SACRAMENTO (01-Dec) -- It has only been 27 days since Stephanie Bruce finished 11th at the TCS New York City Marathon in 2:30:59, the second-fastest time of her career. But instead of taking her usual post-marathon break from running, Bruce made the decision to quickly re-boot her training and get ready for tomorrow's California International Marathon here, host of the USATF Marathon Championships. At 34 years-old with 12 years of professional racing under her belt, the Hoka Northern Arizona Elite athlete feels she can afford to take some chances.
PHOTO: Stephanie Bruce at the race expo the day before the 2018 USATF Marathon Championships at the California International Marathon in Sacramento, Calif. (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"As I've gotten later in my career I've kind of just realized that I wanted to shake things up a little," Bruce told a rapt audience of runners gathered at the race expo at the Sacramento Convention Center. "I ran CIM in 2016 and I was second here (2:32:37). After taking second at a race like this I vowed that I would want to come back and win one day. Then over the last month, instead of treating it like I was training for a second marathon the goal has been to try to recover from New York and just build on the fitness that I gained all fall training for New York, and kind of carry that momentum and that fitness into Sunday."
Bruce's coach, Ben Rosario, fashioned a special program for his athlete where he first gave her a few days to recover from New York, then re-started her training with the goal of maintaining the fitness she had built for New York, but not adding to it.
"You're trying to ride that line where you're recovering from New York, but also trying to maintain the New York fitness," Rosario told Race Results Weekly. "You're not really trying to build fitness. I don't think that would have been possible, or it would have been very risky. So, we took a whole week off and ran very easy for a week. Then we did four workouts: Monday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday and now we're racing today. She feels good. She definitely rode that line very well."
Bruce is following in the footsteps of Sara Hall who last year ran the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon on the last Sunday in October (2:27:21), then came back to win Cal International and the USATF marathon title in 2:28:10 five weeks later. Hall was also 34 at the time, and many observers were skeptical that she could regain her racing legs so quickly. So, even though Bruce has been given the #1 bib by race organizers, she may still be a bit of an underdog.
"I don't know if 'underdog' is the right word to describe me, but I haven't been the favorite a lot, and sometimes I surprise people," said Bruce, who won the USATF 10-K title at the Peachtree Road Race last July, her first national title. "I don't necessarily think that having bib one changes my goals or my belief in myself. Because whether you value that as pressure, I like to look at pressure as opportunity because sometimes we do all this training and get so nervous for the race, and we're questioning and doubting everything. You forget that the race is the fun part."
Fun, perhaps, but definitely challenging. The elite field has 10 women who have run sub-2:35, plus a strong debutante, Emma Bates, who has run a 1:11:45 half-marathon and was the top American at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships last March. Bruce has the fastest personal best in the field (2:29:35), and said that her legs felt remarkably fresh.
"They feel good," Bruce said. "They honestly feel like they've recovered. They don't feel like they've run a marathon a month ago. That's very encouraging."
Whatever happens tomorrow, Bruce will accept it with grace and will have the full support of her husband, Ben, and two sons, Riley and Hudson. Being a mother, she said, gives her a different frame of reference.
"I think being a mom just gives me a different perspective," Bruce said. "With running being my job, I just try to take every opportunity that I have to go compete, train and to race. I try not to waste any time when I'm out doing that because I know that time is time I'm away from my kids." She added: "Even if you have a horrible patch, there's a good mile just around the corner, and that's life."
The USATF Marathon Championships will be streamed LIVE tomorrow beginning at 6:50 a.m. Pacific time (9:50 a.m. Eastern) on USATF.tv. To watch, viewers must have a USATF.tv +Plus account. The direct watch link is here: https://www.usatf.tv/gprofile.php?mgroup_id=45365&do=videos&video_id=255522