Back in the Twin Cities after college, Gabi and Alex enjoyed an active lifestyle, constantly cycling around the city and doing CrossFit two to three times per week. “Neither of us can sit still for very long,” Alex says. “We’ll put on a movie and within three minutes one of us will be foam rolling on the floor or stretching.” He tells me of a time around 2013 when he convinced Gabi to join him for a 5K run. “Around 4K, she was so upset with me. She was done, she wanted to walk home. She didn’t want to run anymore.”
Despite moments of resistance, running kept calling. In 2015 Rooker would more or less make her road racing debut at the Twin Cities 10 Mile. While finishing school to become a physician assistant, she wanted to find a personal challenge and a mental break from the intense course load. She finished in 1:10:59 (7:06/mile pace), not exactly the time of a casual runner, but rather the byproduct of a gifted athlete—of being someone who just can’t sit still.
She kept up the habit casually, but the running spark didn’t fully flame until she ran TC10 once again in 2018 (1:06:02; 6:37/mile pace), and shortly afterward found Mill City Running. She says, “I was at races and kept hearing people cheer, ‘Go, Mill City!’ and I was like, ‘I want to be on that team!’”
Around this time, Alex—whom Gabi calls “a researcher…he’s always reading the latest studies or physiology textbooks” — began coaching her. “It’s 90 percent positive,” she says, describing an incident they had recently where they had to rush one of their dogs to the emergency vet. She was in the middle of a lifting session when Alex called. “We have one car, so there wasn’t really an option. That’s where the husband/coach thing can get tricky.” But for the seemingly tricky dynamics, they’ve built a lot of trust together. Gabi is mostly happy to run the plan Alex cooks up, and they have that spousal intuition baked into the day-to-day, allowing for flexibility around Gabi’s seven days on, seven days off work schedule at the hospital. “Alex is really good at saying this is just icing on the cake,” she says. “No one cares if you blow up and run a terrible marathon. So, he’s good about keeping the perspective because I tend to get really regimented.”