Shortly following the ING New York City Marathon, Molly Pritz headed to Hawaii with her mother for some much needed time off. The vacation served two purposes - rest and reward.
The reward was well earned and the rest well deserved.
When Pritz crossed the finish line last weekend in New York, it was as the top American female finisher in a time of 2:31:52. It was quite a way for the 23-year-old to make her debut at the marathon distance.
“I was very calm before the race,” Pritz said in a phone interview from Hawaii. “I was really happy and excited to be there. For me everything was relaxed.”
Based on Pritz’s performance and her calm demeanor, you would think she was a veteran running marathons. Her performance in New York was the latest in a long list of breakthrough performances for the Williamsport, Pa., native.
Pritz didn’t take the typical path to becoming an elite runner as she essentially began competing after college. She has since made up for lost time.
“I didn’t put running as a priority in college,” she said. “Racing was always one of those things I wanted to try.”
And she is certainly glad she gave it a shot. Pritz has made a habit of succeeding when most others would fail. In preparation for the New York City Marathon, she suffered a stress fracture in July, which severely limited her training. Just 10 weeks before the marathon, Pritz couldn’t run more than one mile at a time before being forced to stop.
“I had a less than ideal buildup to the race,” she said about the marathon. “I wasn’t expecting anything too crazy. I just wanted to give everything that I had and be happy with the race.”
A self-proclaimed band geek, Pritz was always very active in different activities in high school and into her college years. In high school much of her time was spent in marching band and concert band playing the french horn and flute. After high school she attended Bucknell University where her interests shifted to studying geology, cycling and she became a member of various dance teams.
“I made the decision that running wasn’t going to be my only activity,” said Pritz, who competed on the cross country team at Bucknell for only her freshman year. “I wanted to do as many things as I possibly could. In college I wanted to get everything out of it that I could.”
Spending hours logging over 60 miles per week and weekends spent traveling to cross country and track and field meets wasn’t appealing for her. And based on her results from 2011, it’s difficult to say it was a bad decision.
The marathon performance in New York was just the latest step in an impressive progression in her career as an elite runner. Earlier in 2011 she claimed first place honors in the USA 25k Championships. Both the 25k win and the result in New York were significant marks for Pritz.
“I had always wanted to win a national championship,” she said. “It was one of those huge goals that I have had. It wasn’t life changing or anything, but it assured me of the things I have been doing.”
Her accomplishments from 2011 gave Pritz confidence that the training and preparation she has been doing is paying off. She was quick to point out her career didn’t begin at an elite level. Her first competitive race came in a 5k when she was 17 years old and finished in 22:40. But she is now a USA champion and 2012 Olympic Games hopeful.
Her focus now shifts to preparation for the 2012 season and specifically the London Olympic Games. Her time in New York currently ranks her 13th on the list of qualifiers for the USA Olympic Trials - Marathon, January 14, in Houston. She has also made known the possibility of chasing a spot on Team USA in the 10,000 meters.
“I still have a decision to make,” Pritz said. “The odds are it will be in the marathon and I definitely think it is my better chance.
“I definitely want to be running on the USA Running Circuit (USARC) and competing against the best runners in the nation. I want to steadily improve.”
Along with her win in the USA 25k Championships, Pritz also scored points on the USARC in the USA 10 Mile Championships in 2011.
As Pritz continues to enjoy some much needed time off, her focus slowly shifts toward preparation for next season. Although still uncertain of her plans, at just 23-years-old Pritz’s future remains bright regardless of the races she will chose.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on one race,” she said when asked about the importance of making Team USA for the Olympics. “If I PR (set a personal record) at the Olympic Trials I will be happy with that. Winning a major marathon is my biggest goal. I love road racing more than anything else, and I consider myself a marathoner.”
USA Track & Field