Tuesday, October 6, 2009

MTCM Press Conferences

Twin City Marathon Press Conferences report by Pat O'Regan

The press conferences for the TCM racing weekend were held at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel in downtown St. Paul on Friday before the races. Elite athletes, both open and masters divisions, were featured, as were “Faces in the Crowd,” citizen runners with stories to tell. (But all the 25,000 runners participating in a variety of races have stories to tell.) Bits and pieces of what the athletes had to say would catch the attention of anybody who’s put on running shoes and dreamed of running a race well. Some of the content would even stir the hearts of non-runners.

Virginia Brophy Achman, executive director of TCM, Inc. and a runner herself, was the emcee. Kristine Smith, marketing and public relations manager, who seemed to be everywhere at once, managed the proceedings.

The weekend’s races featured three national championships:
· Men’s 10 Mile
· Women’s Marathon
· Men’s Masters Marathon

“Faces in the Crowd”

The Kummer Family

Lee, the patriarch, started running as a vastly overweight 205-pounder, going two miles in a devastating effort. Now, he’s run the Chicago Marathon ten times. The kids picked up on the Dad’s enthusiasm. A son and a daughter will be trying to qualify for Boston.

“Run with your kids,” Lee said. “It’s just the greatest experience you’ll ever have.”

Result: Meghan Kummer: 5:01:21, 2793 of 3557 women finishers

Tiffany Nagle

At age 26, Tiffany had a stroke. It happened while she was watching the TCM on Summit Ave. She had never seen a marathon before that day and showed, till that day, no interest in running. Everything changed as she made her recovery. This TCM will be her third marathon.

Fairview Hospital employees, Tiffany related, with some emotion, will be along the course to cheer her on. They must marvel at such determination and progress.

Result: 4:25:48, 1797 of 3558 women finishers

Steve Kalina

Many of you might have seen Steve in earlier TCM’s. He’s the guy with the short-cut hair carrying the American flag as he ran. Apparently, that was too easy. A Marine, as part of a promotion for the Corps “Toys for Tots” effort, Steve will be carrying a pack full of toys over the course of the marathon. “I’ll have to add sandbags,” he said, “to get the weight of the pack up to where I want it (about 50 pounds!). … I’m a Marine – I have never yet failed to finish a marathon.”

Result: 4:53:43, 4235 of 4921 male finishers (presumably, none of the others carried 50 pound packs)

James Engleking

James is a member of the Charter Club of the TCM – one of a select group who has run every TCM since its inception in 1982 (27 through 2008). This year he’ll be a spectator. In May and June, James spent five weeks in the hospital with a staph infection. To say that the enforced bedridden idleness must have been hard for such a determined and talented runner is to trivialize the matter. He choked up talking about it. His recovery started with ten feet of walking with the aid of a walker. Perhaps to him that was his first workout on the road to recovery. In any case, he’s now up to three mile runs. He spoke of running the TCM next year.

Men’s 10 Mile

Three of the top competitors spoke.

Abi Abdirahman

Abi is a three-time Olympian. He has a personal best in the marathon of 2:08 and holds the TCM 10 Mile course record (47:34). His goal in this race is 45 minutes, two minutes faster than his record time, which was set in 2007.

Abi said his training has been going well. He’s had several weeks of 140 miles, including 12 mile tempo runs and an hour of hill work.

As a native of Somalia, Abi sees himself as a role model to the large local Somali population – especially the kids.

Result: 46:35, first place

Jason Lehmkuhle

A member of Team USA-Minnesota, Jason was an All-American at 5,000 and 10,000. In 2006, he was second in the TCM, running 2:19. He was fifth in the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials and third this year at the USA 20 k Championship.

Jason was second to Abdi in the 10 Mile race in 2007, just 14 seconds behind (at 47:48).

Jason said his training has gone well, with “big weeks” of over 140 miles. Like Abdi, he has tapered for the 10 Mile, but will ramp back up in preparation for the New York City Marathon in November.

“I feel like I’ve run the course a thousand times,” Jason said. He lives near the 16-mile mark.

Result: 47:16, fourth place

Josh Moen

From Iowa, where he ran for years on rustic roads through cornfields, Josh was a 10 k All-American and five-time national champion. Recently, with five other elite marathoners (including Ryan Hall and Brian Sell), he participated in a relay marathon that set the U.S. record.

Josh wants to improve on his tenth place finish in the 10 Mile in 2007, when he ran the course in 49 minutes. He also is preparing for the New York City Marathon.

Result: 46:38, second place

At this point, Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track and Field, showed up, unannounced, catching Virginia by surprise. He smiled in greeting. With tailored suit, white hair, trim physique and stylish red glasses, he is the very model of gracious, debonair suavity. After a while, he comes forward obligingly, with a slow grace, more a glide than a walk, and speaks briefly. He is a man smoothly, quietly, easily in charge. He alludes to running himself. He looks fit; I wonder if he still runs.

