Sunday, January 16, 2011

PF Changs Marathon and the 50K American Record

Riding in the press truck watching the marathoners at the 2011 PF Changs Marathon was an incredible experience.  Cheering Josh Cox at the track as he broke his own 50K American record from 2009 while he attempted to break the world record was simply amazing.

Coach Dean and I met at Starbucks at  5:15am in order to catch the media bus to the parking line.  There was a whole school bus for 7 of us including Dan Cruz, the race director and Sue Berliner, founder and publisher of Sweat Magazine.  I have always wondered when I hear stories about the bus driver getting lost driving runners to the starting line. How in the world can that happen?  Our bus driver, besides knowing where to pick us up at, didn't have directions to the start and while we didn't get completely lost, we certainly took wrong turns and had the race director scratching his head on the best way to get all of us to the start.  I was astonished at Dan's calmness and wondered as we walked through all the starting corrals towards the VIP room if he just stares in amazement at how everything comes together.  The undertaking, coordination and trust to put together a RnR event is something I can't even begin to imagine.

Amy Dodson and me
While in the VIP room I saw Kara Goucher, a glimpse of Sally Meyerhoff, (a local elite) and many other elite runners including Amy Dodson.  Amy lost her leg and lung due to cancer but didn't let that slow her down and was going for the world record in the 50K.  Because of logistics, Amy and other 50K runners, ran their extra five miles at the beginning and then continued along the marathon course.

Warned ahead of time, I bundled up for the ride in the back of the press truck.  The three cushioned bench seats even had seat belts and I settled myself in the middle of the truck.  There are many rules with a USATF race including taking pictures of the wind indicators which are the little red flags hanging off the mile posts.  USATF learning that Dean was in the press truck, gave him the assignment.  My role was to help make sure he took pictures and and I attempted to capture pictures of each of the markers as well.  When reviewing my pictures, because of my mile marker photos, I knew the timing of all my pictures and didn't have a mass of pictures without any time reference. This makes my experience so much more meaningful and if I ever get an opportunity to be in the press truck again, I will take pictures of the mile markers again.  Another rule is to have an USATF official running a second clock on the truck in the event something goes wrong with the main clock.  For whatever reason, the USATF assigned to the truck wasn't there and Dean, while originally was not on the truck in a USATF capacity, took on that duty as well.

After a moment of silence for the victims in last weeks Tucson shooting and the national anthem, the wheelchair race started at 7:30 and Jeff Borland and Tim Kummer started with them.  Tim and Jeff were running their first marathon together and were going for a qualifying time for Boston.  While Boston is closed, there is still a duo position open and Jeff and Tim need to qualify under Tim's BQ time of 3:15.  No handicaps given.  Tim trained dragging a tire and wore out ropes and chains dragging the tire around the farm.  Imagine working on a farm, baling hay and doing all the hard physical work on a farm and then go out and train for a marathon AND pull a tire. The custom built, ultra light racer was completed just two weeks prior and this race was their first time out together.

Adam in the lead
At 7:40 the marathon was off and a pack quickly formed with Josh, his pacer and other elites. Early in the race #3,Adam, pulled from the group taking the lead.  I guess the pedestrian pace of 5:25's was just too slow for him.  At one point Adam looks back, sees his lead and shakes his head.  All of a sudden there was nothing behind us. Adam was at the curb.  It happened so fast and without warning.  The truck slowed down to let the pack catch up again and  off to the side Adam was stretching and you could feel the frustration and disappointment.  He took a couple steps and leaned back into a stretch on the curb again.  The lead group naturally continued and we saw Adam hobbling along.  Eventually his hobble turned into stride and Adam inched his way back into the lead group.
Amy around mile 6 (sorry the picture isn't the best)

Amy Palmiero-Winters and the lead group around mile 1; mile 6 for Amy
Josh, Soloman Candie and the pace at mile 6
Josh (50), the pacer (20), Adam (3), Red stripe would later drop staying hunched until he disappeared from view
Josh, center back, gaining ground.
One of the nice things being in the truck is seeing these elite runners have the same issues as us mere runners.  Around mile 14, we made a left turn and all of a sudden Josh swerves to the right, yanks down his pants and takes care of business.  Here's an elite runner that hasn't figured out nature either, not like this is something that can actually be controlled.  When Josh went out, all the other runners looked around quizzically, what happened to Josh?  Josh wasn't out the race though and caught back up with the lead group.  Shortly after that point, Adam (far left in the picture), dropped back and completely out of view. A search of the results shows he did not complete the race.

