A 39-year-old mother of two who hasn't completed a marathon in more than six years took home a national title Sunday at the Los Angeles Marathon.
Blake Russell hasn't had much luck in marathons since competing at the 2008 Olympics. Before her 26.2-mile run through L.A., she had not finished the three marathons she had entered since placing 27th on the streets of Beijing.
Russell took the USA Track and Field Marathon Championships title after finishing third overall in a time of 2 hours 35 minutes 57 seconds. Not bad for the third-oldest runner in the elite women's field.
"It's hard to give it up," said Russell about her love affair with marathons. "I just love to compete."
Russell, who took home $10,000 for third place in addition to a piece of the $150,000 USATF purse, credited a new training regimen for bolstering her marathon effort. Having a trusted babysitter close at hand also helps.
"I wouldn't do anything of this if my mom didn't live a mile a half away," Russell said. "I'm lucky enough to have my mom and my husband in their lives."
With someone helping out with her children, Russell said she had a more time to undertake an intense training program for the marathon. Russell said she "literally changed everything" about her training routine.
"I really just enjoyed the whole process this time and it's rewarding that it all came together," Russell said.
Whether she'll return to L.A. in February for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials remains to be seen.
Jared Ward plans to return
Jared Ward, the men's USATF champion, said he was pleased with his third-place overall time of 2:12.56. The Provo, Utah, native is a recent marathon convert after making a name for himself in middle distances at Brigham Young University.
"I feel like I'm relatively new at this," Ward said. "The marathon is a long race, and it was hot today. I played it conservative and then relied a little bit on that track speed at the end."
Ward was running with a group of American runners that included Daniel Tapia for most of the race until pulling away near the end. Along the way, he passed a few Kenyan runners who fell off the lead, including Edwin Koech, who led a good portion of the race.
Ward, 26, plans to return to L.A. for next year's trials.
"I got to experience running in L.A. and I had a blast doing it," he said. "There will be a lot of things that will be different [next year], but it was good experience and there's a lot of things I can take away from this so I can prepare for that."
By the numbers
According to organizers, 22,846 runners started and 22,310 unofficially finished by 4 p.m. In 2010, the race set records for starters (26,054) and finishers (22,580).
The marathon reported 36 of the 185 runners who received medical treatment were transported to the hospital. The temperature at the finish line was 87 degrees at 1 p.m.