By Jeff Nations
From the opening gun, Emily Harrison was all alone for Sunday's USA Track & Field (USATF) 50k Road Championships.
The favorite to win the women's division going into Sunday's race at Caumsett State Park in Huntington, N.Y., Harrison wasted no time in putting away what competition she had. Harrison picked up the convincing victory as the fourth overall finisher with a course-record winning time of 3 hours, 15 minutes.
Harrison's time checked in as the second-fastest 50k ever run by a North American woman, just 69 seconds off the all-time record.
"I wanted to take a shot at the North American record," Harrison said during a phone interview. "I had it for awhile, but I started to lose it in the last couple loops. It's hard to keep that going when you're running by yourself."
A former standout runner at Warren County High School and the University of Virginia, Harrison is now based in Flagstaff, Ariz. After spending the summer competition opening eyes on the national running scene as an ultra-distance runner, Harrison said returning to a road course was an opportunity to pick up her pace a bit after her recent string of cross-country competitions.
"It's still considered an ultra race," Harrison said of Sunday's 50k win. "It's the first true road ultra I've done. I was going for a decent marathon split."
Harrison, who made a stunning debut in ultra marathon competition last fall with a second-place finish in the JFK 50 Mile race in Maryland, followed that up with a course-record finish in the Moab's Red Hot 55k and a seventh-place finish in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.
Harrison plans on getting back off-road for another ultra race in the spring when she is slated to run in California's Lake Sonoma 50. That race is scheduled for April 12.
"My next race will be more like the other ultra races I've done, but I also enjoyed being able to run fast. I don't want to lose touch with that," Harrison said. "I guess I'm trying to get a full range of experiences."
Just two weeks before her win on Sunday, Harrison scored another first when she ran the IMS Half Marathon on Feb. 16 in Phoenix. In her first true half marathon, Harrison picked up the victory with a winning time of 1:15.45.
That might have been a nice warm-up for Sunday's road course, a 5-kilometer loop with a short out and back section that Harrison said featured some elevation changes and plenty of level running.
"It was a road course, but it wasn't completely flat," Harrison said. "There was not a lot of total elevation changes, but there were a couple hills that made it a challenge."
The chilly conditions were also a bit of an adjustment after an unseasonably mild winter in Flagstaff, but Harrison grew up running in the cold weather.
Harrison has another road race planned for October when she plans to run in the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in Schenectady, N.Y., with the goal of earning another qualifying time for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Harrison ran in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and hopes to compete for a spot on the national team again in 2016.
"That's the ultimate goal," Harrison said.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>