Women’s Marathon

Three elite women marathoners spoke.

Robyn Friedman

Robyn was ninth in the Marathon Trials for the 2008 Olympics, after being 39th in the 2004 Trials. In 2007, she was fourth in the TCM, running 2:42.

She thought the winning time would be in the low to mid-two-thirties. She was third, behind Mary Akor (also competing in the marathon here) at Grandma’s Marathon in June.

As the TCM is the only opportunity in 2009 to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials, Robyn has that goal in mind.

“I plan to take it easy early on,” she said, “if the pace is okay for the A Standard for the Trials, and then run the last 10 k hard.”

Result: 2:36:44, sixth place

Sally Meyerhoff

Earlier this year, Sally won the 2009 25 k Championship. She was fourth at the USA 10 Mile Championship.

“A lot of the women have some time in mind,” she said. “I’ll run my own race and try not to make any mistakes.”

Sally mentioned the financial support the prize money would provide. Without a shoe contract, she said, she could use it.

Sally looked forward to the 2012 Olympic Trials. She was confident that she would have a shot at making the team.

Result: 2:35:49, fifth place

Kristen Nicolini Lehmkuhle

A member of Team USA-Minnesota, Kristen has had a stellar year in 2009. She was eighth at the USA 7 Mile Championship, seventh at the USA Half Marathon Championship, sixth at the USA 20 k Championship and fifth at the USA 10 Mile Championship (in 55:50).

Kristen commended the strong field for National Championship. “I need to focus on my plan,” she said, “and not get ahead too early.”

Her training distances have cycled up and down, reaching a maximum of 110 miles a week.

Result: 2:35:06, third place

Men’s Masters Marathon

Carl Rundell

From Michigan, Carl is a leader among the contenders for this championship. Last year, he was first in the Masters Division, running 2:28.

The weather is likely to be chilly, but Carl said he is used to the chillier weather.

“My training has been good,” he said. “All the hard work pays off. … I am looking forward to getting a win here.”

Result: 2:25:40, 22nd overall, second in the masters division

Women’s Masters Marathon

Susan Empey

Last year, Susan, of the state of Washington, was twelfth woman overall and second of the women’s masters in the TCM (running 2:50). That finish gave her the USA Masters Championship.

She said she is in great shape; her training has been going well, and she expects to compete at the front of the field. She recognized the tough competition she’ll have to repeat as champion.

Colleen De Reuck

From South Africa, Colleen is one of the premier masters runners in the world. She is the world masters 20 k record holder. Her personal record in the marathon is 2:26. She is a four-time Olympian. She is a threat in both the Open and Masters Divisions.

“I want to give it everything I have,” she said. “I want to know that I have given it my all.”

Colleen has been thinking of moving up to ultra-distance running after this year.

Result: 2:32:37, second overall, first in the masters division

Men’s Marathon

Two of the top men’s marathoners spoke.

Augustus Kavutu Mbusya

Augustus, a Kenyan runner, won the TCM in 2004, running the course in 2:13. He’s run marathons all over the world – Berlin, Houston, LA, Dubai, and so forth – and has a personal best of 2:11. He finished third in the TCM in 2007.

Augustus likes the TCM race a lot and thought the cool temperature would not be a bother.

Result: 2:13:03, second overall

Antonia Vega

Antonio was seventh at the USA Half-Marathon Championship. He races at various distances but likes the marathon best.

“Last year didn’t go the way I wanted,” he said. At 20 miles his legs were fine, but three miles later, they were gone. “It’s not over till you cross the finish line,” he said. “This year will go better.”

He runs 125 to 130 miles a week.

Result: 2:15:45, eighth overall


At the exhibition in the Riverfront Center there is a throng among the booths and tables. Many people are toting the plastic bags – race packets – that mark them as runners of one of the races. Runners are the happiest of people. Without the deep stuff being at ease, people would not be inclined to put themselves into physical grief. But here there is tension in the air. Many of the people with packets have fixed expressions, as if something harrowing were about to descend on them. They are, no doubt, thinking about the race. Almost a third of the runners of the marathon are running the distance for the first time.

The lady at the Minnesota Distance Running Association table was very friendly and encour-aging. She handed out copies of RunMinnesota and got people to fill out the raffle tickets. I added my name to the drawing.

Walking back to my car, I encountered a young man of perhaps 25.

“Are you ready for the marathon?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m not running,” I said. “I’m getting too old for that distance. – Are you running it?”

“Yeah, I’m going to try to get under four hours.”

“That’s respectable,” I said.

“Thank you.”

“What’s your last name? I’ll look for your time in the results.”

“Schliessen,” he said, smiling broadly. “Thank you.”

“Good luck.”

We went our separate ways.

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