The Weekend Forecast

Jeffrey’s thoughts on the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend.

It’s Friday the 13th and I am feeling lucky as I drink my own brewed pot of Peet’s Coffee. Yesterday evening, I arrived in Pittsburgh as a system of heavy thunderstorms rolled through. It was a foreboding sight to witness nearby lightning strikes from my window seat as we flew over downtown Pittsburgh and prepared for landing. Needless to say, my tensions were assuaged when we finally touched down.

Well, it’s going to be a busy and exciting weekend here in the City Bridges— the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is on Sunday. Right now, I am working on adapting to the 3-hour time change from Arizona (hence the coffee). I am very grateful to be here and have the privilege of pacing Olympic Marathon Trials aspirants through the generous OT Qualifying Incentive Program; I am ready for the task! As the event weekend is just about to kick-off, I wanted to provide a preview of the race and offer my own insights as the men’s pacer.


The Weather


It appears yesterday evening may have been a foreshadowing of the weekend’s outlook. Although it will likely be humid and rainy out, the marathoners will be fortunate to have a moderate temperature (low 60’s) and calm winds (0-3mph) for the 7:00AM start. The thunderstorms are not predicted to arrive until Sunday afternoon (just in time for my return flight).

As a marathoner, I’ve come to accept the fact that the race-day weather is a variable I cannot control, so I try not to become overly-concerned about the conditions. When I am racing, I recognize all athletes will have to compete in the same conditions and sometimes a personal race plan can be modified. However as a pacer, I recognize I cannot make adjustments to Sunday’s plan; I am here to bring athletes promptly through race checkpoints on schedule for  sub 2:19:00. So in this case– for the sake of OT hopefuls– I do hope Sunday’s weather complies.


The Course

I will be formally previewing the Marathon route on Saturday, although my preliminary conclusion is that it’s an “honest” course. There appears to be minor ups and downs throughout the race– I suspect crossing the many city bridges will contribute to the variances in profile. However, there is not an overabundance of directional changes, which I believe are far more interruptive to a marathoner’s rhythm. That being said, I don’t think any well-trained athlete with good marathoning intuition will have any problems with the route. I recall my coach’s advice: you can make any course fast if you run smart!


The Field

Who will be closely following the low-emissions Hybrid Toyota pace car? Here is a very tentative list of elite entrants for the Marathon:

Men
Jared Abuya, KENYA
Isaac Birir, KENYA
Joshua Busienei, KENYA
Gregory Byrnes, Pittsburgh, PA
Benson Cheruiyot, KENYA
James Gathoga, KENYA
Peter Kemboi, KENYA
Richard Kessio, KENYA
Choge Julius Kirwa, KENYA
Ronald Kiptoo Kurui, KENYA
Kipyegon Kirui, KENYA
Moninda Felix Marube, KENYA
David Mealy, Medina, OH
Jeffrey McCabe, Exeter, PA
Jason Ordway, Bellbrook, OH
David Rutto, KENYA
Nik Schweikert, Canton, OH
Don Slusser (Masters), Monroeville, PA
Joel Stansloski, Tulsa, OK
Stephen Tanui, KENYA
Teklu Tefera, ETHIOPIA
Genna Tufa, ETHIOPIA
Kameron Ulmer, Boise, ID
David Wilt (Masters) Pittsburgh, PA
Kostyantyn Zhelezov, UKRAINE

Women
Serkalem Abrha, ETHIOPIA 
Ann Alyanak, Bellbrook, OH
Erica Braswell, Birmingham, AL
Cheryl Collins-Gatons (Masters), Greensburg, PA
Pauline Wanjiru Githuka, KENYA
Emily Harrison, Flagstaff, AZ
Deirbe Hunde, ?
Carol Jefferson, Greenville, PA
Divina Jepkosgei, KENYA
Salome Kosgei, KENYA
Natasha LaBeaud, Flagstaff, AZ
Veronika Lopatina, RUSSIA
Alice Waruguru Ndirangu, KENYA
Lauren Philbrook, State College, PA
Tammy Slusser (Masters), Monroeville, PA
Truphena Jemeli Tarus, KENYA
Alena Vinitskaya, BELARUS

It appears that both the Men’s and Women’s races have several viable Olympic Trials Qualifiers. A few distinguished international athletes also stand out. The Men’s race includes Kenyans Peter Kemboi (2:09:21),  Benson Cheriyot (2:11:33), Stephen Tanui (1:01:29 half-marathon) and David Rutto (2:12:22) David Kipkorir Rutoh (Baltimore Marathon Champion in 2:13:11, 2:10 PR?) . Defending Champion Alena Vinitskaya (2:32:58) of Belarus should have tough competition from Ethiopia’s Serkalem Abrha (2:32:06) and the Kenyan duo of Alice Ndirangu (2:39:13) and Salome Kosgei (Iona College Alum).

