When Ballew started to exceed her training goals, she realized that the Olympic trials could be in her future. She decided to buckle down and tell only close friends and family about her dream of qualifying at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November 2018.

An improved time at a half marathon six weeks prior gave her added confidence as her qualifying race approached.

"It takes a lot of guts to stand at the starting line of a marathon," Ballew said. "You don't even know if you're going to finish the race, let alone qualify for a goal."

She said the marathon came with some uneasy miles. For the first 20 miles, she synced up with a fellow runner who was attempting the same goal of 2:45:00 to qualify for the Olympic trials.

"By mile 22 I had my friends and family cheering me on. When mile 24 rolled around, I hit a major wall," Ballew said. "That's when I looked down at my watch and knew I had to make a decision. I could give up all the miles and hours of hard training, or I could be brave and keep going. So I kept going."

After 26.2 grueling miles, she qualified for the 2020 Olympic Trials with a time of 2:43:13.

Ballew's next race in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta will be the 2019 Boston Marathon in April.