Luke Puskedra and Diego Estrada Both Say They Are Ready – Could A Sub-2:10 Be In The Cards?

Puskedra: “There’s a resurgence in American distance running and I want to jump on the back end of it.”

by Mike Knapp, for
October 7, 2016

Editor’s note: We have a second article from today’s press conference here: Chicago Marathon Press Conference: Great Weather Is In The Forecast But The Elite Men Say They’ll Be Racing As The Elite Women Don’t Rule Out A Sub-2:20.

CHICAGO — 2016 has been a tough year for Luke Puskedra and Diego Estrada, but both Americans enter Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon hoping to use a good finish as a catapult to a better 2017.

Both come into the race having had to stew for the last eight months over their disappointing performances in the 2016 Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles in February. Puskedra finished an agonizing fourth that day to miss out on a spot on the team, while Estrada pulled out of his marathon debut at 20 miles, posting the first DNF of his career.

Puskedra, who finished fifth here last year in a career-best time of 2:10:24, said at Friday’s Elite Athlete press conference that he would rather have finished 15th than fourth at the Trials, because fourth is so tough to take. However, in the long term, the disappointment he experienced in Los Angeles may prove to be beneficial.

I’m my hardest critic, I’m a perfectionist, but in the marathon and marathon training, it’s not about that, it’s about adapting,” said Puskedra. Workouts don’t always go well when you are running 130 miles per week, and I guess I needed a bad race after Chicago to take a step back again, and realize that things go day-to-day instead of this perfect plan on a calendar where you hit every workout.

As mentioned in Jonathan Gault‘s pre-race feature on Puskedra, Puskedra also had to deal with the cancer diagnosis of his daughter, Penelope, and running took a back seat to caring for his daughter until she was declared cancer-free over the summer. Since then he’s been training with a laser-like focus and feels renewed coming to the line this weekend.

I’ll wake up in the morning and that is 3 hours I worry about running, and when I get home I don’t worry about running,” Puskedra said. That’s been something that has been very nice for me. Before the Trials, I was too ready, too anxious, and I had probably trained too long. This year (the way it has gone) has left me really fresh.

Puskedra doesn’t feel like he needs to redeem himself on Sunday. He feels like the Trials is the best way to pick an Olympic team, and that was proven by how well Galen Rupp and Jared Ward ran on race day in Rio.

puskedra210Instead, he wants to run well so he can put his name back into the conversation of the top American marathoners.

Im not really out to try to prove I should have been on that team, I more want to live up to the same expectations those guys are setting,” he said. “There’s a resurgence in American distance running and I want to jump on the back end of it.

Those guys really inspired me, and I hope it helps me get some momentum, because when you are on a hot streak you are on a hot streak, and you just go, go, go.”

Estrada: My body feels fresh and my mind feels fresh.

Estrada would like to someday be included in that conversation as well, as he said Friday he “ultimately” will be a marathoner full-time. The first step towards that might be making it to the finish of the race, because although he has started a marathon, he has yet to finish one.

Estrada had a good race going at the Trials, sitting in the lead pack for the first 16 miles before becoming a victim of the Los Angeles heat and dropping out due to dehydration at around Mile 20. Since then he’s had solid – but far from spectacular — results, made more difficult thanks to a hamstring injury that nagged him most of the summer.

That might have been a bit of a blessing, though, because what came from it was a more mature approach and a focus on making training fun again as opposed to the grind it was becoming. Estrada said he probably is coming into Chicago a bit undertrained, but while he felt “sluggish” during his taper for the Trials, he feels a lot different this time.

I feel energetic, my only concern is I feel I could’ve had more training, but I’m told that’s a good thing,” Estrada said. “My body feels fresh and my mind feels fresh.

Estrada’s strategy for Sunday is conservative, and quite the contrast to his aggressive nature, but he feels it’s the right fit for his goals. He has already set his watch to record only his splits for each kilometer, not elapsed time, and plans to set a pace in the 3:00-3:05 range. (3:00 equates to 2:06:35 and 3:05 gives you 2:10:06). He wants consistency, and if the race goes at as slow of a pace as it did a year ago, he might be in the picture at the end.

Estrada said he likes the marathon, but comes into this one respecting the distance a bit more than he might have the first time. He wants to build momentum for his future, but also wants to finish the race because he has set some sort of personal best at one distance or another every year since he started running in 2004.

Estrada spoke with a lot of confidence, but he also knows there is a lot on the line for him Sunday, and he knows he needs to deliver.

Quote of the day:

The marathon is the ultimate endurance test for an elite athlete. There are other events, but this is the one where you can combine speed and endurance, so this is the ultimate benchmark. Ultimately I want to be a marathoner, so to succeed here would open doors in my future and it will encourage me to pursue this dream. I’ve been running since 2004, and I have set a personal best every year, except for this year. Just by finishing the race will be a personal best, so there is incentive to keep that streak alive, and there is incentive to slay that dragon and get it out of the way. – Diego Estrada

More: We have a second article from today’s press conference here: Chicago Marathon Press Conference: Great Weather Is In The Forecast But The Elite Men Say They’ll Be Racing As The Elite Women Don’t Rule Out A Sub-2:20.

Women’s Preview: LRC It’s A Clash Of The Kiplagats As Florence And Edna Square Off On The Streets Of Chicago

Men’s Preview: LRC Dickson Chumba Goes For The Repeat As Americans Luke Puskedra, Elkanah Kibet & Diego Estrada Do Battle


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