Runner of the Month: Jennifer Walt

By Nicole Herold

Our March 2020 SCRR Runner of the Month, Jennifer Walt, is a long-time member and dedicated runner, but many of you might not know her. 

Jennifer grew up in Durham, New Hampshire. Her older brothers ran cross country in high school. Their coach must have seen her natural abilities and potential, because she was recruited to join, even though she was only in 7th grade. It seems the coach had ulterior motives; he needed to have 5 girls on the team in order to compete. (I guess no one was checking ages back then.) Jennifer really enjoyed it and she stayed on the XC team for all 6 years (7th -12th grades). As, or maybe because, she was having fun, she rose in the ranks and climbed to Top 10 in the state.  

During these formative years, Jennifer ran local races, too. At the time, Bonnie Bell, of lip balm fame, organized a series of 10K races for women. Jennifer and her mom toured the Eastern seaboard running these races in New York, Toronto, Boston, and Buffalo. Unbeknownst to her then, Jennifer toed the line at the Buffalo race with another young girl who would, decades later, become one of her SCRR besties, Molly Donnellan. Molly even has proof of their finish times in the form of a ditto copy of the race results! I’ll let you guess who beat whom. 

Where does a seasoned HS cross country runner go next? To college, of course. Jennifer ran with the Syracuse University team her freshman and sophomore years. In her final two years she decided to step away from the drama the program and the coach created. However, running was such an integral part of Jennifer’s life at that point that she still kept at it. Even when life got in the way after college, she just adjusted by decreasing her weekly mileage. 

Backpacking with Nolan and Conrad in Sequoia National Park

Fast forward to 1995 when she joined SCRR and ran consistently with the club by herself until 2001. At that point she had 2 young boys who would accompany her in the stroller. Bringing the kids continued to work until 2005 when her sons’ schedules made it more difficult for Jennifer to regularly join the weekly runs. It didn’t stop her from running, though. Far from it. She just enjoyed it solo. Do you see a pattern here? 

Her most impressive feat, at least to this author, began at the end of December 8 years ago, when Jennifer got her first Garmin watch. The idea of tracking her runs was the impetus to see how many days in a row she could go at least 1 mile. One month turned into two months which turned into a year, and now she’s been streaking for more than 3000 days. Jennifer is an animal! Mike Friedl introduced her to the online streaking community, but only after she started. Her motivation to keep going is all internal. 

Even more amazing is that Jennifer isn’t just a runner. She is an avid backpacker, too. A hike-220-miles-of-the-John-Muir-Trail-from-Yosemite-to-Mt.-Whitney type of backpacker. During those 3 weeks on the trail, Jennifer would run 1 mile in her hiking boots every day to keep the streak alive. This is not typical behavior for a backpacker, and she no doubt endured the occasional odd looks and comments from the other hikers she encountered. 

Jen running the Surf City Marathon

Jennifer has raced all distances, but her favorite is the marathon. For her, that distance is a challenge, no matter how fast or slow you are. She knows that it’s a race that requires focused training. She recently ran Surf City, her 36th-ish (she lost count) marathon, and BQ’d with plenty of time to spare. Boston, her favorite race, 2021 will be her 7th appearance. Another favorite, Catalina, got postponed this year from March to August. The hilly race run on fire roads, where racers might occasionally see a buffalo, is hard enough during the cooler spring months. It will be a much bigger test of her mettle in the heat of the summer and Jennifer is weighing her options. You can check out her latest and very unique 26.4 (yes, you read that right), a Cornavirus marathon, on Facebook. 

When Jennifer isn’t running along the strand near her home in Huntington Beach or backpacking across California, she is mom to Conrad, a senior about to leave the nest, and Nolan, a sophomore. During the holidays she is also busy baking her delicious pfeffernusse cookies, which, if you’re lucky, you might get to taste at her famous cookie and ornament exchange. Now that we all know a little bit more about Jennifer, make sure to introduce yourself the next time you see her. She may just be the one to inspire you to start a streak of your own. 

Los Angeles Marathon

By May Fong-Chih and Shawn Fidler

May Fong-Chih at the LA Marathon with Judge Craig Mitchell

This was my seventh consecutive year running the LA Marathon. Since my first LA Marathon, my goal was to beat Oprah Winfrey’s marathon time of 4:29:15. It took 5 attempts but I finally did it with 4:20:34.

I got my 5-year LA Loyal gifts and was ready to move on from this race until my BFF said she wanted to run the LA marathon as her first marathon. So I signed up for a sixth year.

