Two of America's finest young professional long distance runners are spending their High Country summer preparing for their first crack at the marathon distance. Blowing Rock residents and ZAP Fitness/Reebok runners Tyler Pennel and Cole Atkins will be toeing the line at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday October

5, which will serve as this year's U.S. Marathon Championship.



Both Pennel and Atkins have actually already qualified for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials to be run in Los Angeles in March of 2016 by virtue of their sub 1:05 Half-Marathon performances in 2014.


Pennel has been having an outstanding last 12 months. He finished third at last year's U.S. Championship 12k race, he finished fourth at the U.S Championship Half-Marathon in 1.01.44 (his Trials Qualifying performance) and he turned in a second-place finish at last month's Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta (10k in 28:30), which also served as this year's U.S. 10k Road Championship.


Atkins finished fourth at the highly competitive Grandma's Half-Marathon in Duluth, MN., in a time of 1:04.30 securing his Trials berth for 2016. Both Pennel and Atkins were also recognized last year as "Roads Scholars" by the Road Runners Club of America, which is a cash grant awarded each year to top four emerging American long distance runners.


"Both Cole and Tyler are executing their Twin Cities Marathon build-ups well," said Head Coach Pete Rea. "They are logging lots of quality miles here in the High Country and are excited to compete against America's best in October in Minnesota"



Photo Courtesy: Tyler Pennel, Zap Fitness Foundation