Princeton, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA
SUNSHINE, COOL TEMPERATURES, AND A SLIGHT WIND GREETED THE RUNNERS as they embarked on the race that would determine the women’s marathon team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The Boston crowd was stunned, as Magdalena Lewy-Boulet capitalized on her peak fitness and made an early break from the field. Knowing full well that the selection process really only had two spots available (as Deena Kastor was considered a guarantee – barring an unusual disaster), Lewy-Boulet pushed the pace early and inspired all the athletes to “jump in at the deep end of the pool.” Noting the weather, Meredith Lambert said “The race conditions were ideal – not too warm or windy – and the course was fast and flat.”
With all of these conditions in place, big performances, and big PR’s to match didn’t seem out of the question. It can be dangerous to be out so hard so early (Our eyes out on the course, Jacob Fry, stated at the halfway point that there were many runners who might be in over their heads). But the cool temperatures helped assure that the runners wouldn’t overheat. And when the goin got tough for the runners, they simply looked to the crowd! Again, Meredith noted the favorable conditions: “The crowd support was incredible, which actually made me enjoy running on a loop course like that. The course layout was also great because I could see the race unfolding among the leaders as they passed me in the other direction. And with Philly TC emblazoned across the front of my jersey, I heard a lot of ‘Go, Philly!’ which was very encouraging.” Abby Dean agreed with these sentiments: “The crowds were amazing. I heard so many people screaming my name. And when I wasn’t hearing my name, I was hearing ‘Go Philly!’ And just when I thought the crowds could not get any louder, I came through the first loop, which goes by the finish line, and the crowds were even louder! The energy was unbelievable!”
As for OUR athletes, they met those ideal conditions with tough racing. Abby recalled that when the gun went off, “Deena set a slow pace to start. The group finally broke up at the first water bottle station right before mile three. I knew I wanted to be in the top 25, so I tried to put myself in that place from the start. The pace felt comfortable (except for the stitch that persisted the entire race), and I was in a good position.”
Abby also provided insight in to the middle miles of this historic race. She recalled that “around mile 14 or 15, the stitch [see previous paragraph] grew larger and a lot worse, and this really slowed me down. I lost the few women I was running with at that time. I struggled from that point on, except for a few points where I tried to focus on picking off as many women as I could. But as I was doing that, other women were doing the same and passing me.” Both girls came up with big performances. Meredith came close to a PR, and Abby set a GIGANTIC PR, eclipsing her old PR of 2:45.21 by 3:56! Abby came up with the highest Olympic Trials finish ever by a PRTC athlete, finishing 29th overall in a stunning 2:41.25! This run is also the second fastest marathon performance every by a PRTC athlete from the women’s team, second only to Michelle Lilienthal’s golden standard of 2:35.51. Meredith followed Abby through the chute with the #7 performance on the all-time list, running 2:48.21.
Both girls were also proud of their performances. Meredith said that “Overall, I was pleased with the race. While not a PR, I met my alternative goal of running under 2:50.” Abby’s enthusiasm could be felt through her words. “Coming through the finish line was an incredible experience, and I was ecstatic to see that I had knocked off close to four minutes from my previous marathon PR! I really had a great time running this race! Although I am not fond of turns around cones, I really loved everything else about the course! it was a flat and fast course, and doing loops really helped break up the race, and allowed for the biggest crowd support I have ever seen.”
The Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials also had two former team athletes – Michelle Lilienthal and Veena Reddy. While the last year has been tough for Michelle (she has struggled with injuries and now unfortunately is probably going to wind up married to Jacob Frey), she fought tough in this race. Michelle scraped and pushed for a credible 2:48.46. The people of PRTC, more than many others, know how hard Michelle works and what a difficult year it has been for her. We know the incredible talent she possesses. And we know this was a performance to be proud of. Like Lewy-Boulet, Veena Reddy seemed to time her peak perfectly as well, posting a scintillating 2:38.08.
Great job by all the girls!
EARLIER IN THE WEEKEND, PAT WARD opted for spikes over flats, looking to run a fast 5k at the second Princeton meet. And it seemed like a fast 5k would come. Pat recalled that “the front of the pack maintained a pretty consistent 71-72 second pace, and at least 25 of us all went through 2 miles in 9:36, right on pace for running 15 flat. It was a beautiful night for running, and I was feeling fairly smooth.” Unfortunately, this cadence did not continue. “Right after two miles, though, the pack broke up, and I quickly found myself unravelling, running two 74’s, then two 76’s. I’m happy with the hard effort I put in, and I really raced all the way to the line, so I have no doubts now about my fitness level. Unfortunately, I was hoping a 100% effort would yield a bit more than 15:14.40, so I again left Princeton on a Friday night fairly disappointed.”
Ever the optimist, Pat gleaned what he could from his performance and sets his sights on Broad Street, hoping his improved turnover will help him barrel through center city on his way to the Naval Yard. “These last two races have made it clear to me that, with the recent schedule I’ve had at school, I’ve been erring on the side of overtraining the last few months. I don’t think I’ve dug myself too deep of a hole, though, and I’m confident that with a modest tapering of the mileage, I’ll be ready to roll at Broad Street in two weeks.”
RYAN FENNELLY LOOKED TO KEEP HIS TURNOVER READY FOR PENN by stretching out the legs at a local 5k road race that honors Earth Day (Tuesday, 22 April). Ryan cruised through the course, picking up the victory. But Ryan was joined on this morning by a teammate who has not raced in many months. Citing good health, Tim Callinan looked to start knocking of the racing rust by running the Clean Air 5k. Tim still has quite a way to go to 100% fitness, but his effort was good enough on this day to land him in the winner’s circle.