Amber Green and Aaron Metler
St. George is a well-known marathon that people enter a lottery and travel just to compete in, but the race’s real stars are locals Amber Green and Aaron Metler who made history in 2015 as the only man and women ever to win the race three times.
Born and raised in St. George, Amber Green is a stay-at-home mom of three boys who made the transition from casual runner to elite competitor, culminating in her recent appearance at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Aaron Metler, a native of Michigan, moved to St. George for a job with the city’s recreation department and discovered his passion for marathon running with the help of the community.
How did you start running competitively?
I was always active, but I wasn’t a runner. The reason I got into running was the initial challenge of completing a marathon. I signed up for the St. George Marathon and started training for it. I was a regular back-of-the-pack runner just in it for the experience.
As we started having kids and I was a full-time mom, running became my outlet. It became my sanity, just to get out and run. I honestly never foresaw that I would be where I am now.
How did you take running to the next level?
Anything you love, you’re going to get better at. I just fell in love with running—with the running lifestyle, the culture, my friends, the way I was living healthier, eating better, sleeping better. I love the freedom of being out on the road and in nature. I loved what I was doing so much that it kind of overrode those obstacles and hard times.
I’ve done about 35 marathons: San Diego, California International, Sand Hollow, Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota twice, and the Boston Marathon five times. I’ve won the Tri-State and Utah Valley Marathons, and Park City twice. I’ve been to Japan three times for the Ibigawa, and I think I’ve done 13 St. George Marathons.
Describe your training regimen.
I have a really great coach, Iain Hunter, and he’s been mentoring me. I’ve been doing consistent training and he tailors my training to be very marathon-specific. I’ve been running between 90 and 100-plus miles per week. A lot of those days include morning and night runs. I have key runs on Tuesdays (tempo run), Thursdays (speed workout), and Saturdays (long run); those are my harder days. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are easier days where I can run with my friends.
What was the process of qualifying for the Olympic Trials?
My first attempt was in 2014 at the Boston Marathon. The qualifying standard at the time was under 2 hours 43 minutes, and I came in 2:43:27, so I was off about a second per mile. I had trained so much for that race and really thought I could pull it off. But you do what you can on race day and that’s all I had that day. I made four attempts at certified marathons, and on my fifth attempt in Minnesota last June I finally qualified with a 2:41:17.
What did the experience mean to you?
When I first decided to go after this time standard, it was just another goal in the future, kind of like my first marathon. I just wanted to see if I could do it. When I failed the first time and I was so close, I was still on fire and wanted to try again. Then I tried again and didn’t get it and was kind of fading with my resolve. I put four months of hard training into it, and my family sacrificed so much that I could do this. I didn’t know if it was worth it.
January 2015 was a turning point. I had to make the decision to shelf it or keep trying. I was tired, I was injured and had to take time off. Ultimately, I was hungry for it. I just wanted it so bad.
I came in 63rd with a 2:49:23. The only downer was my time, only because it wasn’t the goal time I felt I was capable of and on a day that you’ve worked months for you want to showcase what you can do. But being part of the race was amazing. It was incredible to be with the elite athletes and see them in action, see their bodies, and how they warm up.
What makes the St. George Marathon so special?
When I was growing up, the house that we lived in was right along the course. I know every turn; I know every bump in the road. It’s my hometown and anyone who has run it will tell you it’s just a beautiful course. I love the warm weather. I love it here.
How did you develop an interest in running?
I started pretty young. In middle school, I ran a good mile and my gym teacher suggested I go out for track. I ended up really liking it and loving competing and training. It became a lifelong thing for me.
Tell us about some memorable moments in your running career.
I actually won the first marathon I entered, which was the 2010 St. George Marathon. I trained hard enough to give myself a chance to be up there with the leaders. I didn’t expect to be in first place, but I took the lead at Mile 7 and led the whole way in.
What inspired me was this town, the passion that the people of St. George have for the marathon. Seeing how hard everyone works to put on this event made me want to participate as an athlete. I’ve now run St. George five times and the Chicago and Boston Marathons. I don’t do a lot of races because I like to train hard and put everything towards one big race.
What do you enjoy most about running?
I really love the mental battle. Every day, regardless of whether it’s a race day or a training run by yourself, you always go through the struggle where your body is fatigued, but your mind can overcome the fatigue and you can run through it.
What principles of running also apply to your everyday life?
Dedication and consistency in anything you do is what makes you successful. If I don’t feel my best or if the weather’s bad, I still go out every morning and do what I gotta do running wise. It’s taught me the importance of sticking with it when things get hard—in the workplace and with family stuff.
What role have you played in the development of running in St. George?
I’m the coordinator of all races and special events. That’s one thing I love about being an athlete: sharing how much good running has done for me and getting people involved with fitness.
As a city, we offer a wide range of programs—free family bike rides, team relays, 1-milers for kids, triathlons, half marathons—so that people of all ages and abilities can be involved. This year’s marathon will be very special as it’s the 40th. We’re hoping to allow 8,000 runners.
Is there a home field advantage?
Definitely. You have all your family and friends who come out to watch you, and your own house and bed to sleep in before and after the marathon. I get to train the course every weekend during the heavy training season.
Why is St. George a great place for runners?
The marathon is like the Super Bowl of our town. People get behind it unlike any other event here. The weather and climate make it a great place to run year-round. That draws a lot of people to train here. Overall, the outdoor vibe from the community is fantastic.