Sunday, October 05, 2014

Esther Erb Wins Marathon National Championship

Ester Erb celebrates her National Championship. Photo by Competitive Image.
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Esther Erb sat in the media tent with the American flag draped over her body.  Since the tent was heated and she'd just finished running 26.2 miles, Erb wasn't huddling under the flag for warmth, it was as if she had to hold it close to her to believe that she fulfilled her goal of being the US Marathon Champion and had booked her ticket to represent the US in the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

"I've had my eye on making a US team for a long time,"  Erb said.  She noted that she joined ZAP Fitness, a US development team in North Carolina whose current members include this year's Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon men's winner and US men's marathon champion Tyler Pennel, because the team was set up to help athletes win US championships and represent the US in international competition.  That goal is shared by her current club, the New York Athletic Club, which is located closer to Erb's home in New Jersey.

It surprised Erb that more US women had not come to Twin Cities this year to attempt to book a ticket to Beijing, but she also knew that while the others were off chasing times and/or cash incentives offered by other races, her chances for achieving her goal increased.  It didn't help her nerves, however.  "I hardly slept at all last night," she said.  Erb estimated she had only five hours of shut eye Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"I was thinking about the race," she said.  Her goal was to win, but she also knew that the field was pretty well balanced.  There was no obvious favorite with all the contenders having similar personal bests.  To take her mind off that seemingly daunting challenge, Erb said, she set a "very random goal."  She "wanted to run the last mile in 5:45."  She ended up running it in 5:31, she said..

Erb had run in third place for almost all of the race, noting that the temperatures were a bit too cold for her body as her perceived effort did not match her mile splits.  Erb never lost sight of the leaders, however, but as she was approaching the 20 mile mark, another problem surfaced.  Erb had to make a "pit stop."

She scoured the landscape for a spot she could jump off the course and take a quick bathroom break, but couldn't find one, so she had to wait until she found a port-a-potty along the course.  The pit stop cost her about 30 seconds, she said, but when she got back on the course and resumed pursuit of the two women in front of her,  Heather Lieberg and Breanna Nelson, she noticed she was making up ground, probably about five seconds a mile, she estimated.

Erb takes the lead.Copyright  
By mile 25 she caught and passed the pair and launched into her pre-race plan of finishing strong. Erb finished eight seconds in front of Lieberg and 22 in front of Nelson in 2:34:00.  Coming down the stretch, she said: "Once I saw the clock I thought maybe I can  get under 2:34," but she barely missed it.  That didn't disappoint her too much because her primary objective was achieved, she would be running for the red, white, and blue.

When asked when she became so patriotic, Erb said it was when she was studying abroad.  She attended school in Germany and Austria and had an offer to stay in Austria and potentially run for the Austrian team in future international competition.  "I thought about it," Erb said.  "But if I get up there(on the awards stand at an international championship event) and they were playing the Austrian national anthem..."  It wouldn't seem right.

Is she aiming for Rio in 2016?  Erb said her times weren't fast enough yet for that to be a realistic goal, but if she keeps improving and her times drop she'd like nothing more than a chance to be standing on the awards stand at the Olympic Trials in 2016 listening to the US national anthem being played.

1 comment:

allie moore said...

congratulations to esther. i loved watching her gain ground over that last 10k and i especially loved the way she threw it down at the end with that 5:31 final mile. a fantastic race.