Skip to main content

ASU alum talks achievements, marathons, Olympics

April 18, 2012

As the sun slowly begins to rise each morning, most Arizonans are still enjoying the last few hours of sleep. But for Ariana Hilborn, sunrise is like a dropped flag signaling her time to hit the pavement and train for her career as a marathoner.

But this was not always the case for Hilborn. The ASU alumnus decided to leave her job as an elementary school teacher and her comfort zone to pursue her dreams.

“I didn’t run in high school or college," Hilborn says. "I just ran on the treadmill at the gym to stay in shape. I always wanted to run a marathon, but kept putting it off and no one wanted to run with me.”

That all changed when she met her husband Matt. In 2008, they decided to accomplish a “bucket-list dream” of finishing a marathon and signed up for the P.F. Changs Rock and Roll Marathon.

Not being avid runners, the Hilborns decided to train with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training after having lost relatives to leukemia. The foundation is focused on raising awareness and funds for cancer patients and their families by training runners, walkers and triathletes. The pair finished the race in 4 hours and 36 minutes.

“The whole experience was emotional,” she recalls. “The last few miles were pretty awful and I started crying, but when I crossed the finished line it was totally worth it. Women were coming up and thanking me for doing the run.”

Since then, Hilborn has participated in 11 marathons and dropped two hours off of her time. Among her favorites are the Boston marathon, Grandma’s marathon and the San Diego marathon. She says that the most memorable moment in her career was the 2012 Olympic trials this past January, in which Hilborn competed with the top runners from around the nation for a spot in the U.S. Olympics. She placed 29 in the trials with a time of 2:37, which she calls “pretty bad.”

“I would have laughed if someone told me two years ago that I would be at the Olympic trials. It was a surreal experience to be there running with the top runners in the country,” she said.

Hilborn plans to compete in the 2016 Olympic trials, where she hopes to break a time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. In preparation for this, she is moving to Michigan to join the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, which is an Olympic development program exclusively for post-collegiate athletes. To date the program has produced several notable athletes including, ASU’s very own Desiree Davila, who will represent the United States in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

One aspect of the training that Hilborn is most looking forward to is being able to work with other female athletes.

“I’m really excited to be out there in such great company. It will be healthy competition and great to meet so many awesome people. We will all be able to learn from each other,” she said.

Aside from benefitting her health, Hilborn credits running with changing both her and her families lives. She says that her family has been so inspired by her success that they are now competing in marathons as well. For her, the sport is also a way to clear her mind and relieve any stress she is feeling during the day.

And when she isn’t training, the Scottsdale native enjoys relaxing at home with her husband and spending time with friends – so long as she can be in bed early to run the following morning.

To follow Hilborn's journey, visit