The 2013 USA Running Circuit (USARC) will culminate tomorrow morning on the streets of Alexandria, where some of America’s best distance runners will compete for $100,000 in prize money, including $20,000 for the winners. The inaugural .US National Road Racing Championships – USA Track and Field’s first wholly owned-and-operated road race – will take runners of all abilities on a 12k journey starting and finishing near Oronoco Bay Park, a spot local runners know well.
How it works: The road racing series includes national championships for races ranging from a mile to the marathon. The first 10 U.S. runners at each race earn points, with 15 points awarded for 1st, 12 for 2nd, and 10 for third. Tomorrow the top 10 finishers will earn triple points, which provides extra incentive for runners farther down on the leaderboard.
The top three on the men’s side – Matt Tegenkamp (60 points), Shadrack Biwott (52), and Josphat Boit (50) – are entered. Among the top three women in the standings – Mattie Suver (47), Janet Bawcom (45), and Annie Bersagel (30) – only Bawcom is not entered.
Brian Pilcher of Ross, Calif., and Kathryn Martin of Northport, N.Y., rank among the top entrants in the national masters championship.
Not Your Average Distance
Quick question for everyone running tomorrow: What’s your 12k PR?
So how do you approach such an unfamiliar race distance?
Do you – as was suggested in a question to Huddle at a press conference this morning – race 10K and try to hang on for two more?
“More or less,” said Huddle, who won the national 5k championships in September and the NYRR Dash to the Finish 5k two weeks ago (Flanagan was 3rd).
“This is pretty long for me,” she said, “but I am excited to see what I can do over 12k and I think it is a pretty interesting distance for everyone else to try.”
Asked to share his advice for taking on the 12k, Solinsky said to “find that comfortable rhythm that you are very confident you could do 10K or more at.” If you feel good at halfway, go for it.
“Through the training,” Tegenkamp said, “you have learned what you can handle in terms of pace.” Late in the race, though, when things get tough, turn on the competitive switch. “That’s what racing is all about,” he said.
Flanagan won a national title this summer at 10,000 meters and went on to finish 8th in the world in Moscow. Tomorrow marks her debut at 12k.
“I am in the same boat as they are,” said Flanagan, referring to the many runners who will race 12k for the first time tomorrow.
“It’s a distance that I’ve never done. It’s a brand new PR – so you have to just embrace it for the fun factor.”
Flanagan’s plan is similar to Tegenkamp’s and Solinsky’s: “I try to be smart the first half and then I switch over to being competitive – and that usually helps me pull out all the extra energy I have.”
USATF spokesperson Jill Geer said 12k allows 5K specialists and marathoners to “compete on relatively even footing.” But it’s also a great distance for an event designed to celebrate both our sport’s best runners and the many participants of all ages, levels of seriousness, and talent.
If you haven’t run a 12k before, it’s hard to cross the finish line, see the clock, and be disappointed. Take it from the first American to ever break 27 minutes for 10,000 meters.
“I’ve never run a 12k before so I know I’m going to get a PR tomorrow,” Solinsky said.
The women’s championship race starts at 7:15 a.m. The men’s championship, master’s championship, and open race (also being referred to as the “community race”) starts 10 minutes later. A 5k race starts at 7; a half-mile “Kids’ Fun Run” starts at 9:30.
The 5K will include about 30 girls from the local Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School. The girls trained together for the race and Olympian Deena Kastor said she plans to meet them at the starting line for a pre-race pep talk. (“I think our greatest job as elite runners,” she said at the press conference, “is to be able to inspire the Olympians of tomorrow.”)
The race will be streamed live at USATF.TV.
RunWashington will cover both the men’s and women’s races.
Any runner who understands the basics of delayed gratification — a principal so central to this sport — could appreciate the Leesburg 20k’s new course, now in its second year. The rolling hills on Dry Mill Road are gone, replaced by a long, grinding grade on the W&OD Trail, one that snuck up on South Riding’s Tatiana Sheptock.
“My eyes wouldn’t see it, but my legs felt it,” she said. “It definitely felt a lot better on the way back.”
She made her return to the race after an eight-year absence. She’s seen some change since then — when she ran she ran 1:40:47 on her way to finishing the Marine Corps marathon in 3:42:40 two months later.
This year, she ran 1:19:48 for third place, and will head into another marathon training effort with hopes of running 3:05 at Marine Corps.
“I’m a completely different runner now,” she said. “The race feels different, and I’m running paces for long races I could barely keep up for shorter distances.”
Both winners took advantage of the relief that came with the downhill to make their moves. Men’s winner Sean Barrett pulled away from Kieran O’Connor after the turnaround and ran to a 1:06:18 finish. Women’s winner Meghan Ridgley, of Ashburn, broke away from Arlington’s Erin Taylor after 7.5 miles to go onto an almost one-minute margin of victory- 1:17:16 to 1:18:12. Both are training for marathons, Ridgley Philadelphia and Taylor Richmond.
“I love this course,” Ridgley said. “It’s fun and you can see other people on your way out and back. A bunch of people I coach were out here and they did great.”
Ridgley coaches, and races, with the Potomac River Running training program, as does Sheptock and hordes of other top finishers.
Barrett’s race strategy changed as soon as he realized that his trainers were not going to cut it. In the rush to get out the door of his Arlington home to get to Leesburg for the 7:30 start, he forgot his racing flats.
“I tried to push off on my toes, but after a few miles it wasn’t happening,” he said. “I became a heel striker for the rest of the race.”
He’s looking ahead to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, Army Ten Miler, .US Road Racing Championships 12k and USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Bend, Ore., where he’s headed with some of his Georgetown Running Club teammates in December.
O’Connor, who finished as the eighth American at the 2012 Boston Marathon, hadn’t competed since that scorcher, but acquitted himself well on the course to run 1:06:40.
“I was freaking out trying to find a bathroom seven minutes before the race, and ended up not taking my inhaler,” he said. “So I had my torso feeling pretty uncomfortable for a while.”
Though runners from farther east cleaned up on the men’s top spots, 249 of the 892 20k finishers were from Leesburg, Ashburn and Sterling, representing well at one of Loudoun County’s top races.
Carole Jones estimated that the Ashburn Area Running Club had more than 30 runners out on the course, and many PRed.
“The camaraderie was incredible,” she said. “It’s hard not to run well when you have so much support out there. I felt like I saw people I knew every minute.”
Jones ran 1:31:24 to finish 15th and second in her age group, second if only because Oak Hill’s DeeDee Loughran ran 1:22:35 to dominatingly win the women’s masters title. McLean’s John Zimmerman ran 1:11:41 to lead the male masters.
Kris Wolcott loved the opportunity to run near home.
“It was a home course advantage,” she said. “I run here every day and knowing the course made the race a lot less nerve-wracking.”
She was enthusiastic about seeing Ridgley, her coach, running so well. Like Ridgley, she’s headed to the Philadelphia Marathon in November — her first.
The race also included a 5k, won by Hugh Toland in 16:16 and Margie Shapiro in 18:19. That option appealed to Sterling’s Jason Lovelady, who ran it while his wife, Suzanne, ran the 20k.
“I’m not a runner, but I like to come to races with her,” he said. “The course was flat, so that appealed to me. It sounds like she wasn’t crazy about the hills in the longer race.”
The pair is considering their fall racing schedule, perhaps making a repeat trip to a costumed race, where last year the ran as Popeye and Olive Oil.
“Maybe not so much polyester this year,” he said. “That wasn’t really comfortable.”
|Aug. 18, 2013, Leesburg, Va.|
|Results: 20k 5k|
|Photos 1 Photos 2 Photos 3|