The roots of Kim Conley’s running career stem from a variety of formative experiences in Northern California’s Sonoma County, home to a long and distinguished distance running tradition. Following seasons spent on the soccer field, basketball court and in the softball outfield, the first signs of things to follow involved Kim’s early exploits as a member of the Santa Rosa Express, a youth running program. From there, Kim ran on middle school teams before spending her prep years at Montgomery High School, where she enjoyed numerous state cross country and track appearances over her four-year career as a Viking. Kim’s collegiate years were spent two hours from home, where she competed for the UC Davis Aggies before making the decision to pursue a career in professional running.
While every runner has a unique story, Kim’s journey to the world of professional running does not resemble the path of many of her fellow competitors. Kim graduated from UC Davis with one national-level collegiate appearance to her name, and without ever qualifying for the NCAA Track and Field championships. Although her 5000m PR of 16:17.51 in 2009 was almost a full minute slower than the 2012 Olympic qualifying standard of 15:20, Kim believed that she had unfinished business with the sport of track and field and decided to pursue post-collegiate running simply to find out what more she could accomplish.
The vision for the Kim’s initial foray into the professional scene was to expand and continue developing her range across events from the1500 to the 10,000m with an eye on preparing to compete in the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 5000m. Over the next three years Kim progressively shaved time off her PR’s in all events over those distances, while also learning to compete among the nations top athletes. In the fall of 2011, Kim had a series of top finishes at national road races as well as the opportunity to represent the U.S at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she finished 7th.
By the time the 2012 outdoor season had arrived, Kim had lowered her 5000m PR to 15:38 and emerged as a nationally competitive athlete. In April she lowered her PR again to 15:24 and entered the Olympic Trials only 5 seconds away from the A standard and a shot at making the team.
Kim emerged definitively on to the professional running scene at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. In one of the most dramatic races of the meet, Kim mounted a comeback effort over the final lap, culminating in a sprint down the home stretch to move from 5th place to a 3rd place, Olympic qualifying spot, earning the Olympic A standard by .21 seconds in the process. In that fraction of a second, Kim took a defining step in her career and cemented herself on the American distance running scene.
At the 2012 Olympic Games Kim took another 5 seconds off her PR, but failed to advance to the final round of the 5000m. She returned from London eager to build upon her experience and develop into a better athlete for the 2016 Olympic Games.
In 2013 Kim represented Team USA at both the World Cross Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland and the World Track & Field Championships in Moscow, Russia. At the World Track and Field Championships she advanced to the final of the 5000m where she finished 12th.
In 2014 Kim undertook her first dedicated indoor track season ever, where she began a series of races indoors and outdoors that featured PR’s at every distance from the 800m to the 10,000m. At the US Outdoor Track & Field Championships, held on home territory in Sacramento, CA, Kim achieved another milestone in her career when she captured the 10,000m title.
Off the track, Kim and her coach, Drew Wartenburg, founded the NorCal Distance Project, a professional distance running team in Sacramento. The group’s mission is to provide a comprehensive support network for elite athletes in order to enable them to reach their goals of representing the region and country on an international stage.
Kim opened 2015 with another US Title, this time in her debut half marathon at the US Half Marathon Championships in Houston. Unfortunately she sustained an injury while training a few weeks later that sidelined her from the entire outdoor track season. After a long, hard year of trying to get healthy and back to form Kim began racing again in the fall and was able to achieve the Olympic standard in 10,000m at the Pacific Pursuit 10,000m held in Sacramento.
2016 offered a new set of challenges for Kim. In the Olympic Trials 10,000m she was clipped from behind and her shoe came off early in the race. She stopped to put it back on, losing as much as seven seconds on the rest of the pack. She gradually worked her way back up to many of the competitors but eventually realized the top athletes in the field were too far away to catch and she pulled off the track to turn her attention to her secondary event, the 5000m. On the final day of the Olympic Trials Kim raced the second round of the 5000m closing hard to secure a third place finish and her second Olympic berth.
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Kim failed to advance out of the first round and returned to the US to turn her attention her next pursuit: debuting in the TCS New York City Marathon, where she ended up finishing 16th in 2:41:38.
With another Olympic cycle concluded, Kim looks to her future in the sport with a sense of excitement and anticipation. While her immediate goals reside on the track with the 2017 Outdoor season approaching, the coming years will hold a blend of track and road races and she continues to develop her ability in the longer distances.
Far from a preordained path or a story tightly scripted years in advance, Kim Conley’s tale represents a testament to the power of what can be achieved through hard work, a commitment to pursuing excellence and a firm belief in self. With the 2017 US Championships being held on her home track at Hornet Stadium on the campus of CSU Sacramento, Kim is eager demonstrate the product of years of work and commitment to her hometown friends and fans this June.
Personal Facts about Kim:
- Lives in: West Sacramento, CA
- Coach: Drew Wartenburg
- Dog: Smokey, a rescued pit bull
- High School: Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, CA
- College: University of California, Davis in Davis, CA
- Degree: B.S. in Exercise Biology
- Pre-race meal: Spaghetti Bolognese
- End of season treat: Guinness float
- Favorite training shoe: New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo
- Competition spike: New Balance LD 5000
- Favorite type of workout: Progressive long run
- Recommended read: The Silence of Great Distance, Women Running Long
- 800m—2:05.92 Seattle, WA 18 January 2014
- 1500m— 4:07.17 Los Angeles, CA 17 May 2013
- Indoor 1500— 4:05.70 New York, NY 25 January 2014
- Mile— 4:27.23 Leuven, Belgium 18 August 2012
- Indoor Mile— 4:24.54 New York, NY 25 January 2014
- 3000m— 8:44.11 New York, NY 14 June 2014
- 5000m— 15:08.61 Rome, Italy 5 June 2014
- 10,000m— 31:35.88 Palo Alto, CA 5 May 2017
- Half Marathon— 1:09:44 Houston, TX 18 January 2015
- Marathon– 2:41:38 New York, NY 18 November 2016
- Chiba Ekiden—Chiba, Japan… Novemeber 2010
- NACAC Cross Country Championships—Trinidad… February 2011
- Pan American Games—Guadalajara, Mexico… October 2011
- Olympic Games—London, United Kingdom… August 2012
- World Cross Country Championships—Bydgoszcz, Poland… March 2013
- World Track and Field Championships—Moscow, Russia… August 2013
- Olympic Games—Rio de Janeiro, Brazil…August 2016