Elva Dryer Calls Marathon Attempt “Shot In the Dark”

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
October 4, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Elva Dryer won her first USA road racing title at the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5-K in Albany, N.Y., back in 1997.  Doing battle with Lynn Jennings and Cheri Goddard –both long since retired– Dryer set a personal best of 15:29, beating Jennings by one second and Goddard by three.  That race launched her 13-year elite career which included making two Olympic teams and winning five national titles, from 3000m indoors to the half-marathon.

“That one was a good one,” Dryer, 42, told Race Results Weekly in a recent telephone interview.  “There’s great races, and then there’s great performances that you remember the feeling.”

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At Sunday’s Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon here, Dryer hopes for that same winning feeling from 16 years ago in Albany.  She’s actually competing in two races at once: the USA Marathon Championships and USA Masters Marathon Championships.  Given her pedigree, she’s a legitimate contender for the podium in both contests, although she hasn’t run a race seriously since 2009, the year she ran her last marathon.

“It’s a bit of a shot in the dark, you know?” said the former NCAA Division II star at Western State.  “I’m coming off of no racing.”

Dryer said she got the idea to run Twin Cities late this summer.  Now a mother of a nearly three-year-old daughter, Marina, and working a full-time job coordinating activities at Western State’s student union and conference center, Dryer saw a chance to ramp up her training and run a race she never got a chance to do during her elite career.

“Probably early August,” she said, recalling when she decided to enter Twin Cites.  “Because it was the first week I put seven days of running together.  I said, ‘Then OK, if I’m going to do it, I’ll do it.’  The weeks prior to that I was waffling on it.”  She continued: “I’ve still been running the last few years, of course, but it wasn’t performance, goal-oriented.  I would do little workouts to keep things exciting.  Just recently, I decided to toe the starting line again.”

Living in Gunnison so close to campus that she usually goes home to have lunch with Marina, Dryer began to ramp up her miles, and was pleased with how quickly she began to regain some of her old form.  Although she had stopped competing, she had never stopped running for health and fitness, so her training base had never fully disappeared.  Her husband Russ, who was her elite coach, is still involved in her training, but in a much less intense way.

“No, he’s not coaching me,” Dryer explained with a laugh.  “He gives me advice.  As far as my training program, I’m just doing that myself.  It’s just easier for me to manage because of my full schedule; what to do and when to do it.”

Dryer, who was the national half-marathon champion in 2007, had a short and modestly successful marathon career.  She made her debut in Chicago in 2006, clocking 2:31:48.  The following year she placed sixth at the ING New York City Marathon in 2:35:15, but at the 2008 USA Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston she failed to finish.  Her fourth and last marathon came in Boston in 2009 where she finished 12th in 2:38:50.

“I remember I felt so good for 18, 19 miles, then oh boy,” she recalled of her Boston race.  “I was just running again on fumes.”

Dryer said that during her most recent week of training she hit “80-ish” miles, but that she’s no longer focused on using a highly-structured training program.  With her responsibilities as both a mother and a full-time administrator, she has to take a more relaxed approach.

“I focus primarily on what I can get in and what I need to get in, but don’t dwell on what I can’t get in,” she summarized.  “I’ve been making progress.  In my previous marathon preparations I was always on the edge of doing too much.  Now I don’t have the time to do too much.  Like I said, it’s going to be a shot in the dark.  Everything I know about how I used to run and what I used to do means nothing right now.”

Dryer avoided making and hard and fast predictions for Sunday’s race here, but hopes to compete well.  She said she needs to guard against getting carried away and feeling too much like the 25 year-old she was in Albany back in 1997.  Nonetheless, she said, “I believe I can be competitive.”

“I will be shocked if I run my best marathon,” she said. “I will have to resist the temptation to go out with the leaders.  If they’re going to be going low-2:30’s I’m not there, not today.” She added: “I want to be competitive with the masters; I am a masters runner.  I don’t have any grandiose idea that I’m going to be back on top of the elite field.  I don’t think I’m there.”

No matter what happens on Sunday, Dryer said she will always be a runner.

“That’s the beauty of this sport,” she observed.  “I kind of walk away from this sport, and other family members took up the sport, so I got to cheer them on.  That’s the beauty of this sport: regardless of your age or ability it’s all good.  We’re all out there and can share.  We all get the same feeling whether you’re running 2:30 or just breaking 4 hours.”

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