Abby did it. She stuck with it. Her previous two efforts to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials in April were thwarted by unfavorable weather conditions. And Sunday at the Philadelphia Marathon wasn’t exactly perfect weather either. But just as Abby had fought back to line up for her third marathon in the last six months, Abby fought hard when the gun took off to help make her dream come true.
AT THE START OF THE PHILADELPHIA MARATHON, the runners were trying to keep warm from low temperatures, a slight wind, and a bit of drizzle. For Abby, this was her third marathon since June; for Claire, this was her first marathon ever! And with American women looking to punch their tickets to the Olympic Marathon Trials to be held this Spring, the women’s field was guaranteed to be deep and fast.
Prior to the race, Abby fleshed out her plans. “My plan was to go out at 6:20 pace or slightly under and just try to hold it. That morning, I talked with one of my coaches, and since it was windy, my strategy was a little different. I would try to not completely rely on mile splits, but rather pay attention to effort. So when the wind was behind me, my splits were much faster. I also knew from previous marathons how much the hills slowed me down. My goal was to try to hit the hills at a harder effort, knowing that after each one, there was a downhill [on which] I could recover.
Abby was with a pack of women for the first few miles, but she felt like their pace was a little too fast for her, so she pulled back. Her move wound up being a “good thing, because I ended up passing one of them around mile 9 or 10 and one them around mile 15. By mile 14, my hamstrings started to cramp up from the cold. I just hoped they would cooperate for the rest of the run.
Trying to run intelligently, Claire passed the Art Museum area protected by a small pack of male runners. Claire hit the half-way mark almost exactly on pace. The clock read 1:23:31 as Claire passed, which was a bit quicker than she had planned. Claire was staying tucked in, hoping to use the line of runners as a buffer against any wind that the runners might face on Kelly Drive.
MEANWHILE, IN THE MEN’S RACE, Tom and Bart were looking to exact some revenge from unfavorable weather conditions in their previous marathon outings as well. Tom had enjoyed a speedy recover from the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon and had put in plenty of hard work in the subsequent six weeks. Bart decided to use the second half of the Fall as an experiment to see if under-training might help him find a second peak for the season come race day. As the men’s race unfolded, the splits did not suggest a record day. Running the race that was in front of him, however, Tom placed himself high on the pecking order in the early miles. Tom was running in small lead pack, accompanied only by the eventual winner and runner-up of the race. At eight miles, Tom lost contact with the duo and ran most of the next 17 miles alone in third.
AS OUR PRTC GUYS AND GIRLS PROCEEDED ON TO KELLY DRIVE, THE WAIT WAS OFFICIALLY ON.
AS THE FINISHERS STARTED TO CLIMB THEIR WAY FROM LLOYD HALL BACK UP TO THE ART MUSEUM, the PRTC faithful were looking for their teammates. As Tom approached the base of the Art Museum with approximately 750 meters to go, he was joined by Jean-Nicolas Duval and Chris Nirschel. The two had worked together to reel Tom in. But Tom was not about to fall from third place down to fifth. He explained that “I couldnâ€™t match (former steeplechaser) Jean-Nicolasâ€™s furious kick, but I was able to pull away from Chris for the bragging rights of first Philadelphian.” Bart also hung tough to help bolster a body of marathon work that will help pay dividends ‘down the road.’ After our men crossed the line, our women weren’t too far behind.
One woman passed Abby on heading East on Kelly Drive, but Abby ended up passing two women not too long after that, so she didn’t lose her place for long. Abby recalled that when she reached mile 20, she knew she felt pretty good and was certain that she could make her goal of 2:47. “But you never can be sure at mile 20, so I kept trying to maintain my efforts… When I got back on the Drive, my calves had also started to cramp up. I knew if I could just get through it, I would make my time. At that point, I started doing the calculations in my head to see what pace I could slow down to and still make it. One of my coaches who was out on the Drive started yelling to me that I could catch some of the girls ahead and that there were three women chasing me. That changed my focus, and so for the last four miles or so, I concentrated on trying to get the women I could see ahead of me. It paid off. I ended up passing another woman in the last mile!”
Realizing a goal that she has worked very hard towards, ABBY HIT THE TAPE IN 2:45.21! THE TIME GAVE ABBY A NEW PR AND A QUALIFIER FOR THE 2008 U.S. OLYMPIC MARATHON TRIALS TO BE HELD IN BOSTON THIS COMING APRIL! Claire provided a marathon PR sweep for the women’s team, finishing the race in 3:06.41! Analyzing her race, Claire stated that she made it to 17 still fairly close to pace and then swiftly unraveled. “But I’m glad I finished, [and I’m] happy with the effort and excited for the next phase of my marathon training.”
IN THE DAY’S TWO OTHER RACES, PRTC ENJOYED GREAT PERFORMANCES FROM TWO NEWCOMERS! In the half marathon, former Princeton Tiger Meredith Lambert showed off her long-distance prowess by finishing second overall in the women’s race. Another relative newcomer to the club, Wylie Belasik finished seventeenth in the men’s race. Citing law school and a buy schedule, Meredith feels she has been short on training this Fall, making her performance all the more impressive.
DREW NESBITT STUNNED THE TEAM, finishing fourth overall in the annually competitive Rothman Institute 8k. The Rothman Institute 8k has been a long partner to the full marathon and enjoyed deep fields. Drew had never raced 8k on the roads and took a decisive chop off his 8k PR (25:33) on the day! Drew ran a very impressive 24:40, suggesting that he can translate his 1500m skills in to mid-distance success. The start of the 8k found the men’s field running extremely conservatively, passing the mile in 5:00. But Drew, along with Pat Ward, made sure they kept with the leaders to separate themselves from the masses on Kelly Drive. Pat continued his full racing Fall by running a PR 25:24!
Overall, PRTC placed many runners in each race and provided great performances and PRs to boot! It was a great way to represent the team and running in our hometown.