Sunday, October 05, 2014

Pennel Wins His Debut

Tyler Pennel celebrates his victory. Copyright 
Tyler Pennel hit the trifecta on Sunday as he finished first in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in 2:13:32.  Since it was the ZAP Fitness runner's debut marathon he is undefeated in the marathon, and he set a PR. Since the event was also the 2014 US marathon championship Pennell also won a place on the US team that will compete in the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in 2015.

It wasn't easy.  As he put on his sweats after the race he was fighting off leg cramps and the physiological residue of his effort.  "I have never hurt this much after a race,"  Pennel said. One reason for the hurt might have been that he ran the last half of the race nearly two minutes faster than the first, splitting 1:07:48 for the first half, and 1:05:50 coming home on the most difficult, uphill half of the race.

His strategy was not based on time, but rather to win. Pennel wanted to stay relaxed through 20 miles, so it was up to others to push the pace, which they did.  Both runner up Jared Ward and third-place finisher Scott Smith said they felt "antsy" about the slow early pace and the large pack that stuck together. A group of eight that was together at the halfway mark only dropped one person in the next seven miles, so Smith decided to "put in a hard mile to cut down the crowd"  at mile 20.  The race was on. Smith and Pennel surged to the front and quickly gapped the field. Then Pennel ramped up the pace even more and Smith fell off and was caught and passed by Ward.

Pennel and Smith make the break.  Copyright 
Nobody was going to catch Pennel.  "Tyler and Jared were just stronger than me today," said Smith.  With PRs of 13:40 for 5K, 28:30 for 10K, and 1:01:44 for the half marathon, Pennel said after winning his first attempt at the marathon that: "I think it(the marathon) may be my best distance.  He's a late comer to the sport as his first race was a half marathon with his dad when he was a sophomore in high school.  Pennel beat his dad in that race and that sparked his interest in the sport.

He ran cross country in high school, but didn't really blossom as a runner until he went to college at Western State Colorado University, a choice he made because "they were the only one's who offered me any (scholarship) money."  He was an eleven time All American, took second in NCAA DII XC championships and won an NCAA DII 10K title on the track in 2012.

Pennel's progress has been steady, and he may have found his event, but he doesn't plan on running any more marathons until Beijing.  The 2015 World Championships won't be his first time going against international competition.  Pennel  finished 33rd at this year's IAAF Half Marathon championships in 1:02:20 after setting his PR by placing fourth in the US Half Marathon Championships in January.

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