“I was terrified of it. I called it the M-word,” says Becki, laughing. “One of my goals in life was to never run a marathon. I thought there was no way I could race that far.”
But the collegiate miler and steeplechaser met an exercise physiologist after college who told her she was biomechanically suited to the 26.2-mile race.
Not entirely convinced, Becki ran her first competitive distance race at the Parkersburg Half-Marathon in West Virginia in 2007, a race that would change her life.
On the shuttle to the starting line, she met fellow American distance runner (and future husband) Josh Ordway, a medical student at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.
“I could tell she was nervous,” Josh said. “I had run this race before, so I told her about the course, how to attack it—like don’t try anything for the first three miles—and when to take fluids,” he said.
The pep talk calmed Becki’s nerves, and Josh’s strategy worked. Both won the race for the Americans. Two weeks later, Becki drove from Akron to Dayton for their first date.
By 2008, Josh had proposed—on a running track, of course—and the couple’s racing careers were taking off.
Josh won the 2008 Columbus Marathon. Both competed in the 2008 Austin Marathon, where Becki placed second—her first marathon—with a time of 2:43:42, qualifying her for the 2008 Olympic Marathon trials. Josh had also qualified for the 2008 trials, having notched a 2:15:39 PR, or personal record, in the Chicago Marathon in 2006.
Now married, the Ordways are once again Olympic hopefuls, headed to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon team trials in January in Houston, Texas.
The couple lives and trains in the Dayton suburb of Bellbrook, threading long miles around their neighborhood, through the Greene County countryside, on local bike paths, and over the hilly trails of Sugarcreek Metropark.
“We love living and running here in Dayton,” Becki says. “We’re really blessed here to have the trail systems and the Five Rivers MetroParks system, and you can get hills anywhere you want.”
Among the top marathon runners in the country, the Ordways maintain intense training schedules despite the demands of their work.
Becki, 28, worked as assistant coach for Wright State University’s men’s and women’s distance runners and cross country teams. She coached Wright State runners to personal bests and several school records during her tenure.
Josh, 31, is in his second year in Boonshoft’s family medicine residency program at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton and runs more than 100 miles per week. During medical school, he often ran twice a day, starting as early as 4 a.m.
“Life is pretty much all running, all the time, and work,” says Becki. “But we’re content that running takes up the majority of our time.”
It helps to have the support of a spouse who is a runner, the Ordways say.
Both started running as pre-teens and come from running families from opposite ends of Ohio (Becki is from Alliance in the northeast, Josh from Holgate in the northwest).
Both specialized in the same event in college: the steeplechase, a 3,000-meter event that involves jumping barriers and a pit of water (Josh at Princeton, ’03; Becki at University if Akron, ’06).
Josh moved naturally into the marathon. He had an affinity for cross-country in high school and is an Ohio cross-country state champion. With a 5K road PR of 14:34, Josh was the 2006 Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) national 5K Champion. He also has multiple RRCA National Half-Marathon championships.
While doing his pre-med stint at The Ohio State University and training with the OSU track team, he started running road races and decided to give the marathon a shot. He upped his mileage, and won in his first attempt at a half-marathon.
“I thought, ‘there may be something to this’,” he said. Josh ran his first marathon in Columbus in 2005 and won it.
Becki, however, always considered herself a sprinter. She ran a 4:54 mile in college, and in 2006 was All-Ohio steeplechase champion.
“Even though I was putting in the mileage, I still fought it tooth and nail,” she said. But before the 2008 Olympic Trials, she was running hundreds of miles per month, and the marathon made her feel “invincible.” In 2009, she placed 13th in the USA Women’s Championship Marathon, with a time of 2:40:16.
Now with their sights set on the “race of races,” the Ordways are looking forward to racing together at the trials in January.
And there will be at least three running bibs at the Olympic trials bearing the name “Ordway,” and possibly a fourth. Josh’s brother, Jason, is also running the trials, and their sister, Jen, is hoping to win a qualifier this fall to get her there.
“It’s a much different league, and you feel like a celebrity,” Josh says. “You look around and go ‘that person was on the cover of Runner’s World; that person has an Olympic medal…’ You just can’t believe you made it there.”