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October 16, 2004

Riddle, Laforet Back For More - USA Trail Marathon Championship

By Jay Lively / Hendersonville Times-News Staff Writer

Ann Riddle and Marc Lundblad have been running together for months in preparation for the 2004 DuPont Forest Trail Marathon.

Both have aspirations of winning the National Trail Marathon Championship at this year's race and both have a chance to do so.

But what makes this training duo particularly special is though they spend lots of time running side by side they are especially looking forward to walking side by side down the isle on Dec. 11.

"This is one of the first races we've run since we've been together," said Riddle, the defending women's champion. "It's nice to have someone who understands the commitment, the hard work and the emotional toll it takes to train for a race."

Riddle certainly knows what it takes to train for a race. Aside from winning last year's DuPont in impressive fashion, on Sept. 11 she placed sixth overall and third in her division at the 100k World Championship in The Netherlands.

She has been recuperating from the grueling race while training for Sunday's marathon, both at the same time. She said she's surprised how quickly her body has healed.

"I feel pretty good," she said. "I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be fully recovered, but in the past week or two I've been feeling pretty strong and starting to feel that spring in my step again."

While Riddle's time could be a bit slower because of a past toll on her body, last year's men's champion, Loic Laforet, said he'll be slightly slower due to an upcoming race. Laforet has paced his training for Sunday in preparation for the New York Marathon three weeks later.

"I will be running at 85 percent." Laforet said. "I want to peak in New York at 2 hours and 35 minutes. I hope to be in the top three (on Sunday), but we'll see how the race is going after the first 20 miles. I'm really using it as very good training."

Laforet finished last year in 2:56:30, eight minutes in front of second-place Jim Clabuesch of Durham, who will also be returning to race on Sunday.

With the DuPont Forest Trail Marathon being elevated from a state championship in 2003 to a national championship this year, the level of competition has followed suit.

Laforet should have stiffer competition, with plenty of runners hoping to keep him in their rear-view mirror for the final miles of the race.

Lundblad, who hopes to finish in under three hours, is one of those hoping to unseat Laforet but knows with a national championship the stakes are high.

"I'd obviously like to win, that's my goal," Lundblad said. "But the competition will be tough. I'd like to be in the thick of things."

Lundblad was a spectator last year, supporting Riddle from the sideline after choosing instead to run the Lasalle Bank Marathon in Chicago, also in October.

It was the second consecutive year he ran the prestigious race, clocking 2:38 in 2003. But this go around he decided to stay close to home.

"Having a national championship in your backyard is a can't miss," he said. "I've had some injuries from running on the road (so) I swore off road marathons. I really like racing on trails."

San Diego resident Bryan Dayton also plans to be in the thick of things and will make a 2,300-mile trip to run 26.2 more. Dayton, 31, has traditionally run 50k road marathons and placed third in the previous two 50k national championships. He said he is looking forward to a new challenge.

"I don't want to toot my own horn but I'm definitely coming to win," said Dayton. "But we'll see how it goes. I feel like there's going to be some good guys there and the race is going to be competitive. Anything can happen in a 26-mile race. A lot of factors can play out."

YMCA executive director and race organizer Greg Walker said this year's race is up for grabs in the men's division.

"We've got a really strong men's field," Walker said. "The top eight guys are separated by minutes. There's no real clear favorite. Whoever has put in a good 12-14 weeks of training and has that mental focus over their last three miles is going to have the edge.

"On the women's side Ann Riddle is the clear favorite," he continued. "She's running so strong after the world championship. As long as she's been able to fully recover she's the clear favorite."

After Riddle, Walker said the two through five spots are wide open.
"I expect that second and third place will be a dog fight," he said.
Lauren Fithian, of Minneapolis, doesn't want to be fighting for runner-up. Though she's recovering from a "small racing injury", the ultra-distance triathlete said she is racing for first. Fithian, 46, is the reigning Master's World Champion of the ultra-distance triathlon, a title she won at the Hawaii Ultraman last Thanksgiving and one she'll defend again this year.

Lured by the national championship and the location, she hopes to add another title to her impressive list accolades.

"I always enter a race to win my particular division," she said. "That's my goal, no matter my condition. It doesn't always happen but the experience of running is enough."

Other top women racers include Joanie Adams of South Charleston, W.Va., Marry Middlebrooks of Woodstock, Ga., and Colleen Pitts, of Hendersonville.

In the men's division, other top runners include Britt Cocola of Winston-Salem, John Van Steenbergh of Columbia, S.C., Aaron Hammond of Asheville and Chad Newton of Pisgah Forest.
Newton, 34, will be making the transition from pavement to dirt.

"This will be my first trail marathon," said Newton, who has run in the New York City marathon and whose best time was 2:21 in Charlotte. "I wanted something different. I'm not putting too many expectations on myself. I just want to go out there and be competitive."

Laforet has read the entry list and expects a more competitive race than last year.

"I'm sure my course time will not last," Laforet said. "The field this year is bigger and we've got better runners. Last year I did the second half of the marathon by myself. That will not happen this year."










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