At mile 17 Josh's pacer dropped off leaving just two runners, Josh and Soloman (4) with Josh clearly in the lead.
Mile 17

Mile 18

Mile 20
Josh leading, Soloman 80 meters behind; the rest of the field isn't even visible 

Mile 22

Mile 23
After mile 24 the truck drove on to get us to the finish line before Josh crossed.  The volunteers holding the finish line tape practiced releasing the tape and pulling it out of the way to ensure crossing the finish line didn't slow Josh down towards his goal of the world record.
Josh winning the marathon.
In 2009 Josh broke the American record with 2:47:17 and his goal was not only break his own record but break the world record of 2:43:38 set in 1988.  Watching Josh run his final laps showed the pain that he was in pushing himself. The announcer called out he needed to run 79's (per lap), then 72's and you knew it all came down to the final stretch and his final kick.

Josh crossed the finish line with 2:43:45 breaking his own American record yet missing the world record by 7 seconds.

His wife congratulating him
After watching some of the interviews of headed back over to the marathon finish.  Having a media pass is awesome.  I flashed my media badge when I was stopped getting out of the track area and I climbed over the barricades with confidence and walked right up to the front. I asked about Sally Meyerhoff and learned she did it and won the women's marathon in 2:37:55  I'm so very proud of her.

Watching the clock for Tim and Jeff to come through,  3:15:59 clicked by and there was no sign of them.  3:20 then 3:25 and I was worried something went wrong and they were a DNF.  Finally 3:35 I see them rolling towards the finish line. Tim knelt down and hugged Jeff and all the runners around them were congratulating them.  While I didn't tear up at the time, writing this I'm overcome with emotion at the huge accomplishment this team did.  In the VIP room I only heard a portion of the their story but will email them to learn more and blog about it soon.

I feel so incredibly fortunate to experience the marathon from the press truck and a huge thanks to Coach Joe and Coach Dean for making it happen. Thank you!

Marathon Men
Josh Cox2:17:32
Soloman Kandie2:18:40
Roosevelt Cook2:25:23

Marathon Women
Sally Meyerhoff2:37:55
Gina Slaby2:42:20
Liana Bernard2:42:27

Half Marathon Men

Shawn Forrest1:03:07
Alistair Cragg1:03:22
Joseph Chirlee1:05:00

Mario Fraioli (18th) 1:11:34

Half Marathon Women
Madai Perez1:11:49
Kara Goucher1:14:02
Emily Kroshus1:15:17

I haven't been able to find 50K results and a search of the results for Amy marathon time revealed no results found.  It appears that she didn't complete the marathon.


Zoë said...

Amazing post! Great photos and recap. I wish I could've seen this!

Johann said...

Absolutely fantastic! Thank you for sharing your amazing experience with us!

Jim ... 50after40 said...

WOW - Great post, it made me feel like I was there! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Reading this, I totally felt like I was there - it sounds like an incredible day.

Laura said...

WOW! What a great experience and recap...

Anonymous said...

Wow! - that's all I got.

LookingUpAgain said...

This is an amazing way to see a race :) What an experience!

Adrienne said...

Completely amazing! Thanks for sharing that with us Christina, you are the best.

Anonymous said...

Great photos! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Anonymous said...

You were definitely in the right place for some great spectating, photographing and just enjoying the race. Very, very cool report!

Natalia said...

Thanks for a great post Christina! The pics are really awesome and they tell a brilliant story. It is fascinating to see them, because watching a race on telly is not quite the same. These pics really capture the nuances, and fit the text around them very well!

Black Knight said...

This post could be an interesting RWs magazine recap, beautiful!
The pictures are fantastic.

Joe said...

You mean Amy Dodson, not Amy Palmiero-Winters.

Amy said...

This just sounds amazing getting to be on the truck. I never really thought about it from that angle!

Adam said...

So, I might have missed it - but HOW HOW HOW did you get hooked up with a press pass? that is simply amazing.

Diana said...

Amazing blog. Just found you. I am totally jealous of your ride and getting to watch the elite runners!

Cool pics!

If you feel like it go check out my blog.

Can't wait to read more!

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