Then I saw that 2020 was going to be the 35th anniversary, so I signed up for a seventh year. I was no longer running for a time goal. In fact, this year’s race was being treated as a “long training run” for an upcoming ultra. I ran a happy pace which allowed me to look around and see the sights and spot friends along the way.

It was because of this that I was able to spot Judge Craig Mitchell, LA Superior Court Judge who started the Skid Row running club. Having seen the Skid Row Marathon documentary, I recognized his running form. I ran over to him and asked if I could get a photo with him, which he agreed to, and that was the highlight of my marathon. 

Shawn Fidler after finishing the LA Marathon

We often encounter Southern California as fragments through the distance of our car windows. Some days, the distance fades. On marathon day in Los Angeles, it’s suddenly replaced by a flow of connections: 

  • Quiet conversations in the strange calm of the corral.
  • The spectators decorating the sidewalks with friendly signs.
  • The Hell-shouting street preachers with their own signs, so very concerned about our future suffering. (Clearly they misread this audience, since the expectation of suffering’s baked into a marathon.)
  • Pacers breaking up the distance with songs and dumb jokes.
  • The runner who stopped to offer tape while I fixed a potential blister.
  • So many volunteers.
  • The smiles of my wife and best friend after I staggered through the endless finish area. 

What will stick with me longest came after the 25th mile. As I worked curbside to coax a bit of movement out of my cramp-locked hip, another man arrived with his own agony and began stretching next to me. I shared what little reassurance and Advil I had left. 

After a few minutes, I attempted some movement. Through my pained steps, I heard a voice shouting encouragement. Its owner was gathering the broken runners along his path and willing us forward, and I fell in behind him.

My cramps didn’t magically lift. I didn’t glide to the finish with his group, but I found that I had the emotional energy to fight my legs through the last mile. Ours is an individual sport, but on days like that the sense of community is unmistakable.

US Olympic Team Trials – Marathon 

By Molly Donnellan

The 2020 US Olympic Team Marathon Trials may have been the most anticipated and hyped Trials ever. And they lived up to the hype. It was amazing and thrilling to be there in person and I strongly recommend that everyone go to the 2024 Trials wherever they may be! 

Men's Olympic Trials

The Trials weren’t always this cool though: 

  • Prior to 1968 the US Olympic Marathon team was men only and was selected based on results from a series of other marathon races (Boston, Yonkers and Culver City.)
  • 1968 to 2004 (with women joining in 1984), the team was selected based on top 3 finish in a selected marathon race – but it was part of a larger marathon that would include non-US and non-elite runners. 
  • Starting with the selection of the 2008 Olympic team, a separate race has been held, with only those who have qualified eligible to participate.  The races have been spectator friendly, with multi-loop courses and have been held the day before a major marathon so that lots of runners are in town to cheer. For the 2008 Olympic team, the men’s Trials were the day before the 2007 NYC Marathon and women’s Trials were the day before the 2008 Boston Marathon. 
  • Since 2012, the men’s and women’s Trials have been in the same race, with a staggered start – 2012 Houston, 2016 LA, and 2020 Atlanta. 

Why the hype this time? The host track club, the competitors, and the course: 

The Local Track Club – The Atlanta Track Club is a first-class professional club and they won the bid to host the Trials with an innovative approach. There are two time standards to qualify for the Trials: an A standard (men 2:15; women 2:37) and a B standard (men – 2:19 marathon or 1:04 half-marathon; women – 2:45 marathon or 1:13 half-marathon). Typically, if you make the A standard, your travel and lodging is paid for and your personal water bottles are provided on the course. If you make the B standard, you get to run a prestigious race in very select company – but you are on your own.    

The ATC committed to paying the travel and lodging expenses for all qualifiers and provided personal water bottles on the course for all qualifiers (the logistics of that is a story in itself). They said they wanted to give an Olympic experience to the many runners for whom simply qualifying for the Trials was the accomplishment. They also wanted to support all those B qualifiers who will be the 2024 A qualifiers. They also got Meb Keflezghi to endorse their bid – which didn’t hurt! 

The Competitors – 261 men qualified to run the Trials (the most to ever qualify was 269 men in 1980). 510 women qualified to run the Trials, nearly DOUBLE the most to ever previously qualify (267 in 1984). The depth of quality competitors was unparalleled. US distance running has seen a resurgence since the 2004 Athens Olympics where Deena Kastor won the bronze medal and Meb won the silver. Many runners followed the successful example of the Mammoth Track Club since then and similar elite training groups have proliferated (Hansons Distance Project, NAZ Elite, Boulder Track Club, Bowerman Track Club and, yes, the former Nike Oregon Project.)

