Posted January 13, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Confident Harrison ready for U.S. Trials

By Jeff Nations - jnations@nvdaily.com

Three weeks ago, Emily Harrison was putting more than 100 miles a week on her running shoes.

The week before that, same thing.

Three weeks total, Harrison was peaking in her training for Saturday's U.S. Olympic Trials for the women's marathon -- that meant 104 to 105 miles a week during that stretch in the high-altitude environs of Flagstaff, Ariz.

Harrison, the former Warren County High School and University of Virginia standout, has been tapering off with that training the last two weeks as she prepares to run her first Olympic Trials race in rain-soaked Houston on Saturday morning.

"I feel pretty good," said Harrison, who arrived in Houston with her McMillanElite teammates on Wednesday. "My body feels good and I'm healthy -- everything has been pretty smooth here at sea level."

Smooth maybe, but definitely wet and windy as well. The rains have stopped after drenching the city earlier this week, and Harrison said the forecast is calling for the wind to die down as well before Saturday's race. Then again, after the mileage Harrison has put in to get ready for Saturday, a little wind over the 26-mile, 385-yard road course likely won't be much of a bother.

Harrison's focus has been firmly on Saturday's race since qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials by posting third-place time (fastest American woman) of two hours, 32 minutes and 55 seconds in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in St. Paul, Minn. In that race, Harrison shaved nearly 10 minutes off her personal best in the marathon.

Harrison, 25, isn't expecting that much of a dramatic drop in time Saturday, but she is shooting for a personal best once more. Somewhere in the sub-2:30 range would suit her in Houston.

"On a good day, a top-10 finish would be a great day for me," Harrison said. "Everything's kind of been building toward this.

"I have to run my own race. I'm not going to try to gun for a certain place -- I think for me that would be a disaster."

Harrison, who ranks among the top 20 women based on time, isn't expecting to earn one of the three coveted Olympic spots at stake on Saturday. Instead, she's aiming for that personal record and gathering in the experience of running against the best American marathoners.

Harrison's parents, David and Cheryl, will be staking out a spot along the course after they fly in today for her race. And while the 9:15 a.m. women's race won't be broadcast live on television, two hours of same-day coverage will air on NBC (3-5 p.m.) giving Harrison a chance to shine on a national stage.

Of course, to do that, she'll have to be running near the front.

"I'm hoping for 2:30 or sub-2:30," Harrison said. "My workouts indicate I can do that."

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