Trail Running's Power Couple
Elite endurance athletes J. Marshall Thomson and Stevie Kremer balance intense training and everyday life
Photo: Team Karli Racing
J. Marshall Thomson and Stevie Kremer weren’t runners six years ago. Then they met, started running together and turned elite, landing heaps of trail-running and ski mountaineering first-place finishes and championship titles.
“I think having a lover as a training partner would be tricky,” says Ashley Arnold, the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 champion and a friend of the couple. “You'd run the risk of engaging in way too much training-centered conversation.”
But Kremer and Thomson seem to make it work splendidly—training together has helped them reach the top tiers of the trail-running world.
This year Kremer crushed the Pikes Peak Marathon, finishing 12th overall with one of the fastest women’s time ever, 4:17:13. She also won the Limone Extreme Skyrace and nabbed the 2013 Sky Series Championship (a series of endurance mountain races with a minimum altitude of 6,561 feet) title as well as the USA Trail Series Championship. Meanwhile, Thomson won the Leadville Trail Marathon in 3:37:07 and set the course record for the Collegiate Peaks 50-mile race in Buena Vista with a time of 6:53:28. In the winter, they take a break from running and participate in ski mountaineering races, which they tend to win as well. The duo races under the team name Team Karli Racing, a title Thomson created in memory of his friend Karl Pfister.
They grew up far apart, but were united by their love for Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
Kremer, 29, was born in Germany, but her family moved to the United States, and she attended Darien High School in Connecticut. When she relocated to the Rocky Mountains to attend Colorado College, Kremer discovered a love for the mountains—and for running. As a senior, she finished her first marathon, then moved to Crested Butte, Colorado, in 2006 to teach elementary school.
That year, she ran her first trail race with a friend—and finished dead last. But she was hungry for more. She kept running trails, taking to the mountains in her free time. Even when she traveled to Italy in 2012 to teach at the International School of Trieste, Kremer spent her weekends running in the mountains of Switzerland or France.
Thomson, 34, was raised in Ludlow, Vermont, where his parents had him skiing the slopes of Okemo Mountain as a toddler. When he was 21, Thomson moved to Colorado and lived on the Front Range to work at a brewery. But the city life wore on him, and he relocated to Crested Butte in 2007 to immerse himself in the Colorado backcountry. “I needed the spirit of the mountains,” he says of the move.
In 2007, the two crossed paths at a New Year’s Eve party in Crested Butte. After spending their first date on skis, they soon found each other to be great training partners.
“They constantly push each other,” says Kremer’s father, Juergen Kremer. “[Since they met], they’ve become more competitive, but also more appreciative for what they’ve accomplished.”
Training and living together have changed some personality quirks as well. “While Marshall may have used to go for a Budweiser, he now prefers chia seeds,” jokes Erica Mueller, a childhood friend of Thomson’s.
Read on for a Q&A with Thomson and Kremer to find out more about what it takes to be in a powerhouse relationship.