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Chasing the torch
Mill Creek cross country coach readies for Olympic marathon trials

Tom Kutter likes to dish out credit.

He credits the faculty at Shiloh for their support. He credits the members of his cross country teams both at Shiloh and now at Mill Creek for keeping his running interesting. He credits his older brother for getting him started as a runner. And he credits his new bride with pushing him out the door when he would rather sit on the couch than go on a run.

Kutter needs to give himself some credit.

After all, he showed up at his brother's eighth-grade cross country practices when he was only a sixth-grader. He earned his spot to run for Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He keeps running once he's out the door, mile after mile. And he alone ran the Chicago Marathon in 2 hours 21 minutes and 5 seconds, a time that qualified him for the Olympic Marathon Time Trials in New York.

He accomplished his goal of five years.

"I decided right after college that I was going to do marathon running," Kutter said. "I pretty much decided that to make the trials would be my ultimate goal. It is probably the biggest goal in running."

It's a goal that he needed all those years and all the people he credits for helping him before he reached it.

"For five years I didn't put in the level of commitment it takes to get there," Kutter said. "I would always fall short when I would attempt it. For four marathons I didn't even come close."

But for marathon No. 5 he had that final push - his then-fiance and now wife Danielle.

When he didn't want to run, she tied his shoes for him. When the 20-plus mile training sessions got too lonesome, she swapped out her running shoes for a Schwinn and road at his side. And when he would go on shorter runs, she would run too, but on a different path.

"He's too fast," said Danielle, a teacher at North Gwinnett. "He's much faster than I am. I couldn't keep up with him for more than a sprint."

The two were married June 9, so Danielle's influence on his running will only grow, and if it's anything like it was during their courtship, his times should continue to shrink.

"She has helped me a lot," Tom said. "A lot of times people will get in a relationship and the running will suffer, but she has helped me with it. When I don't feel like going, she pushes me out the door."

And if it weren't for her, Tom wouldn't have been fast enough to qualify for the time trials. Minutes might seem short when running for hours, but each one counts and after Danielle got involved in Tom's training he cut six minutes off his time.

Had he cut a minute and five seconds more, his trip this fall to New York would be free.

Kutter's time of 2:21:05 earned him a spot in the trials under the B standard, which falls between 2:20 and 2:22. A two-minute window. Seconds are crucial, even when running 26.2 miles. Had he finished in less than 2:20, his trip to the trials would have been covered by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"I really was trying to qualify for the B standard," Kutter said. "I didn't want to risk speeding up and dying that last couple of miles."

In fact, Kutter never really sped up or slowed down. His first-half split was only four seconds different than his second-half time.

But now with his goal of five years finally accomplished, Kutter wants to shave more time off his marathon - something his wife can probably help with.

"I am really hoping to run under 2:20," Kutter said. "To make the actual team is unrealistic, but I want to be up there in the top half of the runners.

"It will be neat. This will be like an all-star game where all the best guys get together and run. I am excited about the experience."

SideBar: Peachtree Road Race

When: Today, 7:30 a.m.

Where: Atlanta

What: 10K road race

Noteworthy: The 6.2-mile race begins at Lenox Square Mall and ends at Piedmont Park