The message that Renee Metivier-Baillie intends to remind herself of throughout the California International Marathon on Sunday sounds almost counterintuitive for someone who plans to go after the women’s course record.
“I will have ‘Relax, relax, relax’ written on my hands so I can stare at it the entire time. It’ll be written very bold in permanent marker,” Metivier-Baillie said. “It’s all about keeping your energy steady.”
It’s something Metivier-Baillie, 32, learned during her first marathon in Chicago in 2012. The Bend, Ore., resident finished eighth with a time of 2:27:17 – a remarkably fast debut – and was the first American woman to complete the race. But she ran the second half of the course slower than the first half and experienced calf cramps, which she attributes to unfamiliarity with the distance and how to pace herself.
Wiser and ready, Metivier-Baillie enters her second 26.2-mile race in Sunday’s CIM and is the likely favorite in the women’s field, where Australian Nickey Carroll’s time of 2:29:21, run in 1999, still stands as the course record. Metivier-Baillie’s debut time in Chicago, coupled with a dry forecast calling for temperatures in the upper 40s at the start, has many wondering whether this is the year Carroll’s mark will fall.
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Metivier-Baillie, for one, makes no secret of her intentions.
“Obviously,” she said, “I’m going for that course record.”
Overall, the elite field for this year’s Folsom-to-Sacramento race is notable for its depth, said Scott Abbott, executive director of the Sacramento Running Association.
Candidates to push Metivier-Baillie on the women’s side include Kenyan Pasca Myers, who has a career-best 2:33:43 marathon time, and Volha Mazuronak of Belarus, whose best is 2:33:33.
The men’s field features five athletes who have run under 2:13, led by Kenyan Julius Koskei (2:10:14), whom Abbott said will “probably be the class of the field.” Jordan Chipangama of Zambia (2:12:22) and Tesfaye Alemayehu (2:11:18), an Ethiopian who lives in Antioch, figure to be among the leaders as well.
The men’s course record is 2:10:27, set by American Jerry Lawson in 1993.
Abbott said the positive forecast means most of the committed elite runners have stayed in the field and should have an effect on race day as well.
“If the plan to come in was to run fast, I think with the way the weather looks, they’re going to go for it,” Abbott said.
It sounds, though, as if that would be Metivier-Baillie’s approach. As a runner, she said, she’s “never one to be too conservative,” which is partly what led her to take on the marathon in the first place.
Metivier-Baillie’s background is in track running – she went to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5,000 meters but did not reach the finals – but after having surgery on her right Achilles’ tendon in 2011, she struggled at first with making turns on the track. So as part of her recovery, she began doing longer runs and “just really enjoyed running longer.”
She then made the sudden decision to enter the 2012 Chicago Marathon, only five or six weeks before the race. A month before the marathon, she ran and won the U.S. 20K national championship in New Haven, Conn.,which convinced her she’d made the right decision.
“I was a little scared, I won’t lie,” Metivier-Baillie said. “I think you’re crazy if you don’t have a healthy fear of (the marathon). I think that it’s so special. We go through a whole bunch of emotions and experiences, joy and pain, and at the end we’ve all gone through the same thing.”
After her notable debut, Metivier-Baillie planned to run the London Marathon in 2013. But she “got really sick right before” and chose to wait to run her second 26.2-mile race.
“I have a lot of respect for the distance, and feel a lot of pressure, whether it’s self-imposed or outside,” Metivier-Baillie said.
“I wasn’t confident I was ready before. But I’m ready now.”