- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

Elite distance runner Samia Akbar was on her way at the 2005 Army Ten-Miler, dominating the women’s field and threatening to crush the course record.

“It would have put the cherry on top for me to come close to or break the course record, this is such a prestigious race,” Akbar said Saturday from Philadelphia.

Unbeknownst to her, the last two miles of the course were about to be radically altered. A bomb scare on the 14th Street Bridge forced race officials to divert the runners back over the Memorial Bridge, adding more than a mile to the course and turning the race into a large fun run.

“I completely understood; I’d rather been safe than sorry,” Akbar said. “It wasn’t such a big deal to me.”

But she was certainly frustrated.

“I was in really good shape and on pace to break the course record,” she said. “At the time, and even now, I was disappointed things turned out that way. I went on to running some good times that year.”

Akbar officially committed a few days ago to coming back to the Oct. 4 race to set the record straight, or better, to break it. Originally the 27-year-old resident was planning on an early fall marathon, but she does not feel ready at this point, thus her late entry into next month’s Army Ten-Miler.

“I was planning for a fall marathon, but I will have to change my plan a little bit,” said Akbar, who is in her parents’ hometown of Philadelphia to run Sunday’s 13.1-mile Philadelphia Distance Run. “But my next marathon I run I want to be a [personal record 2:34:14]. I want to be as competitive as I could be. I just don’t think I am ready yet for a Twin Cities or Chicago.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve been doing a lot of training for longer events so I feel like I am slowly but surely getting myself into good shape,” Akbar added. “I’m pretty excited about this race. I know I ran my best time for the half marathon at Philly. I don’t know if I will run that fast but I feel like I can bust one out.”

Akbar said she is not sure whether she will race the marathon in late fall or spring. In the meantime, she said, “I really enjoy road racing. I will be a pretty happy runner in the next month or so on the roads.”

Runner or triathlete? - The Hilary Cairns who keeps showing up at the top of the results of the Nation’s Triathlon is the same Hilary Cairns who has dominated the top of the local running charts for a couple of decades.

Cairns, of the District, said she has been competing in triathlons and duathlons for the past five years, but she still considers herself a runner. The 39-year-old does believe that the cross training of bicycling and swimming is helping her stay injury-free.

“That’s why I started training for triathlons,” said Cairns, a part-time court-appointed attorney who is cheered on by her athletically-competitive husband Malcolm Lester and three children. “I was spending so much time in the pool. I had had a couple of stress fractures.”

She recently placed second to a 27-year-old at the fourth annual Nation’s Triathlon, and next weekend she will represent Team USA at the Duathlon World Championship in North Carolina.

Next month, she comes up against her biggest nemesis: breaking the three-hour marathon, at Marine Corps. She has been close so many times but hasn’t gotten there.

“If I break three hours in the marathon, I’ll give it up,” Cairns said.

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