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Conlon runs in Boston Marathon

Katie Conlon holds her race bib prior to the start of the Boston Marathon on Monday. Conlon, a Jamestown native, placed 963rd out of over 36,000 runners. She was 51st among all women entered in the marathon. Photo courtesy Diane Conlon

If it involves running, Katie Conlon can adapt very quickly.

Just two marathons into her career, the 11-time All-American at Jamestown College already has her sights set on the Olympic Trials.

Her rapid rise in the marathon ranks is no surprise. After her record-setting setting college career for the Jimmies, she earned All-American honors in cross country at the University of Oregon, a national power in the sport.

After winning her marathon debut in Alaska, Anchorage last August, Conlon participated in the Boston Marathon on Monday. Not surprisingly, she met and exceeded expectations. Her time of 2-hours, 50-minutes and 10-seconds, ranked her as the 963rd overall finisher out of more than 36,000 runners. She placed 51st out of all women finishers, and had the 29th-fastest time among American women.

“I was hoping to run about where I ended up, so that was pretty exciting,” said Conlon, who lives in Seattle and trains with the Club Northwest running team. “I was pretty confident I could run that time. I had a plan in place that I had worked out with my coach, so I trusted what he thought and it pretty much ended up about as we planned.”

It certainly was not by accident.

Conlon, also a former standout for the Blue Jays, consistently puts in 70 miles per week training, averaging out to a whopping 10 to 12 miles per day. She was encouraged to pursue competing in marathons when she won the 26.2-mile event in Anchorage.

“I kinda didn’t expect that. I hadn’t trained a lot and hadn’t done a lot of the quality stuff and more specific training to marathons,” she said. “That was an eye-opener for me, as surprising as it was to do well in Alaska. That got me to thinking about taking it more serious and really focusing in on preparing and training.”

Monday’s Boston Marathon was the second-largest in the 117-year history of the event, and particularly significant after the bombings that marred the 2013 race.

Conlon said the security presence was significant, but the spirits among the runners was jovial.

“There was a lot more security compared to anything I’ve experienced, but it didn’t seem like it was overwhelming in the sense of how it affected the race or all of the people. There was a great sense of community and camaraderie and unity,” she said. “People seemed to have the attitude of, ‘You can’t tear us down. We’re not going to be scared.’ It just felt like there was a lot of pride from everybody in being in this great place for this beautiful race.”

The near-record number of runners in the race made for an interesting start. It took six-plus minutes from the time she began running to when she actually crossed the starting line. It also made for an interesting early-race strategy, which forced her to maneuver through the masses.

“I was behind a lot of people, so I had to weave around a little. It was fun and frustrating at times, but it probably ended up being my saving grace because I couldn’t go out too hard,” she said as she actually ran the second half of the race 3 1/2 minutes faster than the first.

She plans to run in the Boston Marathon again next year and hopes to have her sister Maggie alongside. Both now live in Seattle.

Katie works for Brooks Sports, the apparel company that caters to running enthusiasts. Her next competition will be the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon in June, but with it coming just two months after Boston, she doesn’t plan to run that race competitively, saying “I don’t even think I’m going to wear a watch.”

Her overarching goal is to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials. Qualifying is not unlike how it would be for any other meet. There’s an A Standard and B standard. Hitting the A Standard would be an automatic trip to the Trials, where the B Standard is provisional, or “on the bubble,” she said.

After the fast start to her marathon career, it’d be foolish to bet against her.

“It’s hard to have a PR and not want to keep going for more,” she said of her personal-record time Monday in Boston. “Marathon is completely different from what I’d done in my high school or collegiate career, and now this whole new world of racing has opened up to me. It’s pretty exciting.”

Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701)                 952-8460 or by e-mail at dselvig@jamestownsun.com

Dave Selvig
Selvig has been a sports writer at The Sun since 1999 and sports editor since 2009.
(701) 952-8460
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