One phone call in late August changed everything when I learned that the IAAF had granted my appeal, and I was immediately eligible to represent the US – I was suddenly able to run the US championship races, and suddenly January 14th took on an entirely new significance. I'd assumed it would be a day when I would be watching the trials and cheering for all my friends, but things changed.
My year had actually been off to a great start – I had won the Azalea Trail Run, took 2nd at the Cooper River 10k, and had several other good races – but things got pretty crazy after the win at the 20k. Before learning that I'd been cleared, I had planned to run the 20k for the experience and to get in a good long effort before New York. Suddenly New York was off the table and the 20k was a race! A lot of other plans had to change too – I decided to do the 10-miler, and once that went well, I started thinking about whether or not I should run the Tufts 10k. A few weeks earlier, none of this had crossed my mind! Anyway, the rest of the season went by so fast that I'm not sure I took it all in properly, but it was great. I made lots of new friends, got to run some great new races, and gained lots of experience.
As for what factors might have led to my success, I'd say the biggest one was the strength I gained from marathon training. Working with Jack Daniels really changed my perspective about training, and I think the work I was doing to get ready for New York is really what got me ready for a busy fall of racing. If you know anything about his marathon programs, you might realize that even my double at Boston wasn't much different from some of the workouts I was already doing. I think the other major factor that led to my great year in 2011 was all the training and racing I've done since finishing college in 2005. I've progressed gradually but consistently, and I think I'm finally seeing the results of all the miles. I wasn't counting on running as a job those first two years, and I think this allowed me to progress without feeling pressure and kept things fun.
A final factor I'd credit is the fact that I've been able to live in great training locations – and they've gottten progressively better. My first two years out of school, we lived right next to the school were my husband coached, and I had access to the XC course, the track, weights, etc. In 2008 we moved to Rome, Georgia, which has to be one of the best non-altitude training locations in the US. The weather is decent, and Berry College has a trail network that's amazing – and a neat little cinder track for my workouts. The town also has a wonderful public track and a solid network of bike paths. When my husband decided to go back to school, he applied to a number of different programs, and we wound up in Flagstaff for a while. To be honest, I wasn't thrilled about being away from Rome for months at a time, but I guess Flagstaff's been pretty good to me as well! So, my 2011 season was sort of an “overnight success” that was 6 years in the making.
My running background in Kenya was very insignificant – VERY insignificant. When I first came to the US, I thought 1 hour was a long run, and I was totally clueless about proper training or racing. I know there's a stereotype out there about running in Kenya, and a lot of people assume that every Kenyan running at a US college came over ready-made. I came over so raw, I could get just under 20:00 for 5k, and my coaches here were the ones who really introduced me to running. When I look at where I am now, I am SO grateful for the patience they had with me – but I'm also glad that they expected me to give my best every day. I've gone back to Kenya a few times since, and I've done a bit of training there, but I can't say that I've ever been part of the Kenyan “system.” When I do go, I just follow the same program I use here, and I don't train with any group – my main purpose when I go home is to see family and maybe escape the cold here.
For the trials, I'm still not sure that I've had time to really think about it. Most of the qualifiers have had this goal in their sights for months or years, many chasing qualifying times, etc. I didn't even know that I would be able to run until just before Labor Day, so I haven't really had time to come up with any big expectations. My marathon PR of 2:37:26 is from 2008, so I'd love to improve on that. My other goal is just to finish the marathon still feeling decent. I feel like I've finally trained specifically for a marathon, and I'd hope that the result will be a marathon time that finally matches my results at the shorter distances. I'm not too worked up about my odds of making the team – that puts to much focus on how other people run, something I can't control. I'm just glad to be heading to a race where I can take my best shot at the marathon and know that I'll have lots of talented people to run with!
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