Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 10 Jul 2001 08:40:07 -0400

Long Way Home


Sandy Jacobson's voice echoed through the empty seats of Commonwealth Stadium. She was helping announce the Edmonton Festival Marathon, a final test for August's World Championships.

The stadium and its surroundings were still a work in progress in late May. Barricades protected the new turf of the infield, barrels of Mondo surfacing waited to be laid on the bare asphalt of the track, and construction continued in and around the stadium. A cold wind swirled inside.

This site will look very different two months from now. Organizers have no doubt that all will be ready in time.

The Festival Marathon wasn't just a trial run for the course and officials. Several runners came here with that same plan in mind.

Two-fifths of the newly named U.S. men's team made it a quick business trip. Eddy Hellebuyck and David Morris flew in from Albuquerque late Saturday night, ran the race at training pace (Morris finishing in 2:31, and Hellebuyck seeing all he needed before dropping out), then left for home.

The Japanese research lasted longer. Several of runners came for a 10-day stay, along with their coaches and a team of reporters.

Kenichi Takahashi, a 2:10 man, ran one of the easiest-looking 2:18s ever. Takami Oninami won the women's race while running a minute per mile slower than her 2:26 capability.

Later at the news conference, the two winners acted embarrassed that anyone would make such a fuss over their glorified training runs. But they must have been thinking how exciting this all will be when it happens for real in August.

The cold wind of May wasn't the only reason that Sandy Jacobson felt chills as she watched this finish. She imagined what running here would be like at the Worlds.

Sandy, 35, is married and has a seven-year-old son. She's a late bloomer as an athlete.

"My career falls into two distinct phases," she said. "Before my son was born, I was a triathlete. Afterward I focused on running."

Oh how she has focused, especially with the Worlds coming to her hometown of Edmonton. She decided to leave here to give herself the best chance of coming back to run this summer.

"Even though I'm Canadian, I applied for Discovery USA," she said. She referred to the Fila-sponsored training camp in the mountains of southern California.

"I thought my chances of being accepted were slim to none. But Fila surprised me as I was one of a short list of athletes screened, tested and selected to be part of Fila's spring 2001 marathon training camp."

This meant leaving her family for 10 weeks during the winter and spring. She was the oldest runner in camp, viewed as the "house mother."

Five Canadian women would qualify for the Worlds. Sandy ranked sixth but planned to advance at the Boston Marathon.

"I was in fabulous condition," she said, "then I got sick shortly before that race. I tried to run anyway but fell off pace and dropped out."

She chose to save herself for another day. That came on the last possible day for qualifying, May 13th.

At the National Capital Marathon in Ottawa, Sandy ran 2:38:28. It was her fastest time ever.

Even better, it was Canada's second-fastest qualifying time for the World Championships. Sandy is coming back to Edmonton.

But first she must leave again. She already knows the course -- and is so well known in Edmonton that, like it or not, she's the focal point of media and fan attention there.

For her final training, Sandy will go either to California or to Italy. Like the meet where she'll run, her marathon is still a work in progress.

It's due for completion this summer. When the world comes to visit Edmonton, Sandy will be coming home.

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