- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

Everybody’s entitled to a change of heart now and then.

Just five weeks ago, when I asked Heather Hanscom when her next marathon was scheduled, she said she had none planned for this year and was concentrating on shorter races because the recovery time from a marathon was too long.

You can imagine my surprise last week when USA Track & Field announced its five-member marathon team for the 2005 IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki from Aug.6 to 14 and Hanscom’s name was on it.

“I changed my mind — I just decided to do it,” Hanscom explained.

This is the Arlington runner who stepped up to the marathon distance in 2003 and shot the lights out at the Marine Corps Marathon, winning handily in 2:37:59 and qualifying for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.

At the trials in April last year, she surprised again on the streets of St. Louis with a sixth-place finish. Her time of 2:31:53 ranks her as the 33rd fastest American woman marathoner ever.

Hanscom said she rode the wave of excitement for a few months, then struggled.

“I’ve had a rough year — I came back too quickly,” said Hanscom, at 27 the youngest of the five women chosen for the World team. “I tried to get a track qualifying time [for the Olympic 10,000-meter trials in July 2004]. I broke myself down. My thyroid and adrenals were out of whack. I was sensitive to the heat, My legs would swell. It was awful.”

Then the call came several weeks ago from USATF.

“At the end of March, beginning of April, they made me an unofficial offer,” Hanscom said. “I talked with Coach Matt [Centrowitz]. … I was thinking I was injured in December and January before the trials, a little Achilles’ injury. And I did fine there. I know I’m not in top shape. Mentally, I am in a better position this week than last week. But I’m lacking confidence in my running.”

The last time an Arlington woman ran the marathon in a World Championships in Helsinki was in 1983, and Marianne Dickerson earned the silver — the only American female to win a medal at Worlds.

As for the career change last year for the more flexible schedule, Hanscom noted, “I’ve been working at Pacers [running store] since January. I like it a lot more than I thought I would. I get to talk all day about other people’s running.”

Marathon numbers — Some 25 years ago, the chance of rubbing shoulders with a female in a marathon was around 10 percent. Now it is up to 40 percent. Over that same period, the typical age for a male participating in a marathon has grown from 34 to 39.

Those are just two of the statistics compiled and released by the USA Track & Field Road Running Information Center (RRIC) in its annual marathon report. That is important demographic information, with 423,000 marathon finishers in 2004.

We’ve come a long way, baby — there were just 25,000 in 1976.

With this information, retailers can tailor their apparel and shoes to specific populations and runners can make better decisions about the races in which they participate. Race organizers can benefit, too.

According to the report, if you want to be in the largest race in the world, you go to New York City, with an all-time record of 36,562 finishers last year. Chicago was runner-up with 33,125, followed by London (31,796), Paris (29,699), Berlin (28,152), Honolulu (22,407) and Los Angeles (19,452).

If you want to be in the race with the highest number of males aged 30 to 39, take New York. Looking for the most females 50 to 59 and both genders 60 and over, take Honolulu. If you like being around young runners, take the City of Angels.

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