Record-setting day as top three finishers all run under old Trials record.
HOUSTON–Desiree Davila, 28, the Rochester Hills, Michigan-based runner-up at last year’s Boston Marathon, had her petite frame and I-mean-business facial expression plastered on posters, trucks and in videos sponsored by Brooks and BP during race weekend in Houston. Clearly, she was the favorite to win the women’s race at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday morning. The pedestrian first mile, which ticked by in 6:11, made Davila antsy and the course crowded; by mile 2, Davila assumed the lead and did her part to make the pace more honest. With the other race favorites, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Deena Kastor, all of whom have made Olympic teams, nearby, Davila challenged the others to make it a real race.
In the end, history repeated itself for Davila, the Hansons-Brooks star whose progressive rise in the marathon reached a crescendo at the 2011 Boston Marathon, where she traded the lead with Kenyan Caroline Kilel but wound up in second place. In the final four miles of the race, 33-year-old Goucher of Portland, Ore., trailed behind the two-woman lead pack that consisted of Davila and Goucher’s new training partner, Flanagan, 30, also of Portland. While Goucher’s focus shifted to hanging on to the final spot on Team USA, Davila struggled with how to react: Should she protect her spot on the team or gun for the win?
“The plan was to not let the race get soft; you have to break people like Amy [Hastings],” Davila said after the race. “Unfortunately, I had to do more work than I’ve ever had to do in a race before and I think it hurt me later in the race. My calves started cramping up and I didn’t have enough confidence that I’d catch Shalane and be able to make another surge.”
Unaware that there was a concerted effort for the third spot on the team, Davila chose wisely. She decided she wanted an Olympic berth more than victory, and she let Flanagan go.
“The last mile was a cross between savoring the moment and being really glad I was almost done,” Flanagan recalled. “I tried to approach the final mile like a track race and knew that I had to have something left in case Desi came up on me.”
Flanagan, the American record holder in the 10,000 meters (30:22.22) and the Olympic bronze medalist in the same event, knows how to close the deal, and she did that and more. Flanagan whittled the pace in the last four miles and crossed the line first in 2:25:38, a USA championships marathon and trials record, as well as a three-minute-and-two-second personal best.
Davila and Goucher protected their spots; Davila finished second in 2:25:55 and Goucher third in 2:26:06—both women also dipped under the old trials record of 2:28:25, set by Colleen De Reuck in 2004. Goucher, who caught a cold last week, confessed she ran “outside of herself” for a few miles, trying to drop Amy Hastings, 27, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., who gave it a gutsy effort—she even led for parts of the race—in only her second marathon.
“I can’t remember the last time I was this nervous going into a race; I was not confident,” Goucher revealed after the race. “I knew I was digging a hole for myself in the later stages of the race because Amy was just not going away.”
A crestfallen Hastings said she ran out of fuel around mile 19; however, the team alternate’s perseverance proves that she’s got the goods to become a great talent in the marathon—the fourth-place finisher completed her trials debut in 2:27:17. The 2011 USA 10K, 20K and 10-mile champion, Janet Cherobon-Bowcom, achieved an almost eight-minute PR to finish fifth in 2:29:45. Marathon veteran Kastor placed sixth in 2:30:40.