If you were on the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail this spring you might have seen one of the fastest women in history run through the farmland, her powerful 5 foot 3 inch frame pumping, her blonde ponytail flying and her German Shepherd Maya at her side. The trail, not far from the dairy farm she grew up on, has been a training ground for Elle Purrier-St. Pierre, a place where she’s probably logged more miles than on any track.
In a recent Instagram post she and her husband, dairy farmer Jamie St. Pierre sit on the back of their pickup truck. “What, Canada’s only 20 miles away?!” says Purrier-St. Pierre in mock surprise. “Here, hold my milk.” The camera then logs her 20-mile run.
The trails and backroads of Franklin County are where, during Covid, Purrier-St. Pierre put in her long miles logging up to 80 miles a week, For much of the winter she trained alone separated from the New Balance teammates she had been living with in Boston and out of the spotlight she’s been under for the past 18 months.
It’s a spotlight that’s shone on since February 8, 2020 when she became the fastest American woman to run a mile — her time of 4:16:85 breaking Mary Decker Slaney’s record which had stood since 1982. It was also the second fastest indoor mile time ever for a woman.
A year later, she became the fastest American woman to run two miles, posting the third fastest time in the world. She also holds the fastest time for the 1,500 meters this year and is the first to run 800 meters in under two minutes.
At 26, she’s only just getting started.
“Sometimes (most of the time) I feel like I live a double life. One day I’m in NYC ripping around the track on the big stage and the next I’m at home in the quiet of the barn and surrounded by the comforting presence of cows. What a wild combo.. .but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she wrote in an Instagram post this past winter.
On June 22, Elle’s quiet life as the daughter Vermont dairy farmers, and now, a partner and wife of a dairy farmer came to an abrupt end. She set a new personal record and meet record at the Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meter, winning a trip to the Tokyo Olympics. It will be her second major overseas competition. In the first, the World Championships in Doha, she finished 11th and earned a spot on Team USA.
Purrier-St. Pierre didn’t just win each of her Olympic trials heats, she gapped the the rest of the field. In the final, after being pushed off the track and stumblimg, she regained her balance, and led the entire race. She hit the 800 meter mark in 2:09.
In the last lap, she lengthened her lead, moving ahead until it looked like she was running alone. She crossed the line in 3:58:36, an Olympic Trials record. Right behind her were two of her New Balance teammates Cory McGee (4:00:67) and Heather Maclean, a good friend of Purrier-St. Pierre (4:02:09), punched their tickets to Tokyo. They are coached by former Dartmouth coach and Olympian Mark Coogan.
While last year there was speculation she might race the 5,000 meter as well, Purrier-St. Pierre is entered in the Trials in the 800 meters. The finals came after press time.
Despite her growing fame, Purrier-St. Pierre is still rooted in Vermont. Other than New Balance, the sponsor she touts the most is Cabot Creamery and milk, in general. It is, she says, what got her to where she is.
“I think growing up doing all the chores I did on the farm, like lugging hay bales and waking up before dawn to help my folks has prepared me for this and made me stronger,” Purrier-St. Pierre told Vermont Sports in January when she was named an Athlete of the Year.
Her recovery drink? Chocolate milk, of course.