You can probably count the number of national-class marathoners who started out as competitive bodybuilders on one finger. That digit would be pointed squarely at Dallas dentist Melisa Christian, who in her early twenties was striking oiled-up poses in the glare of buff-babe spotlights around the country but is now among the best marathon runners in the U.S.
A week ago, the 31-year-old Christian placed 27th in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon with a time of 2:41:18. Her first marathon, in 2001, took her 3 hours, 31 minutes and 20 seconds to complete, and it wasn’t until 2006 that she broke three hours. She only started running in her second year of dental school, which was presumably not long before that 3:31 (when she would have been around 24 years old).
At age 23, Christian upheld an entirely different athletic standard, rating high in amateur bodybuilding competitions. The sequence of pictures below show her at age 23, age 29 (when she first qualified for the Olympic Trials by running 2:46:30 at the 2006 Boston Marathon) and age 31 (at last Sunday’s Olympic Trials). It’s hard to believe that all of these pictures are of the same human being. Obviously the transition from 1998 to 2006 is most striking, but something seems to have happened in the past couple of years as well. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Anyway, we’re obviously looking at a serious case of talent combined with willpower here. This is someone who decides that she’s going to literally mold herself into a perfect specimen — be it one who stands still or one who keeps up a six-minute, ten-second-per-mile pace for 26.2 miles — no matter what it takes. Her time at the Olympic Trials was her best by almost a minute, so expect Christian to get even faster before she’s through.