landed in San Francisco 36 hrs ago and spontaneously signed up for the San Francisco half marathon. Went in with the relatively simple goal of finishing the race but got a bit competitive around mile 7 & wanted to see what I could make happen… hyped to walk away with an unexpected second place in the 19 and under age group!! Still on a high. What a day.”

Although racing in San Fran was an impromptu decision, Gu has history with the sport. She was a competitive cross country runner for seven years and has expressed admiration and gratitude for her former coach.

In an Instagram post celebrating International Women’s Day in 2021, after thanking her grandma and mother, Gu wrote, “…to my unbelievably strong high school cross country coach (who showed me focus and fearlessness).”

Over the years, Gu has also posted on Instagram about her cross country meets and running workouts. 

Running is an integral component of her training routine; she even credits it for helping her get ready for her Olympic debut where she represented China. Gu is American-born – her mother is Chinese, and her father is American – but has competed for China since 2019.

“It’s definitely not easy. But I ran a half-marathon every week over the summer to prepare,” she said in an interview before Beijing. “I feel proud of the work I’ve done to build up my endurance base, so this is what I’ve been preparing for.”

Gu’s former training camp coach, Peter Olenick, told the New York Post, "She is the first one at training and the last to leave. She competes in multiple events; then she goes home to run and train. That is unusual."

Her unconventional tactics worked. Gu snagged Olympic gold medals in big air and halfpipe and a silver medal in slopestyle. She became the youngest freestyle skiing Olympic champion and the first freestyle skier to medal three times in a single Winter game appearance.

All of this came on the heels of winning numerous gold medals at the 2021 World Championships and Winter X Games as well as two gold medals at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics – in big air and halfpipe.

Despite her success on the slopes, Gu said that running is her second favorite sport.

"I can break my own boundaries through running. Running is a bit different from skiing, because running can be done by everyone. There is no need to fall and stand up again. Everyone can enjoy the joy of sports and nature."

posted Sunday August 7th
by Runner’s World