QATAR — Montgomery’s Elle Purrier set a personal best while racing against some of the best runners in the world on Saturday.
Purrier earned an 11th place finish in the 5,000 meters at the IAAF World Championship’s in Doha, Qatar. Her time,14:58.17, was a full 10 seconds lower than her previous personal best.
Only one other runner from the United States finished ahead of Purrier, Karissa Schweizer, who came in 9th with a time of 14:45.18.
Folks in Franklin County weren’t the only ones keeping an eye on Purrier. Robert Hoppler, coach of the UNH Wildcats Cross Country team where Purrier spent her college years, also had his eye on Elle.
“I have told Elle that there’s a certain part of the population in the world born with this running talent,” said Hoppler, “and you are competing in that elite group.”
Hoppler carefully groomed Purrier to prepare her to compete for the ‘long haul,’ and so far, his strategy has been successful.
After graduating from UNH as the school’s most decorated athlete, Purrier began running with New Balance.
During her rookie year as a pro runner, Purrier has set personal bests, gone to the World Championship finals, broken the record in the New York Mile, and completed races that set her at Olympic qualifying times.
Purrier has gone far in the last six years, but Hoppler recalled the first time he met her and the qualities that stood out to him.
“I drove up and visited her family and when you meet her and her family,” he said, “you realize where she’s coming from who she is.”
“She’s been blessed with world-class talent, but I love that she never lost touch of that person I met years ago,” said Hoppler.
No matter how great her accomplishments, Hoppler noted that Purrier’s heart is always turned toward home.
He mentioned that, although few knew it, Purrier returned to Vermont to train in the weeks before the trip to Qatar.
“The rest of the New Balance runners were done, so Elle went home to Vermont. No matter where she is in the world, that’s always her home,” said Hoppler. “She’s always thinking about being in Vermont.”
The life of a pro runner may seem glamorous, but Hoppler brought a glimpse of reality.
“People don’t understand the amount of hard work that she puts in,” said Hoppler. “It’s a 365-day job. She has to dedicate herself all day, every day--she tracks her food, her sleep, hydration, massage, flexibility--and then she runs.”
The commitment requires Purrier to spends months away from home. She spent time in Arizona to train for altitude, noted Hoppler, and she’s raced in Rome, England, Ireland, the Middle East, and California.
“She’s done a great job balancing it all,” said Hoppler. “Some of the biggest things on her mind are still memories of enjoying showing her cows at the fair.”
Hoppler recalled how Purrier called him her ‘Track Dad,’ and an action she took after her first race in Doha, exemplified her dedication to those she cares for.
“My phone rang half an hour after the qualifying race,” said Hoppler. “It was Elle, and she was thrilled that she made the final. She was so excited to share that with others.”
“That was very nice of her, and that’s what I’m talking about when I say she keeps her roots alive,” said Hoppler. “She’s a great kid, and her parents should be tremendously proud.”
Kylie Edwards (O’Brien), who grew up with Purrier, has also enjoyed watching her progress.
Edwards recalled their freshman year of high school when Purrier began running, trying to do both soccer and cross country. In her sophomore year, Purrier dedicated her time to cross country.
“It was then that we felt Elle was going to be good. It was hard for her not to play soccer--not having the team aspect,” said Edwards, “but I’m so glad that she did.”
Edwards’ favorite race that Purrier has run so far was the New York Mile.
“It was amazing to watch her race against Jenny Simpson,” said Edwards. “It is wonderful to watch someone doing what they were born to do and kicking butt doing it.”
The two girls take time to text each other and spend time together when Purrier is in Vermont.
“I might take a bike ride while she runs. We tried running together, and it didn’t work well,” said Kylie with a chuckle.
Watching Purrier on race tracks around the world, breaking records and establishing herself as a world-class athlete, is still surreal at times.
“Sometimes when I see her, I still think of her as the girl who built forts with me in her parent’s barn,” said Edwards, “and other times it hits me that she’s a pro runner and could be in the Olympics next year.”
Edwards and Hoppler, along with the rest of Purrier’s family, fans, and supporters, have been blessed with an opportunity to witness an event that doesn’t happen often in a small town.
“When you see a great artist or musician, you know it’s a talent that’s in them, and Elle has that,” said Hoppler, “and a big part of her motivation is to represent her community and family at the highest level.”