Sunday, October 23, 2005

Patti Shull does not enjoy attention, but the 47-year-old still signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon 10 day before race day.

“During the summer, people on the trails were asking me if I was running Marine Corps,” said Shull, who works and runs for the Potomac River Running Company in her hometown of Ashburn, Va. “But at that point, the race was sold out so [husband Wes and I] thought about running Richmond.

“It was definitely Wes’ decision [to run in the Marine Corps Marathon]. I’m running it for him. I’m doing it for the store, too.”

Wes chimed in that she actually is running from him, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

But anybody who knows the publicity-shy Patti realizes she is filled with anxiety now. Shull is one of the rare runners who prefers training to the pressure of racing, so the decision to run a marathon close to home takes its toll. The churning stomach, the sleepless nights, the loss of appetite. Welcome to the racing life of Patti Shull.

“I love my running,” she said. “You know it’s very spiritual for me. I love running out on the trails. It is very relaxing for me. I actually was planning on running Richmond [Nov. 12].”

Richmond is the midpoint for her family members from Gloucester, Va., who were planning to watch her run there. Instead, her friends will be lining the course next Sunday as she starts her fifth Marine Corps Marathon. She completed three of her previous four, dropping out of the 2001 race at 21 miles with an injury.

Shull’s best time in the event was a 2:55:17 in 1998, when she finished second. That Marine Corps race was just two weeks after she shocked many road race fans at the Army Ten-Miler, blazing a 1:00:10 time at age 40.

Two years later, she ran another personal best, this time a 2:53:39 at the Vermont City Marathon, which landed her third among women and first master. Shull also gutted out a fifth-place effort in Baltimore in 2003.

It has been a long time since Shull’s first marathon at the 10th running of Marine Corps in 1985, but she remembers it well.

“I had done some half marathons and just decided to run a marathon. I ran 3:12. I remember coming through the finish shoot and everybody was asking if I was first military.”

Think big — Mary Kate Bailey of Arlington has already qualified for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials, running a gritty 2:46:03 performance at Twin Cities on Oct.2. She surpassed the “B” qualifier of 2:47, placing 10th and earning $1,000 at the race selected as the USA Championships.

But Bailey has much loftier goals.

“I plan on running Chicago next year and I am shooting for the ‘A’ standard for Olympic trials,” said the former Marine who runs for the Georgetown Running Company team. “That is a dream for me.”

The “A” qualifier is pretty tough at 2:39, but the 30-year-old Bailey who won Marine Corps last year, came away from Twin Cities with positive thoughts.

“I was hoping to run around a 2:42 but I was not feeling 100 percent due to being sick the previous week, so I ran a conservative race,” said Bailey, who did not mention the adverse conditions on the warm, humid and windy race day. “I was really glad to get the qualifying time out of the way, so I can be a little more risky on my next marathon.

“MCM was my previous PR [2:48:31]. My race was even splits [of about 6:15] until I got to mile 21 and then I hit a hill that was about 2.5 miles and my splits started to slow down.”

She averaged 6:20 for the 26.2 miles, with a 39:00 opening 10K and a 40:32 close.

Quote of the year — Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, fell apart near the end of the Chicago Marathon two weeks ago but still hung on to win in a near personal-best 2:21:25.

“There’s nothing I can think of that parallels what that feels like,” she said about the pain she felt the last few miles. “Still, right now, I would say I would never run another marathon. … These marathons are unkind. When they’re unkind, they’re extraordinarily harsh. And this was a harsh one.”

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