Check back here for elite entry updates.


Musings of a Rabbit

As one of three pacers— with Tyler McCandless and Thomas Tissell respectively pacing the Women’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ Qualifiers– I am removed from the competitive context of the race. My objective is to set a steady 5:18/mile pace for the American men. It is a different experience for me in a marathon, because I’m usually accustomed to employing different race tactics when competing. In this situation, I will need to keep as even a pace as possible and do everything I can to pull my group along. Even as a pacer, I have an equal level of excitement as if I were racing, given how much responsibility I have to these athletes!

I do think I personally benefit and will learn a lot from being a rabbit. I am getting more valuable experience in marathoning by being in the race, while having the opportunity to complete a good training run (also in similar conditions I may face in Daegu in September).  For me it is a privilege to have this responsibility, and I am most appreciative that race organizers Patrice Matamoros and Kelsey Jackson have offered me this opportunity!

Please check back for more weekend updates and follow me on Twitter @jde66leston! –JDE

Here are a few race-related articles of interest from the Post-Gazette:

Opportunity

Jeffrey discusses how opportunity is fundamental in American Distance Running, and showcases the May 15th’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon as an exciting opportunity for Olympic Marathon Trials hopefuls.

In my own experience, I’ve felt that one of the most fundamental components required to become successful as a post-collegiate runner is opportunity. While there certainly are other attributes that create a successful athlete (recalling Coach Jack DanielsRunning Formula, where he identifies opportunity as one of four “ingredients for success”– the others being ability, motivation and direction), I feel that having the right opportunities is essential in order to achieve to our full potential. In distance running, I believe opportunity can take form in 3 ways: as an environment conducive for focusing on training, through the support of generous sponsors and the community, and by having the chance to compete and demonstrate our ability.

In this pre-Olympic year, there have been a myriad of continuing and new opportunities created to assist U.S. Distance Runners and Olympic hopefuls. I have already described how profoundly the RRCA Roads Scholar Grant has impacted my own career and perspective in 2010, and I’m confident future program recipients will be equally as grateful. In February, Running USA awarded its second annual Allen Steinfeld Development Award– a nod to one of the pioneers in our sport who helped establish the Team USA Distance Running program in his tenure as head of the New York Road Runners. With such generous grants made available to individuals and groups, there’s no reason for us not to become successful.

Additionally, race organizations are making the same push to provide opportunities for Olympic hopefuls. Steve Nearman, director of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon, is offering a $1000 cash bonus to any American achieving an Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier at his race in October, while also allocating $1.00 per each race entry to fund a U.S. elite training program. Similarly, Steve Taggart of Tagg Running Events in Tucson, AZ is also pledging $1.00 from existing race entries to help fund U.S. Distance Running projects. And these are just a few examples of the many opportunities we have as American distance runners!

 

The Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon


There’s one opportunity for Olympic Marathon Trials hopefuls that I want to feature, and which I am very excited to be involved with: the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. On May 15, 2011, American Men and Women will have the opportunity to chase the Olympic Trials Standards, while competing for cash incentives and prizes. I will be leading the men’s contingent as a pacer through 18 miles, running the required 2:19:00 pace to help punch more tickets for Houston 2012.

As advertised in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Press Release, participants in the Olympic Trials Incentive Program will have pacers for the respective Trials Standards (2:19:00 for men, 2:39:00 for women), access to special fluid stations, a VIP dinner on Friday night and a Pasta dinner on Saturday night. In addition to being eligible for the overall race prize purse, the top 3 American Trials Qualifiers are awarded as follows:

*1st Place: $1500 cash, $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate and $250 GNC gift certificate
*2nd Place: $1000 cash, $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate and $250 GNC gift certificate
*3rd Place: $1000 cash, $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate and $250 GNC gift certificate

Also, all runners posting their first ‘A’ Olympic Trials Qualifying Time will receive travel and hotel reimbursement.

Athletes and coaches interested in the Olympic Trials Incentive Program should contact Athlete Coordinator Kelsey Jackson for more information at 412-586-7785.

I’m very impressed with this proactive effort by Race Director Patrice Matamoros and Kelsey Jackson to support American distance running and encourage marathoning talent to develop. The Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is doing an invaluable service to building our sport by providing this opportunity. Having benefitted from similar racing opportunities in my career, I am equally enthused to help contribute to this effort and assist athletes in achieving their Olympic Trials Qualifiers. May 15th is going to be a great day for our sport!