Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bersagel Wins Women's US Championship

Women's number 1 Annie Bersagel.
Photo by Gene Niemi
Anne Golden "Annie" Bersagel, 30, has an impressive resume by any standards. She has her own Wikipedia entry HERE. On Sunday, she added another item by winning the Medtronic Twin Cities marathon women's race and the 2013 US Championship in 2:30:53, a nearly 14 minute PR.

Aside from being a former member of Team USA Minnesota, Annie and her family spent some time during her middle school years in Minnesota and noted that members of her "extended family" from the area were in attendance on Sunday to watch a performance that third place finisher Esther Erb(2:34:32) summarized as: "Annie that was badass." Running faster than any of the other leaders over the last half of the race, Bersagel's goal going into the run was to run under 2:35.  "I don't think I was running any faster than the others, I was just slowing down less," she said.

She had run a half marathon PR two weeks ago in Norway, where she now lives with her mountain runner/physiologist/husband Oyvind Heiberg Sundby, Bersagel knew she was ready to run well.  Her performance also bodes well for her next long-term goal, the 2016 US Olympic marathon trials.  In addition to her "day job" as a human rights lawyer, Bersagel gets her winter training in at times running on the underground track under famed IAAF Diamond League Meet site, the Bislett stadium in Oslo.

Winter is cold and dark in Norway, but "not as cold as Minnesota," Bersagel said, but the underground track is still a welcome respite for the short hours of daylight during the Norwegian winter.  She has another US/Norwegian connection in University of Oregon grad, Knut Kvalheim, now a coach who was a Norwegian Olympian and his country's event record holder in several events.

Race runner up Laura Portis, 26, with her baby face, green-toned outfit and green nail polish was perhaps the surprise of the day as she came into the event with a PR near Bersagel's and improved nearly as much, running 2:33:46.  A Big Ten two-mile champion who went to Michigan State and 2012 US Olympic Trials 95th place finisher, Portis now works in Toronto as a senior consultant at Urban Science and seemingly goes to races at the behest of her friends.  Asked how she chose Twin Cities, she said her friends had talked her into running a marathon in Chicago last year.  She enjoyed it, and this year they picked Twin Cities.

Going into the race, she said, she was hoping to run 2:35, and "I really wanted to finish in the top ten." During the race she didn't really know what place she was in, she said.  While those in the crowd shouted out a place number, such as fourth or fifth, she just motored on toward the finish.  Asked where she might run next, she said she would choose after she heard "what my friends want to do."

Erb probably made some friends during the race, as one race photographer said she was "the number one waver for the first six miles.  "I always have a smile on my face," she said, and a tatoo on her cheek.  "I grew up as a performer.I've always been one to acknowledge the crowd."  Waving and responding to a crowd comes natural to her.  So does even pacing, apparently as she split 1:17:12 for the first part of the race, then closed with a 1:17:20 over the considerably more difficult second half.

Minnesotans Michele Lilienthal and Meghan Peyton both finished in the top ten and PRed.  Lilienthal was fourth in 2:34:50, Peyton was ninth in 2:38:58.  Masters champion Sheri Piers was eighth in 2:38:35.

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