The depth of the field on both the men’s and women’s sides had everyone in the running community asking, “Who’s your top three?” I listened to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of blogs and all the experts were struggling with this and changing their answer repeatedly. So many runners had a good chance to make the team. For every qualifier, there was a story. 

The Course – This was not LA 2016 – flat, fast, and brutally hot. Instead, it was hilly and windy. Some of the uphills in the last couple of miles – well, they were just cruel. But everyone knew that in advance and planned for it and still, many of the runners commented on how challenging it was. What was worse, and perhaps not expected, was the wind. There were strong wind gusts all day long.   

The Race – By now, you all know the results and many of you watched on TV. It was thrilling to be there in person. We found a spot to spectate just past mile 1 (and mile 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21.) The streets were packed with fans like us, and families with personalized signs for their runners. The crowd roared when the men came by and then about 10 minutes later, they roared again when the women came by. Then it was time for the men to come back down Peachtree, then the women. Pretty soon, there were always runners on both sides of the street running in both directions. With them all running in a pack it was hard to pick out specific runners. What we saw in person that was not on TV were all the runners who were there knowing that they did not have a shot at the Olympic team. They all worked hard to qualify, and the crowd treated them like the elites that they are. 

We moved to another spot at mile 23 or so – and just missed Galen Rupp going by and at that point, we moved to mile 25. By the time we got there and saw the lead runners going by, the moves had been made and the top 3 in each field were established. We did get to see Desi power uphill past Lauren Thweatt to take 4th. We walked from there along the course to the finish line and the finish area was packed – people were 3-4 deep along the course.   

The Results – Here is your Olympic team: 

Galen Rupp (33) had the fastest OTQ but his health was a question mark. He had surgery for Haglund’s deformity in 2018 and he pulled out of Chicago in 2019. But he was on most people’s top 3 list.   

Jacob Riley (31) had the 5th fastest OTQ, but he’d been injured since the 2016 trials and was not on many top 3 lists. He also had surgery for Haglund’s deformity in 2018 but finished as the top American in Chicago with a PB of 2:10:36. He has strong XC credentials which no doubt helped on the hilly course. 

The biggest surprise of the day though, was Abdi Abdirahman (43!!!) who made his 5th Olympic team, broke his own US Masters Record and became the oldest American runner to ever make the Olympic team. He was on NOBODY’s top 3 list (OK, one guy I went to HS with did pick him). Abdi’s Instagram hashtag? #oldguystillgotit.   

The Women’s Team 

Aliphine Tuliamuk (30) was one of the 10 fastest qualifiers but wasn’t really on anybody’s top 3 list. She had a stress fracture in late June 2019 and didn’t run until September so her NYC time of 2:28:12 wasn’t impressive at face value, unless you considered that she did that on limited training.   

Molly Seidel (25) was the surprise on the women’s side. As you all know by now, this was her first marathon. She qualified by running a half marathon, so she was a B qualifier. She had done some training with Aliphine in Flagstaff and showed a lot of guts to stick with her when she made her move. 

Sally Kipyego (34) was on a lot of top 3 lists. She would have been considered a lock except that she has struggled to get back to top form since her daughter Emma was born in 2017. Also nobody could be considered a lock in this field.

The next day, 5 of the 6 newly minted Olympians (everyone except Galen) were at the starting line to cheer on their fellow runners. Jennifer ran the Atlanta Half Marathon and beat Olympic medalists Gail Devers and John Godina in their firsthalf marathons. Michelle Ren ran the marathon. While these weren’t on the same course, they were as challenging as the Trials course, if not more so. 

Later that day, Jennifer and I went to the College Football Hall of Fame (Go VOLS!), ran into Abdi at a bar where we were having lunch (!) and then to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where we just missed Bernard Lagat according to Instagram.

Wherever the Trials are in 2024, I will be there.  I hope you will be too. 

Treasurer’s Report

By David Paul

Total Cash Balance, Beginning  4852.43
Cash Inflows 144.75
Cash Outflows-First Thursday 346.52
Cash Outflows-RRCA Insurance
Cash Outflows-Banquet 914.50
Cash Outflows-Uniforms
Cash Outflows-Social Gatherings
Cash Outflows-Other
Net Change in Cash   -1116.27
Total Cash Balance, Ending 3736.16
10% Discount at A Snail's Pace Running Shop

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